Tunnel opponents weigh in on Delta Stewardship Council’s proposed Delta Plan amendment on conveyance
It was standing room only for the Delta Stewardship Council’s March meeting, held last Thursday in Brentwood, as Restore the Delta, Save the California Delta Alliance, and other opponents of the California Water Fix project were out in force to hear the latest and weigh in on the Council’s pending Delta Plan amendment regarding conveyance, storage, and operations of both.
At the February Council meeting, a discussion draft an amendment regarding conveyance, storage, and operations was presented to the Council. At that time, Council provided comments to help refine the draft amendment. Following that meeting, Council staff held three workshops to hear additional public comments. At this meeting, Council staff discussed potential changes to the discussion draft, with the plan to bring back a revised draft of the amendment back to the Council in April that will incorporate the comments received from the Council and the public for further discussion.
Executive Officer Jessica Pearson introduced the agenda item, noting that the first draft is the culmination of about eighteen months of discussion with the Council, public input, staff and consultant work. “This is all related to a commitment we made in the Delta Plan to revisit the topic of conveyance, storage, and the operations of both to achieve the coequal goals, which is a requirement of a plan in the Delta Reform Act,” she said.
“From the March public meetings, there seem to be some misimpressions based on some of the oral and written comments received that this amendment has been conflated or is somehow a preapproval of the administration’s Water Fix conveyance project. It is not. The Council was given two specific roles by the legislature on conveyance. We were given specific review authority as an appellate body over originally the Bay Delta Conservation Plan conveyance proposal, and now any successor project that meets the definition of a covered action. This appeal review would be project specific, and based on the fourteen regulations in the Delta Plan currently.”
“We were also directed by the legislature to promote options for new and improved Delta conveyance, storage systems, and the operations of both in order to achieve the coequal goals,” Ms. Pearson continued. “This allows us to offer high level recommendations regarding any potential conveyance or storage project in the Delta or that affects the Delta or the coequal goals. The Council, back in 2015, thoughtfully considered and then adopted guiding principles which led staff to the draft currently in front of us, which includes, among other promoted options, a staff recommendation regarding dual conveyance as an alternative that we promote to the status quo of through-Delta only conveyance. Through Delta only conveyance in the staff’s review is clearly not working for the coequal goals. Through Delta only conveyance does not advance the principles adopted by the Council.”
“Dual conveyance as a broad recommendation does not speak to how big, where, how many pipelines or intakes, how much water flows through them, etc. To say it does would be to say that our advocacy for additional storage is somehow an endorsement of a specific project such as Temperance Flat, Sites, or Shasta. It is not. That is but one section of this more comprehensive document that seeks to influence, guide, and integrate big picture conveyance, storage, and operational decision that affect the Delta and the coequal goals.”
“I know that the discussion draft can be improved. I hope that comment here today is constructively designed to do so, and I look forward to taking the steps to bring a better draft back to the Council.”
CLARIFYING THE CEQA PROCESS AS IT RELATES TO DELTA PLAN AMENDMENTS
Ms. Pearson then turned it over to Bethany Pane, Chief Counsel for the Council.
“I wanted to take some time to clarify what I think might be some confusion I saw in the workshops earlier this month and in comment letter, particularly what we received from Friends of the River, AquAlliance, and others on some CEQA matters and just see if this general comment can help with comments we might be receiving from you,” said Ms. Pane. “I’ll explain the CEQA process that we’re undertaking here.”
“It’s the same CEQA process that we undertook for the adoption for the Delta Plan, the same CEQA process that we did for the single year water transfers amendment that was ultimately adopted last year, and the same CEQA process that is not only proposed for the conveyance, storage, and operations amendment that staff is recommending in this and future months, but also for the Delta Levees Investment Strategy amendment that’s on today’s agenda, and for the performance measures amendment that is also today’s agenda, with the ultimate hope being, this is what we anticipate, that all three proposed amendment would be analyzed in the same CEQA document, the same EIR.”
“So what staff is doing at this very early and preliminary stage is asking the Council to direct it as to how to go forward and analyze these amendments, particularly in the case that you’re here for, the conveyance, storage, and operation amendments under CEQA,” continued Ms. Pane. “To do that, it’s asking the Council ultimately – not in this meeting, but maybe in a future meeting – to give it direction. So it’s not asking the Council at this point for approval of this language. What it’s asking for the direction to go and for the first time in the EIR, start with a project description and a preferred alternative.”
