At a budget subcommittee hearing last week, Senator Wolk has some questions for Director Bonham and Director Cowin on the future of the Delta tunnels project, now that is no longer an NCCP
On May 21, 2015, the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy, and Transportation discussed the Governor’s budget requests regarding drought, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, FloodSAFE, and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
The subcommittee is chaired by Senator Lois Wolk. Senator Fran Pavley and Senator Jim Neilson also sit on the subcommittee.
The proposals up for discussion today:
- Department of Fish and Wildlife: $4.8 million proposed by Governor in January for reimbursement authority and for 32 positions to address regulatory review and permitting, and the ‘BDCP interagency ecological program’.
- State Water Resources Control Board: May revision proposal requests $7.8 million split between the General Fund and the Water Rights Fund to accelerate and complete the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Fund for Eco Restore: The May Revision requests $40 million from the Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Fund to accelerate restoration projects in the Delta.
- Removal of salinity barrier in the Delta: $22 million requested.
Among the concerns cited in the staff report are concerns that the administration is funding restoration and mitigation projects for the Delta tunnels project.(Click here for the staff report.) Senator Wolk notes that with respect to the staff recommendations, the item regarding the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Fund will be deleted.
Here today to argue their case in front of the subcommittee is Chuck Bonham, the Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife; Mark Cowin, the Director of the Department of Water Resources; and Tom Howard, Executive Director of the State Water Resources Control Board. They each had a chance to plead their case, and then Senator Wolk had some questions for them.
Here’s how it went.
CHUCK BONHAM, Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife
“Let me go to my bottom line, Chair, and just say something to you personally,” began Director Chuck Bonham. “I want to thank you. I can say from my experience, there’s no more complicated and challenging natural resource issue. I’ve been doing this stuff from the public sector my entire career across the west, and this is the hardest. The question of the Delta. I feel like I first got to know you when I was appointed one of the original members by Governor Schwarzenegger to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy. And I appreciate the sense of place and the leadership and the fighting for the Delta that you’ve done over the years, so I know that this is a very passionate topic for you.”
“From that spot, I’d like to acknowledge that I too am frustrated on the pace of progress around restoration and finding these comprehensive solutions which have always seemed just outside our grasp,” he continued. “I also want to tell you what’s not going on here in my sense, when I read the staff report, when I listen to the public debate and the media. Look – the state and federal water contractors, the beneficiaries of the SWP and the CVP, they stay on the hook financially for every existing obligation and any future mitigation responsibility, period, full stop. It’s not accurate in the media for anyone to claim a mitigation responsibility or an existing obligation will be covered by public funds. Not true.”
“In fact, as an attorney, and as director of this department, in my personal judgment, Proposition 1 ensures this result,” he said, noting that 79710A and 7973A clearly prohibit that. “It further says that use of Proposition 1 funds have got to the additive, the enhancement component. Same is true on our Delta funding, so I just do not believe it’s accurate nor would it be legal to argue any of the public funds are designed to deal with the existing obligation.”
“Second thing I’ll tell you that is not going on here,” Director Bonham said. “In my personal judgment, this is not a reduction in commitment to the ecosystem. It’s not. In my judgment what this is about is a statement of a commitment on a 3-5 year timeline that we can better control. The 30,000-acre target is a floor. Let’s do more, but at least set ourselves to doing something substantial in the next three years, we can greater control.”
He then discussed the Cal Water Fix and Cal Eco Restore projects, starting with the Cal Water Fix. “That’s the conveyance infrastructure project, and it will have to mitigate its own impacts in order to be permitted,” he said. “So we estimate as an example that there could be 2000-2500 acres of actual mitigation you’d need to do relative to the conveyance project impact that would be borne by the project proponents. Nobody is proposing Prop 1 or GGRF for any of that category.”
He then turned to the Cal Eco Restore program. “Let me break that into two pieces,” he said. “Yes, there’s a big existing obligation. The 2008 federal Fish and Wildlife biological opinion and the 2009 NMFS biological opinion basically establish already an obligation for about 25,000 acres of restoration. I’m frustrated. It should have been done. So what I believe we’re doing now is saying, by gosh, we’re going to get it in the pipeline, get it done in the timeline we can control which the rest of this administration. But the payment for it remains as an existing obligation; you couldn’t use Prop 1 for it. That means there is a remainder of about 5000 acres which in my mind is additive, it’s enhancement, it’s on top of, and those break out into a couple of areas. I see a potential for about 3500 acres in restoration that’s for subsidence benefit or carbon sequestration benefit, and then I see potentially 1000, 2000 of tidal riparian restoration. That’s not a cap, that’s a minimum of what we’ll try to sort out in the next three years. That’s a category, about 5000 acres, for which I think you could make a fair and legitimate public policy use around Prop 1.”
