At the July 16th meeting of the California Water Commission, the Deputy Director of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Laura King Moon gave a brief update about organizational changes they are making at DWR in anticipation of completion of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
Laura King Moon began by reminding that BDCP is a long range habitat conservation plan designed to achieve the state’s coequal goals of ecosystem protection and water supply reliability. “This is a planning process that’s been underway since 2006, and I’d like to acknowledge the involvement of two of your Commission members in our steering committee, Kim Delfino and Anthony Saracino,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here at all if they weren’t involved in guiding us in the steering committee … I’m not going to say that they fully support the plan at this stage, but they were very helpful members in the early development of the plan, so I appreciate that.”
She said that the planning process is not yet complete; the public comment period for the draft plan and EIR/EIS closes in two weeks. “We will be taking a hard look at all the comments and we will be determining what kind of schedule we will be on for completing the plan, but we are anticipating that we’ll be working on completing the plan and finalizing it as early as potentially next year, so we are moving into the final phases of this project,” she said.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Ms. King Moon said. “We’re still hard at work in plan revisions in anticipation of comments in response to conversations and comments that we’ve already received, and that will continue, but internally within DWR, we believed it was time to really get ready for the doing part of the project and so in anticipation of that, we’ve formed two new organizations within DWR: the BDCP office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise, or the DCE.”
Ms. Kind Moon explained that the BDCP office is a formalized and consolidated entity within the executive division of DWR that is formed of the key staff that have been involved with the development of the plan, managing the consultant team, working with stakeholders to make changes in the plan, and preparing the EIR. “This group is focused primarily on the non-conveyance portions of the plan,” she said, noting that the new facilities are only one of 22 conservation measures. “There are 21 other conservation measures, so this office is focused mostly on conservation measures 2 through 22.”
Ms. King Moon noted that the BDCP office they have formed is not what will ultimately be the implementing entity as described in the plan’s chapter 7, although ultimately is may be merged into the implementing entity, or it could remain at DWR and support the implementing entity.
“We’re not getting ahead of this,” she pointed out. “That won’t happen until we have a permit and we’re ready to go. But this is starting to do some of the legwork that we need to be ready to begin implementing the plan when we do receive the permit.”
The Design and Construction Enterprise is a brand new program and its purpose is to support simply the design and construction of the new facilities; it is single purpose with a limited time span. “This is just an organization that is being established to manage the project of designing and building the new facilities,” she said. “It will be managed by a program manager who will be hired and under contract to DWR and responsible to the Director of DWR, and it will be staffed by a mix of DWR employees and employees from other water agencies who have construction experience and outside consultants.”
“So that’s really it in a nutshell,” she said. “We don’t really want to make a bigger deal out of this than it is, but we also know things about BDCP tend to get in the rumor mill and so we wanted you to be aware of what we are doing and why. No decisions have been made and there really isn’t anything newsworthy here, I don’t think, but I wanted to be open that we’re getting ready to start doing and not just planning.”
Commission Byrne asked Ms. King Moon about the timeline for permits and litigation …
The optimistic timeline would be year from now,” she replied. “I would say in the next year or two it’s our goal to finalize the plan, finalize the EIR, and then get the associated permits, which is a package deal that’s a little bit complicated. You mentioned litigation; I can’t imagine why anyone would want to litigate this project [laughter]. Anything you try to do now, you assume you’re going to face litigation. We assume now we’re going to be moving forward with pieces of it; the actual construction, there’s a lot more work to do before we break ground on that, so once we get the permit, there’s a lot of work to do before we actually break ground on anything.”
Coming soon …
More from the July meeting of the California Water Commission, including an update on the implementation of the Governor’s Water Action Plan and a lot more on water storage.
For more information …