“We’re using this public process of meetings and workshop to develop draft promotion language that we’ll ultimately ask the Council to sign off on as the EIR project description, so that staff and our consultants can then analyze it, along with a range of alternatives, in the EIR. I think this is what we mean when we’re mentioning in the staff reports that you read today and last month, that staff is looking for direction on the proposed project or preferred alternative for purposes of CEQA.”
“I think there might be some confusion with what’s required of us under CEQA as a state agency rather than if we were a federal agency under the National Environmental Protection Act or NEPA,” said Ms. Pane. “Under NEPA, it does not require that any of the alternatives analyzed in the EIS does not require that a proposed project be designated as a proposed project, so all alternatives can be analyzed without identifying the proposed project in that EIS. But CEQA absolutely does require that the project description be preferred or approved, but only for purposes of designating as such in the EIR, so it would get analyzed along with all the reasonable range of alternatives as required by CEQA.”
“So after the Council votes, and again, it wouldn’t be in this meeting because it’s only scheduled as an information item, but after the Council votes to give staff direction on all three amendments, so the conveyance, the Delta levees, and the performance measures, (conveyance will not be today), and after the release of the draft EIR that considers those proposed amendments, as the proposed project under CEQA, there would then be a public comment period under CEQA, a public hearing, and responses to comments, and during that process, the Council is still free to consider and ultimately adopt any alternative analyzed in the EIR, which it determines to be feasible.”
“So to be clear, the purpose of this discussion draft process for the CSO amendment as well as the other two amendments is to elicit discussion and comment from the public and from Council members on what will eventually become the project description for purposes of analysis in the upcoming EIR,” said Ms. Pane. “The Council will not be asked at this time to vote to approve the project, the Delta Plan amendment language, until the conclusion of the CEQA process. Staff and the Council are not predetermining the outcome of the CEQA process, and that is the whole point of the environmental analysis and the alternatives analysis as well as the public process that is required by CEQA.”
“In addition to the CEQA confusion that I thought I might be reading in those comment letters and hearing at our workshops, I also thought that there might be some confusion about what section of the Delta Reform Act this conveyance, storage, and operations amendment is addressing. It looked like in the AquAlliance members letters that I read that this was being perhaps with confused with the BDCP provisions of the Reform Act, which no longer apply to the Council because the Water Fix, not BDCP, has been chosen by those lead agencies as their project. The conveyance, storage, and operations amendment that is up for discussion today will amend the Delta Plan ultimately to continue to promote conveyance options pursuant to Water Code Section 85304, but that is different from the procedure for incorporating what would have been BDCP into Delta Plan pursuant to Water Code sections 85320.”
“So unlike BDCP, which would have been made part of the Delta Plan, and therefore would have been consistent with Delta Plan by its very definition, Delta conveyance projects will still need to certify consistency with all of the regulatory policies of the Delta Plan, and will individually have to complete environmental review and an alternatives analysis,” said Ms. Pane. “So my hope with this is that I clarified rather than muddied the CEQA issues that you may be asking about in the public comment section.”
RECAPPING LAST MONTH’S COMMENTS
Council staff received many comments at the February Council meeting and has organized them into themes, found on page 2 of the staff report. Cassandra Enos-Nobriga highlighted some of the themes in the proposed revisions to the discussion draft.
“Regarding the historical analysis theme, Council recommended we better describe the substantial time and effort put forth in development of options for conveyance, storage, and operations,” she said. “In response, staff and consultants have developed a table of the history of conveyance, storage, and the operations, and are making revisions to the discussion draft introduction to reference the table. This table is intended to illustrate that this effort is continuation of a very long process to evaluate conveyance, storage, and operations options. Staff is seeking feedback on whether this table adequately addresses the comments.”
“Regarding the balance tone, several Council members commented that the tone of the draft wasn’t balanced with respect to the coequal goals and overemphasized water supply reliability. In response, we are adding and revising language throughout the document to present a more balanced tone,” continued Ms. Enos-Nobriga. “Finally, the Council commented that the recommended options should have a stronger connection to the issues identified in the problem statements. Staff is reorganizing the draft to place the problem statements immediately before the recommendations and to include language that ties them closer together. In addition, scientific references have been made throughout to better support the findings and conclusions.”
