Water agencies and Restore the Delta react to Bay Delta Conservation Plan revisions

Last Friday, the California Natural Resources Agency announced changes to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, most notably the elimination of the pumping plants and instead, using a gravity flow diversion.  (For more information, read the press release here, or the Sacramento Bee story here.)

Here’s what organizations had to say, listed in alphabetical order:

From the Association of California Water Agencies:

acwa_logo.gifTimothy Quinn, executive director of the statewide Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), issued the following statement today on proposed changes to the conveyance portion of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Among the changes announced is a proposal to eliminate three pumping plants on the east bank of the Sacramento River between Hood and Walnut Grove. The elimination of the plants is intended to lessen the project’s impact on local landowners and species habitat.

“ACWA views these proposed changes as a positive step forward in crafting a solution to the problems plaguing the Delta. These refinements to the project show that public and scientific input gathered under the CEQA process is paying off in helping to develop a viable project.

“ACWA supports Delta improvements that seek to improve water supply reliability for all Californians as a central component of a comprehensive water plan for the state. As the BDCP and its environmental documents are recirculated in 2015, we hope interested parties will continue to work together to craft long-term solutions for this vital waterway.”

From Restore the Delta:

restore the deltaRestore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today said a slight revision of the proposed project “removes none of the fatal flaws, including removing water before it flows through the Delta, violates the Clean Water Act and degrades Delta families’ drinking water, and continues to threaten salmon extinction,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “You can dress it up, you can dress it down by making the project look less industrial.  But if you divert the Sacramento River from the Delta, it will kill the SF Bay-Delta estuary. It is still a water grab and slightly lessening the construction impacts means nothing.”

The tunnels’ opponents called upon Gov. Brown to “abandon the doomed project” and instead embrace a sustainable water solution that is fair to all Californians. That solution includes reducing Delta water exports, strengthening Delta levees, and investing in regional water independence through sustainable programs.

“These minor changes appear to save money for the water-takers on construction and possibly operation costs, but they still do not address local concerns. It is a misnomer to call the new configuration ‘gravity flow’ as if it will operate on its own.  The River flows by gravity.  This system will still require pumps, and a tremendous amount of energy to operate,” said Osha Meserve, counsel for Local Agencies of the North Delta (LAND). “They have lost even more ability to operate the experimental intakes in ‘real time’ to protect fish, with the pumps so far away”

•         Local tunnel critics have never focused on the pumping plant structures on their own as being a major concern.  It is misleading to say this minor project change addresses local concerns.

•         The so-called temporary electricity transmission lines (10 years) are still a major bird strike concern.  All they have proposed to mitigate this impact is to install bird diverters, which have limited effectiveness, especially in foggy or nighttime conditions.  There is also no direct monitoring of bird strikes being proposed.  They intend to just do a population survey of the Greater sandhill cranes every five years to see if the population has changed.  If it has gone down, it is not even clear what the response would be to assist in the crane’s survival.

•         Taking some tunnel impacts (tunnel launch sites and muck) off of Staten just places them in other islands to the north and south.  These areas also contain important bird habitat and productive farmland.

“84% of the water in low-water years would still have to be taken from the existing below-Delta pumps – continuing the massive fish killing that has gone on for decades and threatens extinction of salmon, smelt and other species. The BDCP still takes the fresh water that presently flows through the Delta from above the northern Delta boundary, causing harm to the farmers who currently draw water within the Delta,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The fight over the BDCP tunnels and the future of the Delta is California’s fight over whether we will have a sustainable economy and environment, or if we will succumb to the top 1% of corporate water interests controlling rivers, streams, fisheries, water rates, family farming, local development, and spending from the general fund – all in all – access to the California dream.”

The tunnels opponents outlined a sustainable solution to our water challenges. “We need to face the fact that the State has over allocated up to 5 times more water than is normally available in the Delta watershed,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “We need to invest in water recycling, conservation, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup, and new water-saving technologies that provide local jobs and reduce reliance on the over pumped Delta.”

From the Southern California Water Committee:

scwc logoThe California Department of Water Resources and its federal partners today announced revisions to the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  Over the past eight years, state and federal agencies have come together to craft the BDCP, a plan that will modernize the state’s water delivery system by constructing two tunnels that are built to withstand earthquakes and provide a safer, more reliable water supply for 26 million Californians. The refinements announced today were made in response to public comments and will reduce impacts in the Delta region and improve the long-term reliability of the project.

“The improvements made to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan bring us closer to a final project that will secure reliable water for 26 million Californians, protecting supplies from potential seismic disaster. The state has carefully considered public input and Southern California Water Committee is pleased that we are seeing progress toward implementing this crucial plan.”

Rich Atwater
Executive Director
Southern California Water Committee

From the State Water Contractors:

swc logoThe California Department of Water Resources today announced several changes and improvements made to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The proposed changes, designed to reduce the footprint of the project and address input from stakeholders, will be included in the recirculated BDCP and environmental review documents for public review in 2015.

“There is clearly a way to modernize our statewide water system that respects the Delta economy and communities. This is the most thoroughly researched and reviewed project in California’s history, and the finish line is in sight as the state refines the project. Our antiquated water system isn’t working – regulations prevent us from capturing needed rainfall during drought, earthquakes pose a constant threat to freshwater and the environment still deteriorates. Water may be surging through the Sacramento River, but – even during storms – we have to cut back water deliveries to meet environmental regulations. This project will fix the broken system, so we aren’t losing water when it’s most available.”

Terry Erlewine
General Manager
State Water Contractors

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