“The last thing this is not doing is it is not running away from the ecosystem,” he said. “Let me be really blunt on this point. I’m the steward of the NCCP Act. I love it. I liked the architecture of 55 species, and broad planning across a lot of conservation measures. But I’m going to be totally candid with you. I looked through the conservation and environmental community comments on the draft document, I looked through local government comments, and we got these kinds of comments: ‘Don’t do a 50 year permit.’ ‘Scientific future is too uncertain in this estuary.’ ‘Don’t give a water guarantee of a set delivery over 50 years against climate change.’ We also heard, ‘you’re overvaluing 100,000 acres as producing food productivity as a means to require less outflow for ecological purposes.’ We also heard, ‘spinoff habitat restoration because you can do it as a standalone; you have existing authority.’”
“One thing I regret is that the amount of acreage talked about as an aspirational goal, in my personal view, really did undercut my relationship with local governments, because how do you get to that amount without taking ag out of production,” he said.
“I am excited about this proposition,” Director Bonham said. “I’m not aware of a governor telling a director of my department, ‘I’m serious, existing obligations, go get them done, new stuff, go get it done.’ We’ve now got a great person, David Okita, who is going to break through our bureaucratic barriers for us. I think with Proposition 1 telling me I can’t use funds for conveyance, any money I spend in the Delta I have to start on public lands – we own 25,000 areas, also telling me I have to coordinate with local government and then here’s an example of how I think this could work and then I will stop.”
“As a former board member of the Conservancy, and the potential to take $40 million right now, I want to stand shoulder to shoulder next to the Executive Director Campbell Ingram and I want to think through how you could wisely use $40 million in this May revise to invest in the district for restoration to sequester carbon,” he said. “I just funded Reclamation District 341, Ducks Unlimited, and UC Berkeley, for a $10 million project in the Delta to restore 1700 acres. I know that Mr. Ingram say there’s 2000 or 3000 more acres we could do with private partners. That’s very exciting to me. We’ve got to restore the Delta. That’s my orientation and that’s why I think Cal Eco Restore unencumbered from the conveyance is the right policy decision at this moment.”
Director Bonham then ended with some comments on the other budget change proposals related to his Department. He noted that the majority is reimbursable and has nothing to do with Delta projects, but more to do with renewable energy projects. There is funding requested for a lab that does chemical analysis as well. Only three positions which have something to do with the Delta: 1.5 positions for the IEP program to continue investigating the pelagic organism decline and 1.5 have to do with drought management and real-time monitoring. They don’t have anything to do with BDCP, he said.
It was then Director Cowin’s turn.
MARK COWIN, Director of the Department of Water Resources
Mark Cowin began by saying he’d briefly complement Director Bonham’s remarks and speak specifically to the change in approach to Endangered Species Act permitting that’s contemplated in California Water Fix.
“Let me just note that I think it was the right thing for us to do to pursue a Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Communities Conservation Plan,” he said. “We put tremendous effort into that and of course, tremendous money into that. Over the past 8 years or longer, I’ve sat in this room and many other forums, describing what I still believe to be the need for a comprehensive approach to addressing all of the stressors in the Delta if we expect to ever recover Delta species and have a more reliable water supply as is described in the coequal goals that were placed into statute.”
“It was with a lot of inner contemplation that we collectively arrived at the decision that we had to change our course and approach here,” he said. “What become clear is that the uncertainty that exists within the scientific community regarding just what it’s going to take to recover specific species is tremendous right now, and of course, a lot of different positions on that throughout the stakeholder community regardless of where the scientific community collectively lands. And it became clear that we were not going to bridge the gap that that uncertainty represented and be able to come to terms with a plan that provided for specific obligations of the water agencies and that would be able to address all of that potential uncertainty over a 50 year permit term, so that drove us to this decision to take a different approach to permitting the Delta conveyance proposal that we’ve been talking about for some time.”