SUMMARY OF COMMENTS RECEIVED FROM PUBLIC MEETINGS
Following February’s Council meeting, public workshops were held in Tracy, Diamond Bar, and Sacramento to solicit feedback from the public which were attended by representatives from water agencies, state resources agencies, and NGOs. Kari Shively, consultant with Stantec, then presented a summary of comments received and potential edits to the draft document in response.
Ms. Shively said she would not review all the comments or themes, but would highlight a few of them and how they will be addressing them as the discussion draft amendment moves forward. A more thorough report on the comments and themes is available in the staff report.
“The majority of the feedback that we received on the discussion draft during the workshops was directed towards the recommendations as opposed to the introduction and problem statements, although we did receive some comments and feedback on those as well,” said Ms. Shively. “Those included suggestions to recognize population growth, data management and exchange, and funding or financing in the description of the problems associated with conveyance, storage, and operations.”
“With respect to the recommendations in the discussion draft, we did receive a broad range of comments and feedback, and we also received some suggestions for new recommendations to be included in the next draft. For example, participants raised concerns that the amendment focused a little bit too narrowly on new facilities as opposed to improving existing facilities, such as the state and federal facilities in the South Delta for example. So to this end, we are drafting a new recommendation for your consideration that relates to near term improvements to the south Delta intake facilities to address fish losses. This is consistent with the 18 principles that were used as a guide that recognized the importance of both near term and long term actions to help achieve the coequal goals.”
“Concern was also raised that the promotion of options was premature and that additional study was needed prior to taking this step, and we’ll be making changes to the introduction, the problem statements, and the recommendations themselves to clarify and provide a basis for the promotion of the options that are included in the draft,” said Ms. Shively. “Participants noted that while the focus is often on the fish and aquatic habitat, that terrestrial habitat is also important and could be impacted by new or improved infrastructure, in particular, conveyance infrastructure in the Delta. So accordingly, we will be revising the recommendations, and the recommended criteria that new projects should consider to address terrestrial impacts and avoidance as well as to look for opportunities to benefit terrestrial species in the Delta.”
“Another popular topic of discussion at all three of the workshops actually, was related to groundwater and groundwater storage. For example, participants suggested that the amendment should help promote groundwater recharge using local supplies, such as recycled water or stormwater or other locally available water sources. So in response we will be drafting a recommendation for your consideration that would aim to streamline the process for permitting and the regulatory processes associated with recharging groundwater using those types of supplies, in particular recycled water.”
“So in summary, I think we received a great deal of constructive feedback that we are actively using to help improve the draft that we put out as a discussion draft, and we also look forward to hearing additional feedback today as we move forward,” concluded Ms. Shively.
Ms. Enos-Nobriga then discussed next steps. A CEQA scoping meeting was held on the day following this meeting (March 24) for all the proposed amendments to the Delta Plan, including the Delta levee investment strategy, conveyance, storage, and operations, and performance measures. They will be developing a scoping report and presenting a summary of the scoping meeting at the next Council meeting. Comments on the CEQA scoping will be accepted through email and regular mail through April 17. Next month, staff anticipates coming back with revised version of the discussion draft that incorporates many of the comments and responses discussed today.
THE PUBLIC WEIGHS IN …
Over 30 speakers then gave public comment on the conveyance, storage, and operations amendment. Speakers ranged from representatives of organizations to Delta business owners to public citizens. Some pitched projects to bring in water from other states, more desalination, and for building a big fish screen in Clifton Court Forebay; boaters expressed concern for construction impacts, and realtors spoke of concern for property values. All spoke passionately about the Delta and were opposed to the tunnels, and therefore to the amendment to the Plan, and speakers generally received boisterous rounds of applause.
Here are some of the highlights from those comments:
BARBARA BARRIGAN-PARILLA, Restore the Delta:
“Winston Churchill said that Americans continue to do the right thing after they exhaust all the other possibilities, and I kind of feel that’s where we are today with the amendments with the Delta Plan. In two areas in particular, first: scoping for public workshops. You had three people attend the workshop in Tracy on March 3rd. Two of them were friends of the Restore the Delta campaign. That’s because adequate public notice was not given. In addition, you are not holding meetings at the right time of day, you are not putting meeting information out through newspapers, you aren’t even giving information to on the ground active community groups so they can track what is really going on. Our friends in Southern California that we collaborate with say that at the meeting they attended in Southern Calfiornia, it was all agency people. Nobody from the public was notified there about how they feel about paying for the project.”
