Today was the first day of a two-day workshop focusing on the Delta Stewardship Council staff’s draft determination that the California Water Fix is consistent with the Delta Plan. The day began with Council staff giving an in-depth presentation on their findings.
Brief background: The Department of Water Resources filed a consistency determination with the Delta Stewardship Council that the California Water Fix project was consistent with the Delta Plan. That consistency determination was then appealed by nine parties. In October, a public hearing was held where evidence was presented by both sides; subsequent to that, the Delta Stewardship Council staff issued a draft determination that not enough evidence existed in the record to support DWR’s determination that the California Water Fix was consistent with the Delta Plan, and staff recommends the Council remand the matter back to the Department of Water Resources. Today and tomorrow, the Council is holding a public workshop to discuss staff’s draft determination. (More information here and here.)
The Council then heard from the parties, including the Department of Water Resources, the appellants, and the Delta Protection Commission.
After the day’s presentations had concluded, here’s what Chair Randy Fiorini had to say:
“I am very pleased with the work that our staff has done: Jessica Pearson, Dr. John Calloway, Jeff Henderson, Dan Constable, Ryan Stanbra, and Bethany Pane; they are all team leaders who have helped to prepare the staff draft that we have been reviewing,” Chair Fiorini said. “I’m impressed and appreciate the team’s help as we’ve waded through the record before us. The document and the staff draft findings reflect an extraordinary effort to provide a thorough analysis, and on behalf of the Council, I wish to thank each one of you and your team members.”
“As I’ve listened to the staff presentation, the parties today, the notion of timing that we keep hearing about is really the central theme here,” he continued. “Fundamentally, my takeaways so far after reviewing the record, listening to the testimony at the October hearings, and after today, I think the Department has filed its certification of consistency before it was ready to demonstrate consistency with the Delta Plan.”
“Today, I haven’t heard anything that would compel me to think that the staff draft findings are going to change much before we take action in December. Again, we’re not taking action today, but I’m particularly concerned about the issues related to flow objectives, reduced reliance, and Delta as a place. The goal here is to demonstrate consistency with the Delta Plan’s regulations that this body administers to further the coequal goals. Political expediency is not the goal here for such an important and significant project.”
“Frankly, I’m frustrated,” Chair Fiorini continued. “This project came to us before it was ready. At this point, with the weaknesses identified, and obviously in my opinion, there’s more work to do. I would strongly encourage the Department to consider withdrawing the certification of consistency. If you do so choose to do that, let us know as soon as possible so we can resume early consultation.”
Councilmember Frank Damrell then added, “I would like to echo the chair’s comments. We’ve heard a lot about timing, prematurity throughout this hearing and this particular workshop … it seems clear to me that the record is not complete, particular on key issues, and those shortcomings are precisely the areas where early consultation benefits everyone in this room. This is an adjudicative process; this is not a forum to work out shortcomings. That’s not the purpose. It’s adjudicative by nature. … The Department should certainly consider withdrawing it’s certification and immediately resume early consultation.”
“That said, all sides of this debate have a responsibility to find a path forward,” Councilmember Frank Damrell continued. “All sides. No party believes that the status quo is viable. Reasonableness must in the end prevail.”
The hearing is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning at 9am.