“Perhaps even more importantly, what we found especially through the significant public comment that we’ve received on the plan is that a permitting process for Delta conveyance just isn’t the right forum to have a discussion about all of the contribution necessary in order to recover the Delta,” Director Cowin continued. “We tie ourselves in knots talking about the responsibilities of the projects when we know that we need to address mitigation for the projects but fixing the Delta is going to go beyond that. We need to broaden the conversation and get more engaged in how we’re going to address all of the stressors in the Delta if we’re going to succeed, and disaggregating BDCP into Cal Eco Restore and Cal Water Fix is one part of that. It doesn’t mean that we’re abandoning any of the actions necessary or any of the policies necessary to recover the Delta, but we have come to the conclusion that we need to break it apart and have the right parties in the room to address each of the different actions that are going to be necessary over time.”
“I want to be clear that this approach does not negate the projects’ responsibility to mitigate for itself,” Director Cowin said. “The past commitments we’ve made for mitigation or mitigation would be necessary if we move forward with the Delta conveyance proposal, so I’ll stop there. When appropriate, I’d also like to address the issue of funding for removal of the salinity barriers, but I’ll leave it to the Chair’s discretion.”
TOM HOWARD, Executive Director of the State Water Resources Control Board
Tom Howard began by stating that they are requesting general fund and water right fund resources to update the water quality control plan for the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Delta. “This is a critical element that’s been identified in the California Water Action Plan as something the administration wants to get completed,” he said. “It was also in the 2009 Delta Reform Act, asking us to get criteria adopted. Just to give you a little context on this, the water quality control planning process overall is about 50 years old, but it’s an enormously complex issue in which we have to look at all the beneficial uses of the Delta – agricultural, municipal, fish and wildlife, and adopt objectives that represent a balance among those uses. It’s quite clear that we don’t have all the water in the Delta to provide everything that everyone wants, and so there has to be a reasonable balance developed. And then once that’s established, the Board has to go through a water right proceeding which could include thousands of water rights holders throughout the Central Valley.”
“Because of the complexity of this, we’ve only been able to do this about once every 20 years, and that 20 years is rolling around again,” he said. “We did in 78, we did in 95. We started again in 2009 when the legislature said they wanted to get this done through the Delta legislation; we were assuming that the work would sort of on par with what we have done previously but it turns out to be much more complex than what we’ve done before. We divided the work into three phases. Phase 1 is setting objectives on the San Joaquin River system; phase 2 is setting objectives in the Sacramento Delta area, including regulation of project exports; and then Phase 3 is the water right proceeding to try and implement everything.”
“We’ve been working very assiduously since 2009 and we’re trying to get across the finish line with our CEQA document for phase 1 and so this is an important thing to get done,” said Mr. Howard. “The plan is out of date and the only way we see to make more progress is to get some additional resources dedicated to it, and that is the basis for our request.”
Tom Howard then turned to one of the questions brought up in the staff report. “It says that the proposal for Bay Delta Water Quality charges the general fund and water rights fund for activities related to water supply and ecosystem resources, formerly the purview of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Why should the general fund be used for activities that benefit the water supply, permit holders drawing water from the Delta?,” he quoted from the report.
“I tried to give you a sense before that this is a lot more than simply what are the Delta exporters doing,” responded Mr. Howard. “It’s actually draws upon all of the activities in the Delta and how they impact all the resources in the Delta, and so the update is designed to establish these updated flow requirements and an adaptive management framework to protect public trust resources and benefit all beneficial uses. The impacts on the Bay Delta system and all the burdens placed on the regulatory system arise not just from the project exports, nor from the post-1914 appropriators who if it was only them, it would probably be appropriate to use water right funds only, but it also is caused by impacts to riparians and pre-1914 water right holders, and those parties pay no fees to the water board, they are not permitted by the water board, and yet they will likely have some responsibilities that come out of this process. We will have to be analyzing the impact of these parties, and since our fees are based on only the impacts of the post 1914 water right appropriators, we are unable to use fees for activities that affect the pre-1914 and riparian water right holders.”
Who should pay to remove the drought barriers?
Senator Wolk then turned to Director Cowin to discuss the drought barrier. “So barrier is put in and needs to be removed eventually, but the question is the funding source. Why not State Water Project funds to remove?” she asks.
“I think this gets at one of the great enigmas of California water – the concept of beneficiary pays,” responded Director Cowin. “While everybody agrees with the concept, it’s rarely straightforward or easy to implement and I think we all have scars from that particular debate. Let me speak to one of the comments in the staff report. The Department and the State Water Project in concert with the Central Valley Project has routinely implemented construction of rock barriers in the south Delta over time, particularly at the head of Old River to protect fish and then the complementary barriers to protect water levels for south Delta diverters for some period of time. We do that because we’re mitigating the direct effects of project operations and charging the projects as appropriate.”