“That leads me to the second issue. Our experience with the Council, including the litigation we’ve been involved with, is there’s a constant misinterpretation of the Delta Reform Act. And today, what I want to talk about isn’t why you shouldn’t do this for the Delta, but if you’re so concerned with water supply reliability, which I see this Council favor over and over again, then how could you move forward with this amendment when there is no financial plan on the table, and who is going to pay for this project in California? There is no cost benefit analysis, and people think everyone in Southern California has money, but you forget there is a sizeable environmental justice community down there that cannot afford to pay for these tunnels. I’ll leave it there.”
JAN McCLEARY, Save the California Delta Alliance
“I sent in comments in 2013 and 2015 on the BDCP plan concerning that the plan would harm boating and recreation, which in turn harms our community and other communities that rely on boating and recreation for their economy, for our property values, and for our way of life. And then later salt water intrusion will further degrade life on the Delta. Fertile farmlands, landscape, and golf courses as well as the fish.”
“So the final EIR now California Water Fix without the habitat conservation plan part was rushed through with a 30-day review and the answers to the prior comments were provided but the answers they provided said they don’t have to protect the Delta as a place and they don’t have to protect any of the components of it. So I guess that has to be the DSC’s job, and so please do protect us. That’s only possible if you start with the Delta flow requirements. Reduced Delta flows, reduced reliance on the Delta, and reduced exports, which is what the legislature requested you start with when this process was kicked off in 2009.”
“Then about the outreach, I agree with Barbara, there haven’t been enough outreach projects, the BDCP when they conducted their outreach, they didn’t take back anything that we said. We talked to them about the boating requirements, recreation, what the routes are, and instead the construction plan totally wipes everything out. …
“Conveyance should truly go around the Delta. This under the Delta, the construction project rips up the Delta, so that’s not really going around the Delta, but if you started with the Delta flow requirements and reduced the exports, any conveyance may not even be needed, so I strongly request that you go back, look at what water needs to flow through the Delta to keep it healthy and then look at what can be exported after that.”
BOB WRIGHT, Friends of the River
“There’s a difference between people being confused, and someone trying to confuse them. And what’s happened so far has been an unsuccessful effort to confuse the people that what’s going on here is not really important. Well, it’s very important and that’s why somebody caused the call for the Water Fix tunnels dual conveyance to be in your draft revised plan amendment and also to be in the Notice of Preparation as the preferred alternative that you filed last week on March 16. Now, if it’s not important as your staff says, and it’s not the final decision, do what we’re all asking you to do and take it out of your draft plan and take it out of your Notice of Preparation.”
“The Delta Reform Act requires comprehensive review and analysis of three basic conveyance alternatives: through-Delta which is what we have now, dual conveyance which under the plan by DWR is the water tunnels, or isolated conveyance. Give the people the hope, that this isn’t a kangaroo court, that you’re really going to do the job to develop a comprehensive, long-term management plan for the Delta and you’re not just another sales job pushing the water tunnels. So give the people the hope, take it out of your revised plan, take it out of your Notice of Preparation.”
“You all got the benefit cost analysis. What the staff said at the workshop, the project wasn’t specific enough to do benefit cost analysis comparing these alternatives. Well, the proof is in the pudding. You got the benefit cost analysis done in August by the UOP showing that the costs of the Water Fix tunnels would exceed the benefits by a factor of 4 to 1, and the conclusion is the project makes no economic sense whatsoever.”
“Now what’s scary, when you jump out and try to make this the preferred alternative right at the get go, when you make something a preferred alternative something that looks like its unfeasible under state law, because the Delta Reform Act prohibits the subsidized new conveyance facility, that really looks like suspicious, the decision’s already been made.”
“I’d like to say a couple final things. You’re staff talks about Section 85304 the Water Code; that doesn’t require options for new conveyance; the language is new and improved infrastructure relating to the water conveyance. That could include things like finally modernizing the fish screens at the south Delta pumps which are always used as a call for the water tunnels, and also there’s been a break at Brentwood, so Clifton Court infrastructure needs to be fixed. That’s what the statue actually calls for so there’s no reason. Let’s do the book report after you’ve read the book, not before you’ve read the book.”