“It’s our position that in this fourth year of drought, it’s not the projects causality or fault that salinity intrusion is a threat to California water supplies this year,” he said. “Clearly if the projects were not in place, salinity intrusion would certainly occur even deeper into the Delta and further upstream in the tributaries this year if not for the releases the projects make just as part of their operations.”
“But more to the point of who benefits, I want to be clear that I believe the risks of salinity intrusion in the Delta extend far beyond the State Water Project and the CVP,” said Director Cowin. “In fact, the Contra Costa Water District, the city of Antioch, and perhaps the cities of Tracy and Stockton are all at risk, as well as many users upstream in the Sacramento system if it should come to pass that we have to release additional water from upstream reservoirs to provide for salinity control. Then the opportunities for other use of that water upstream as well as providing cold water to protect fish would be lost. So, we believe that this is one of those occasions where it’s hard to describe this as a benefit, but it’s really a mitigation of risk applies to a broad set of communities and stakeholders, and much as we have a history of funding Delta subventions out of the general fund because we know that maintaining Delta levees is important to such a broad swath of water users and statewide interests, we believe it’s appropriate to use general fund in this case to fund removal of the barriers.”
Which way now with the remnants of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan …
Senator Wolk then turned to some of the larger policy issues. “I want to ask a few more questions about what really has happened to the policy because I’m confused,” she said. “In 2009, when the legislation was proposed that moved this BDCP forward, the process was to be an NCCP and frankly, in my view, that was a really important goal of those who were voting for it. This is to Director Bonham, there are other things that are important about an NCCP. One is that the standard is higher, so if we’re no longer doing an NCCP, then the standard becomes … what?”
“I took the time to look again at the Delta Reform Act in 2009. I was not, while at Trout Unlimited, actively engaged in … “ started Director Bonham.
“This predates the administration, I understand that,” acknowledged Senator Wolk.
“My reading of that Act is that an NCCP and the federal analog, the Habitat Conservation Plan, was not a required, if you will, mechanism,” he continued. “It’s described and slotted in as clearly what parties were intending to try to achieve, but the Act also has another pathway, which was, if not an NCCP-HCP, then when the Board evaluates its change petition around a new point of diversion, Board shall evaluate things like ecological flow, etc. I’m paraphrasing. So it strikes me that the, and I hesitate to say this, knowing you were involved, the architecture of those crafting that act may have had a preference but also knew that potentially a BDCP as an NCCP may now work; therefore all these other requirements in the Act would apply if the path became something other.”
“Here’s my description of the legal standards,” he said. “You are correct that in order to grant a permit under the NCCP, wherever, and we’ve done some and we’re working on some in the Delta in other forms, we must make a series of findings which boil down to the totality of commitments that can get us to recovery, meaning healthy, sustainable, and that is exactly the goal I live for.”
“While the project has a new pathway, here’s how the permitting would work under the new pathway,” said Director Bonham. “The federal government would do what is called a Section 7 consultation under the federal Endangered Species Act. It would be looking at the federal actor, the Bureau of Reclamation, and determining whether their action of this project would jeopardize the continued existence, so the standard now would be jeopardy. And similarly, our state department would be looking at what’s called a 2081 permit, and it’s the similar threat to continued existence. I actually believe that this could be superior from the perspective of managing, at least for the aquatic species, and here’s why. Under the NCCP approach and the idea of a 50-year structure, the amount of assurances and the certainty and expectations was so ladled together in a confusing mix, it was not possible to provide a 50-year certainty, both on the water supply front and on the species protection front. Under a section 7 and a permit from me approach, the projects will be managed on a continual basis against a threshold of jeopardy, and if things change, you’ve got initiation of reconsultation, and potential for adaptive management right there because the force of the function of the different type of permits. That’s how the projects are managed now under the biological opinions. That could prove to be a more specific and instantaneous management regime than trying to chart out a 50-year approach.”
“But I think you have a really good point,” he said. “What happens to all that good stuff you were trying to do to achieve recovery? And this is the task that I have. I want to take every conservation measure, 2-22, that’s good and what we were trying to do, and I want to put it into an existing authority or program. We need to do predation, we need to deal with methylmercury, we need to deal with unscreened barriers, we needed to restore habitat in the Delta – we need to do all that stuff we wanted to do. I’m going to try and find a home for it, put it in programs and get it in play.”