ROGER, Board member and secretary of Restore the Delta, president of West Delta chapter of the West Delta chapter of the California Striped Bass Association
“I’ve lived in the Delta for 35 years. It’s very important to me, and I was listening to the introduction, and with no disrespect, it essentially said that the people that are concerned about the Delta are confused. I don’t think the people in the room are confused at all that depriving our Delta of its fresh water flows and needs is confusing at all. We live here. We see it all day.”
“I’ve watched the Delta die for 35 years because of the lack of flows. Our system is overdrafted; we don’t need any more conveyance out of the Delta. Scientists has proven, studied, and modeled that the Delta flows need to be increased just to maintain its health and its ecosystem. The NMFS just came out, indicating what would happen to the salmon with the dual conveyance. They’d be wiped out, but more importantly, it also says that the water in the west Delta would become contaminated, unfit, and that’s where we get our drinking water. We don’t need any more water taken out of the Delta; coequal goals, fine. But don’t deprive the Delta residents of their fresh water. We don’t need it. Thank you.”
REPRESENTATIVE OF ASSEMBLYMAN JIM FRAZIER: (reading letter):
As a representative of California State Assembly Delta district and co-chair of the California Legislative Delta Caucus, I write today to voice my opposition to the proposed water conveyance, storage, and operation amendments to the Delta Plan deliberated by the Delta Stewardship Council.
I proudly represent the 11th Assembly District and the almost half a million residents that call this place home. The key feature that unites people around the district is our shared cultural, social, and economic attachment to the heart of the Delta, a unique environmental, geographic place in California that demands protection. Any proposed change of Delta flows must preserve our ecosystem and water quality, which indisputably benefits habitat for our fish, birds, and other wildlife as well as sustains local agriculture, commercial, boating and recreational industries, and my constituents’ way of life.
The state legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger explicitly recognized the need for protecting the Delta in 2009 when they passed the Delta Reform Act which established coequal goals. The Delta Stewardship Council was created to uphold and implement these coequal goals of water supply reliability and protection, restoration, and enhancement of the Delta ecosystem. The proposed Delta Plan conveyance amendments put forth by the Council barely touch upon the importance of protecting the Delta’s ecosystem.
As stated last year in my bill, AB 2583, and this year in my bills AB 791 and AB 792, appropriate fiscal and environmental safeguards must be applied to any new conveyance project. While the amendments state in the section dedicated to water principles that cost effectiveness should be a major factor, there’s no similar mention when referring to Delta conveyance. This is worrisome since there have already been major concerns brought up regarding the financing of the proposed current conveyance project, the California Water Fix. The Council should consider adding a principle that deals with the cost effectiveness of any Delta conveyance project or be prepared to answer questions from the public as to why it would implicitly be stated to be a guiding principle of water storage but not conveyance.
In summary, those agencies considering future conveyance proposals must prepare financing options and demonstrate the manner in which an alternative conveyance reduces reliance on the Delta, protects the ecosystem, and promotes increased storage as a whole as required under the coequal goals under the Delta Reform Act. Any Council action must enable my constituents and others who may be impacted by this proposal to have the unobstructed opportunity and right to review and offer guidance in an open, transparent and participatory process. Therefore I urge the Council to reconsider the needs of the populace of California, especially those of us who live in and rely on the Delta within the 11th Assembly District.
Sincerely, Assemblyman Jim Frazier”
FRANK MORGAN, operates “Captain Morgan’s Delta Adventures’:
“I have a slightly different take on all of this as a business owner who that actually operates a business out on the Delta 365 days a year. If I stumbled into the meeting and heard the opening comments about twin conveyance options and all the other nice words, I’d probably vote for it, too. It sounds like hugging babies and feeding the homeless, but what we’re talking about here is boring two giant tunnels underneath the Delta, taking most of the water from the northern clean part of the Delta where all the fresh water runs down from the Sierra snowpacks and so forth, and then pumping it underneath and bypassing everybody that lives and works on the Delta and then sending it down south for others to feed almond trees or other things like that.”
“Just picture if this was your own backyard and I wanted to build a power plant in your backyard, and I told you it was going to be three stories high, it’s going to run all night long, it’s loud, but they need lighting down in Southern California so we need to put this in your backyard. You would be opposed to that without question. We’re counting on you to oppose these twin tunnels, because that’s what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about a conveyance option, we’re talking two twin tunnels.”
“Now how that affects me as a business operator directly, when you look at the proposed plan, you talk about putting in barges and docks, and many of sloughs like Victoria Slough down by Discovery Bay, that’s a two hour route that we do cruises, and we did over 165 cruises last year that make that 2 hour loop so people don’t have to go out into the Delta and come straight back down. We make a big loop out for two hours going down Victoria Slough by Ski Beach up to Bullfrog Railroad Bridge, down Railroad Slough and then back to Discovery Bay. The proposed project shows docks, barges, boats, sludge, all of that being stacked up all around there which would definitely impede what I do.”
“Now I’m concerned about the Delta as a whole, but specifically I want you to be aware, there are many more things the Delta is used for than just getting out on a Sunday afternoon with your water ski or your wakeboard. There are people who do business. Realtors will be negatively impacted. You have boat dealers negatively impacted, boatyards that barely make it through the winter to go to the summer and try and make a living for them and their families, and by any of these things that are put in place to block or impede the natural traffic or flow of the Delta is definitely a negative on our local area. So in my closing comments, what in this project benefits anybody up here on the Delta? I don’t get it. I get all the benefits for down south, but I don’t see any here.”
SUSAN, boater on the Delta:
“Building two tunnels and putting up gates does not enhance the recreational or agricultural values of the Delta. In fact, they disrupt this beautiful place that many plants, animals, and people call home. Tunnels and gates do not enhance the uniqueness of the Delta. … I urge you to reread your plan and remember you are guided by your legislation to protect and enhance the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource and agricultural values of California. Remember you are mandated by legislation to promote options, not just the Governor’s conveyance plan. Remember that you are created to achieve state mandated coequal goals for the Delta. That includes all of us in Northern California who are here today, and our friends and neighbors who are unable to attend.”
“ … California Water Fix sent me this letter. It felt like a slap in the face. ‘Delta supplies important to San Diego’s North County. We all know 25 million Californians depend on Delta water, but did you know that depending on the weather, some communities end up relying more heavily on Delta supplies? Right now, 100% of water being imported to San Diego’s North County is from the Delta, and that’s a good thing for our local businesses. Their other major source, the Colorado River, is much higher in salinity, causing water districts to blend higher quality Delta supplies with other sources to improve their quality. Farmers use as much as 50% more water if it comes from the Colorado River to lower the salt levels, and a local San Diego brewery, Stone Beer, has to spend more money to purify Colorado River supplies when compared to Delta supplies.’ Beer? Really? What about the local farmers here in the Delta that will have to deal with more salinity when the tunnels are shipping the fresh water south before flushing the salt through the Delta. Manipulating the words in your proposal has not changed the meaning. Let me clear. Do not build those tunnels.”
AFTER THE PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD …
Chair Fiorini thanks the crowd for the comments, and notes that all written comments received as well as the webcast will be posted at www.deltacouncil.ca.gov.
“The comments we received through this meeting and the previous Council meeting and three public meetings will be incorporated into an updated staff draft,” he said. “The Council will be meeting in Sacramento on April 27 and potentially April 28th, so that will be the next opportunity to review the progress on this process.”
COUNCIL MEMBERS WEIGH IN
At this point, council members had the opportunity to add their comments.
Council member Skip Thomson, also chair of the Delta Protection Commission, began. “Being one of the only elected officials on this Council, it is a privilege and a pleasure to have all the folks turn out this morning,” he said. “I’ve often told my colleagues and I’ve thought myself that it’s amazing what the public knows about an issue that they have a great interest in.”
“One of the things that I want to talk about is whether or not the twin tunnels is a preferred alternative or if it’s even being promoted,” said Mr. Thomson. “I wanted to first start off by referring back to our February meeting on agenda item, page 5, line 21 under New and Improved Water Conveyance. And let me just read from that initial paragraph: It says, ‘The California DWR and the US Dept. of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, should pursue a dual conveyance solution for the Delta by constructing new facilities for isolated below ground conveyance of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project. Supplies from the Sacramento River to the South Delta via multiple intakes.’ It goes on. At our Sacramento workshop, when Ms. Enos-Nobriga was asked about a benefit cost analysis, the response from Ms. Nobriga was that first she confirmed that a benefit cost analysis should be done, but since there was no project to do that, we weren’t doing it at this time. I guess the question I have for staff, is it because we’re calling it a dual conveyance solution that that word solution means it’s not a project?”