“I hope that was more helpful than confusing,” he said.
“That’s helpful, but the question remains for me, we have a 2009 Delta Reform Act which speaks to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and speaks to its incorporation into [the Delta Plan], that has dual goals as well as caring for the Delta – all that’s in statute including the NCCP,” said Senator Wolk. “What you’re describing, where is that in statute, and its relationship to the canal? I voted for none of this, but I remember the conversation of how important it was to many people who supported it that the NCCP – not solely because of the recovery standard, but also because of the process involving the NCCP, the public process, the hearings, there was a clear requirement for governance, for example. Where then, in statute, is going to be this new whatever it is, this new approach? What is the role of the Delta Stewardship Council?”
“I have three responses,” replied Director Bonham. “First, in my personal judgment, the 2009 Act establishes an important statutory goal: the two coequal goals and we’re going to achieve them. From there, it doesn’t require only the use of the NCCP to achieve that goal. There’s no language that says ‘thou shalt only achieve these coequal goals solely through an NCCP or HCP.’ So the question becomes, if not that approach, what is the alternative approach? I think that takes me to my second response. I believe Cal Eco Restore accomplishing 30,000 acres in 3 years plus more over time combined with evaluating Cal Water Fix on its own merits, and if I can fulfill this commitment to you, finding a home for all the other good conservation commitments in totality, can actually be a program that achieves the coequal goals. You may be a great skeptic of that, but that’s my answer on the second question. Third point I’d make is I do not believe we will be successful in the Delta without the Delta Conservancy and me standing next to them on any restoration we do in the Delta. Finding the best way to do it, and I start with that thinking around the 30,000 acre target for Cal Eco Restore.”
“Let me just add to Director Bonham’s response,” said Director Cowin. “First of all, let me also say that the NCCPA approach and standard is a great institution and I would only look for ways to strengthen it and make it more accessible to more parts of California’s important ecosystems, but my read of the Delta Reform Act, for what it’s worth, called out that if the Bay Delta Conservation Plan met the NCCPA standard, then we had a pathway into the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan. Without meeting that standard, now we will have to approach the Delta Stewardship Council without benefit of the pathway provided by the 2009 legislation and ask for their consideration to be adopted into the Delta Plan.”
“I’d just like to make one more point,” continued Director Cowin. “The NCCP standard, the HCP standard of recovery are laudable goals, but these are voluntary permits and the quid pro quo here has always been try to achieve these levels of recovery and you’ll get assurances and response for that; thus the 50 year term that has been so controversial. It’s also been assumed and has been past practice that a public contribution would be part of what distinguishes a Section 7 avoid jeopardy approach from a recovery standard HCP approach. My previous point that I was trying to make, if we’re going to talk about a public contribution that actually raises us above avoidance of jeopardy to recovery of Bay Delta species, trying to do that within a permitting process for controversial Delta tunnels is not a healthy place to have that discussion. So therefore, let’s segregate the parts, let’s deal with mitigating the impacts of project operations including construction and operation of the new Delta conveyance facility, which we believe of course is a necessary component of Delta restoration, but then let’s have the discussion about how we get beyond simple mitigation to a conservation strategy outside of the context of a permitting strategy for Bay Delta tunnels.”
“The 50 year permit were the assurances to the contractors that gave them, I think, the willingness to move forward as far as they did on this and to fund as far as they did,” said Senator Wolk. “Now that that’s gone, which I don’t think was very achievable for all the reasons you described, not practical … now that those assurances are gone, what is the value to the contractors in moving forward with this?”
“There are several different ways I could answer this question, but first of all, let me say that I think the water agencies that would be beneficiaries of the project should speak for themselves and they have of course expressed, in general, what I heard after our announcement of this change in approach is, ‘We’ll have to see,’ so they are still digesting the approach and what it means to them,” said Director Cowin. “I think in the early days of consideration of what this HCP would be, the notion of assurances was oversold. The fact of the matter is that permit terms could always be revoked if we didn’t meet a recovery standard, and in doing so, would require great investment of water and money on the part of the permit holders, plus a public contribution that would have to be made in order to maintain the status of the permit, so the idea that there was ever a rock solid guarantee of a water supply was just inappropriate. There’s a little bit of resetting the baseline as to what the expectations should have been going into this project after 8 or 9 years of hard earned experience here.”
“My better answer, at least the one that motivates me, is that I believe that the purpose of Delta conveyance is to address one specific issue that plagues the Delta, and that’s this issue of unnatural reverse flows which pulls fish from the northern part of the Delta into the southern part of the Delta where mortality is high,” he said. “That’s a separate issue than how much Delta outflow will ultimately be required to provide for mitigation or recovery of Delta species. My thesis is that regardless of what that answer to what the ultimate Delta outflow requirements will be, both species and water exporters will be in better shape with this modernized Delta conveyance system in place.”
Senator Wolk had just two more questions. “The first is that often in the public discussion, the administration says well, we don’t have an alternative. The water fix is the same as it was before the announcement about the habitat piece, so it’s the same project. So why hasn’t there been a similar review of that as well in light of the reduction in assurances which is clear and which I think made it valuable for the contractors to move forward? The administration comments say that there is never an alternative. I think just recently, in the newspaper because that’s the only place this apparently gets a hearing, is Craig Wilson, who I think we all know who he is; he’s an excellent former Executive Director of the water board, watermaster for several years working in the Delta … proposes an alternative that’s probably worth looking at, just because it’s a whole lot cheaper. There might not be more assurances as to flow. Why is it that, given all of this change, the Water Fix remains exactly the same?”
“I doubt that there have been many CEQA NEPA processes that have considered as many alternatives as we have in this process,” responded Director Cowin. “We’ll produce a document that has, I’ve lost track now, I believe 16 different alternatives that will be fully analyzed. We’ve been at this for 8 years, and there’s always a little better proposal out there to consider that might start us over again. When the right idea comes along that sets us back and really reconsider what we’re proposing comes along, we will do so. I’ve no more wed to this proposal anymore than any other proposal that accomplishes the goals that we are trying to accomplish here. I can’t speak to the specifics of Mr. Wilson’s proposal. It hasn’t undergone 8 years of scrutiny as the alternatives that we have before us today have gone through.”
“I can say that we did step back and spend weeks in the administration considering whether or not we were on the right track with the specific proposed proposal that we’re putting forward here, specifically Delta conveyance of 9000 cfs with the type of design features that we’ve talked about here, including the efforts we’ve gone through to reduce the local impacts that would be accompanying that project,” he continued. “At the end of the day, we believe that we’ve got really two choices. We’re going to build this type of project that provides new opportunity to divert Delta waters that we’ve diverted from the south Delta in the past in a way that’s more modern, more protective of species, or we’re going to see a multiple decadal decline in the ability of the project to do its job, and we find that approach to be just not in the state’s interest or economic well being.”
“Let me just ask you one question,” said Senator Wolk. “Currently, you’re in the midst of this environmental review process. At the same time, internally are you involved in design and construction of any one of the alternatives? Preliminary design and drawings and things … ?”
“These are terms of art of course,” said Director Cowin. “Naturally there’s been some level of design that’s necessary in order to come up with a proposal that can be subjected to an analysis of its impacts, so we have … “
“And the funding for that?” asked Senator Wolk.
“All of the funding for any of these plans, formerly Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and now Cal Water Fix, comes from the state and federal water contractors,” he said.
“But there is design going on?”
“Very limited design necessary to complete the environmental permitting process,” said Director Cowin. “An investment in the kind of design necessary to actually do a construction bid is a long ways away and many more hundreds of millions of dollars away.”
Senator Wolk then said that the hiring of David Okita was a ‘master stroke’ and noting that she’s worked with him for many, many years. “Having worked with him on the Solano County Water Agency Putah Creek Council, been on opposite sides of serious controversies, environmental water controversies, and then working together quite well, I think that’s an excellent idea. I think going to a realistic goal of 30,000 that you can really achieve is a good idea, and I take you at your word that the partnerships that I know that you support and have worked on all your life will be the way that you’ll approach this issue with the Conservancy and with landowners and that’s the way you do business, so I’m looking forward to that.”
“So let’s move on … ”
The Committee then heard public comment, which were mostly organizations objecting to the State Water Boards’ request to use a portion from the water rights fund to complete the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. The Committee then voted 3-0 to support action 1, which by my read was to deny DFW their funding request; they next voted 2-1 to support actions 2 & 3, which was to approve the State Water Board proposal and deny funding the removal of the drought barrier.
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