“I just want to clarify for the CEQA process, we don’t need to do a cost benefit analysis,” responded Ms. Enos-Nobriga. “What I mentioned was a project proponent could do a cost benefit analysis, but we are doing a program evaluation, so we don’t have a specific project we’re recommending.”
“I guess those 80,000 pages of a EIR and EIS don’t describe a specific project? It talks about the Water Fix tunnels if you will, and it’s very elaborate as to what is going to be required, and so I take issue that you’re saying it’s not a project at this point,” said Mr. Thomson. “One of the more concerning things to me is again, being a public official, it’s all about transparency and being above board. I’m very disappointed that there had to be a California Public Records Act request for a cost benefit analysis that the state had done but they felt they didn’t have to share it with the public. The reason I bring this up is there is a benefit cost analysis that has been done by Dr. Jeffrey Michael, and I received it when I received the letter … from the public interest organizations of which Bob Wright made reference to and presented today. Is there a reason why we didn’t get the benefit cost analysis with our packets?”
“It was not produced by staff,” said Executive Officer Jessica Peason. “If you’d like it to be made available for the next meeting, we’d be happy to do that.”
“That’s okay, I have copies of it,” said Mr. Thomson. “I anticipated it not being handed out.” (applause) Chair Fiorini also noted that it is posted on the website.
“People don’t have access to the internet, and I just think it’s appropriate that we at least have everything on the table so we can talk about the specifics,” said Mr. Thomson. “I’m passing it out to my colleagues because I think it’s important that if we’re going to entertain any project, either at a future meeting or six months down the road, we ought to have the information that allows us to make those decisions. We’re talking about anywhere from $17 billion – which was the initial number the Governor proposed – as high as $65 billion now. If the bridge is any example, it’d probably be $100 billion by the time we get done.”
“The point is a cost benefit analysis ought to have at least a breakeven point,” continued Mr. Thomson. “Dr. Michael’s cost benefit analysis shows that for every 23 cents of benefit, it cost $1.00. That’s hardly a project that any of us, if we were doing in our private lives, would be promoting, so again we need to have all the information. I’m concerned about whether or not, to me, I’ve asked my council as I’ve looked at this, whether it’s a project or a solution, and to a person I’ve spoken to, it looks like this council is promoting a dual conveyance and you can call it a solution, but it sounds like a twin tunnel project to me.”
“So I’m looking with great anticipation of our actual agenda item that will decide how we move forward on either a twin tunnel or some other preferred alternative, but right now I’m asking my colleagues to think seriously about the folks that have spoken before us today, about what this Delta means,” said Mr. Thomson. “I have friends who have never been to the Delta, and when I take them to the Delta, they say, what a beautiful, wonderful estuary this is. And don’t get me wrong. I understand that we are a state, and that maybe we do have a responsibility to help Southern California with their water needs, but it’s not at the expense of destroying the Delta.”
(long, filibustering-type length of applause, standing ovation)
“I do appreciate that, but that was not my intent,” he said. “How I was going to finish my statement was I think we’re at a point where we need to think about the grand compromise. How do we achieve the coequal goals but yet be responsible to the state of California? So I hope that’s where my words are leading and I hope we can come to some solution that benefits all of us.”
Chair Randy Fiorini starts to call the lunch break, member of the audience asks when the Council will be giving direction to staff.
“We provided them direction at the last meeting, and you heard from our folks … “
Member of the audience counters, “This says the staff is asking for this Council to give staff direction for the preferred alternative, and you just told me that you’ve already given staff direction that the dual conveyance is going to be the preferred alternative?”
“That’s not what I said,” said Mr. Fiorini. “Here’s what was given to staff at the last time we looked at the draft. … Strengthen the narrative, balanced tone, better connect the recommendations to issues in the problem statement, improve consistency between amendment and other existing Delta Plan policies and recommendations, explain how options were selected, improve historical analysis and process of options evaluated to date.’ So those are general buckets of direction … “
Audience member asks, “When staff presented to the public, staff commented to this council, they are looking for this Council to give staff direction that dual conveyance is preferred alternative, and that’s what was being discussed here. Am I mistaken?”
“The public comment has informed council members,” said Bethany Pane, legal counsel for the Council. “We’ve only heard from Council member Thomson. After having seeing the public comments here, I don’t know if there are any other comments or further direction they’d like to give to staff … “
Audience member: “When is the Council going to give direction or not. Isn’t that to be decided? Isn’t that why this item is on the agenda?”
“I’d like to suggest to staff that consistent with the chair’s direction that is stated in the staff memo, that the background and current evidence suggesting that a dual conveyance approach is preferable be explained in writing so that at the next meeting and online, the public can evaluate that and we can evaluate that,” said Council member Patrick Johnston. “In terms of what recommendation we ultimately make, we can evaluate it better with this testimony and with a further draft and we can consider what our recommendations are as we go forward. So I would expect that the next draft would reflect the items that the chair pointed out, and we individually and collectively when we next meet, will take into account what we heard today and what we’ve heard elsewhere.”
Council member Mike Gatto thanked everyone for taking the time to come out to the meeting. He introduced himself as the newest member of the council, an appointee by the Assembly. “You are very well served on these issues by Assemblyman Jim Frazier who continuously bent my ear during my time in the legislature about these issues and how important the Delta is to our state, and I think we heard your concerns today, loud and clear.”
Council member Ken Weinberg likewise thanked everybody for coming, and especially those who support seawater desalination. “I spent 12 years of my life working on the Carlsbad project. You guys had very specific and clear cut comments and that’s appreciated. Sometimes in that project, we didn’t get a whole lot of positive comments, so I’m going to tell people there’s big support up here.”
“This is an iterative process and you gave us a lot to process,” continued Mr. Weinberg. “I was taking notes, and I saw there was a theme on some of the specific comments and impacts to water quality and flows and impacts to business if you were to implement this kind of project, and maybe it’s setting an expectation that in the next iteration of the amendment, that we specifically address what we’re looking for,” he continued. “How do you balance water supply reliability in terms of maintaining water quality and sufficient flows within the Delta? How do you not disrupt the day to day business and recreational enjoyment? I think that gets to Supervisor Thomson’s comment about maybe there’s some grand compromise, and I think we need to kind of continue on with the comments from the last meeting. There needs to be more balance in this and we heard a lot of specific comments and we need to address those in the next draft, and just expand on how we view that and where it fits and how do you address it, and how do you make this all work.”
Council member Judge Frank Damrell had two thoughts. “One that bothered me the most and it should concern all of us, is the proper notice of workshops and the fact that people could not attend because they were working or didn’t have enough notice … I think in the future, we should be very careful that if we’re going to hold a workshop, it should be for the people to respond and not for the agencies. We hear from them all the time. I think that’s a difficult problem that has to be overcome if we’re going to make these workshops what they should be, which is what people think about this project that we’re talking about or another project … “
“Another thing that troubles me is the notion of confusion,” continued Judge Damrell. “I think there’s confusion to a degree here. We may have caused some of that and I think we should acknowledge that if we did. But it seems to me that the staff has responsibility to clearly set forth in their report exactly what happened at workshops, which I don’t think occurred. Also they should set forth what we’re trying to do here, and I don’t think the staff report is well drafted in that respect, so I’d like to have more clarity with respect to that, and I’d like to have better notice for these workshops. I think that’s very important.”
“As a member of LAFCO as a body that makes determinations on annexations in a particular county, I had been asking many, many times to have a night meeting, and I think they got tired of hearing from me, so they finally said, okay,” said Councilmember Skip Thomson. “It was a small community, Dixon. We had a large annexation. We would hold our meetings normally at 10am on Monday morning. So we held the meeting at 7pm on a weeknight, and over 200 folks showed up, so to Judge Damrell’s comments about when we think about holding our meetings, if and when we decide what preferred alternative is going to be moved forward, let’s try to have that a night meeting to accommodate all the public.”
At that point, no other council member wanted to add their comments, so Chair Fiorini then closed the agenda item and the Council broke for lunch.
FOR MORE INFORMATION …
- Meeting Agenda Item 11 Staff Report: Status of the Delta Plan Amendment Regarding Conveyance, Storage Systems, and the Operation of Both
- For full agenda and meeting materials, click here.
- To view webcast, click here.
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