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EID Q&A on Delta Plan

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From page B1 | January 13, 2014 | 13 Comments

Q&A: Update on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

In this edition of the Q&A, EID Director of Communications and Community Relations Mary Lynn Carlton talks with EID General Counsel Tom Cumpston and Deputy General Counsel Brian Poulsen about the progress on the BDCP.

Q. In the May/June 2012 issue of the Waterfront, I spoke with you about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and its implications on the district. Since that time a lot has happened. Can you give me an update starting with a basic review of the BDCP?

A. The BDCP is a habitat conservation plan and natural community conservation plan under the federal Endangered Species Act and the California Natural Communities Conservation Planning Act, respectively. When completed, the BDCP would provide the basis for the issuance of endangered species permits for the operation of the state and federal water projects that pump water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (“Delta”) and export it to other parts of the state.

The heart of the BDCP is a long-term (50-year) conservation strategy that sets forth actions needed for (1) ecosystem restoration in the Delta, and (2) water supply reliability for those that export water from the Delta. These are known as “the co-equal goals.” In short, the BDCP is an effort to provide water exporters with some supply assurances in exchange for large-scale ecosystem improvements.

This process started in 2006 and is being prepared collaboratively by state, federal and local water agencies, state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, environmental organizations and other interested parties. As an upstream water agency that has senior area-of-origin water rights, EID has actively monitored the development of the BDCP and we have provided input to the plan, especially voicing our concern with certain aspects of it.

Q. What is the status of the development of the BDCP right now?

A. After the issuance of administrative draft documents last summer, a Draft BDCP and a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Study (“DEIR/EIS”) for the BDCP were released on Dec. 9, 2013.  They contain more than 30,000 pages of analysis.

The DEIR/EIS identifies a preferred alternative that includes the construction of a supplemental conveyance system (two large underground tunnels) to move water around the Delta when operations at the existing pumps are constrained, as well as the creation or restoration of about 150,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat. As mentioned earlier, this plan would then be implemented over the next 50 years. The plan indicates that water users receiving water exported from the Delta will finance construction of the alternative conveyance system, presently estimated to cost $14.5 billion. Habitat restoration will likely rely on state bond funding and federal grants.  EID is actively reviewing the DEIR/EIS in collaboration with other local and regional agencies that share our interests. We plan to submit comments on the draft prior to the public comment deadline of April 14, 2014.  The plan is scheduled for completion in 2014, with decades of tunnel construction and habitat restoration to follow.

Q. I know the district has been concerned about losing water rights with this plan. Is this still the case and has anything happened to help ensure that this will not happen?

A. That remains a major concern to us and other upstream water users. The issue is whether implementation of the BDCP would require EID to forego diversion and use of water in order to provide more water for the Delta’s needs. This would essentially deprive EID of our senior water rights for the benefit of junior water rights holders who divert water from the Delta. EID, along with many other upstream water users and water groups such as Mountain Counties Water Resources Association and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), has repeatedly advocated that the BDCP include explicit water rights protections and assurances for upstream and other senior water users. Although Gov. Brown has said that he supports water rights protections for upstream users and senior water rights holders, so far, the BDCP includes no such protections. Even more concerning, the governor has given no such instructions to the state regulatory agencies that will carry out his initiatives linked to the BDCP.

Q. Let’s talk about one of those BDCP-related initiatives the governor is proposing — the California Water Action Plan. Can you tell me about this plan and how it interfaces with the BDCP?

A. Gov. Brown recently announced that California is at a critical juncture for water policy. He stated that climate change, drought and population growth pose significant water-supply challenges to all of us. Therefore, in May, Gov. Brown directed the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to jointly identify key actions that need to be taken in the next one to five years to address urgent needs and lay a foundation for sustainable management of California’s water resources. In response, these agencies released a draft California Water Action Plan (CWAP) in Oct. 31, 2013. The governor’s hope is that, once final, the plan will supplement the Delta-centric BDCP to put all of California on a path to water-supply sustainability — and perhaps mute BDCP opposition.

EID is very involved in this planning process, both individually and through our affiliations with El Dorado County Water Agency, Mountain Counties and ACWA. Last summer, ACWA wrote its own plan, called the Statewide Water Action Plan (SWAP). The ACWA SWAP has much in common with the governor’s draft CWAP, but it’s a superior plan. Although the draft CWAP is a good start for addressing statewide water management challenges, it lacks some critically important actions included in the ACWA SWAP — actions that would protect our water rights, including area-of-origin rights, and promote better stewardship of natural resources, including headwater management.

For this reason, EID’s Board of Directors adopted a resolution on Nov. 12, 2013, supporting the ACWA SWAP and urging the Brown administration to revise its draft CWAP to include the critical actions and guiding principles of the ACWA SWAP that will protect water rights holders, including area-of-origin rights holders, and promote and support better stewardship of the state’s natural resources, including headwaters management. EID will closely monitor how the Brown administration implements its CWAP and continue to advocate that the administration do so in a manner consistent with the principles it outlined in its comment letter and which the board included in its resolution.

Q. It seems like there’s always a plan underway to fix the Delta or secure California’s water future, but in the end, little is accomplished. What makes this effort different?

A. Several things. First, the Delta’s condition is no longer just an environmental issue; it’s impacting the amount and reliability of water supplies for the majority of the state’s population and agricultural production. Second, the Brown administration is showing an unprecedented political commitment to hammering out solutions. And third, there’s increased public awareness of the significant threat that physical vulnerabilities, environmental degradation, drought and the projected impacts of climate change pose to California’s future prosperity.

Q. What are the key issues and events to watch in 2014?

A. For the draft BDCP and environmental document, the tenor of public comments in April and the state’s response next fall will be telling. Will the parties that would benefit from the BDCP make the huge financial commitments that are needed? Will there be sufficient details about project operations to satisfy upstream and in-Delta interests? For the CWAP, will we see prompt and decisive implementation actions to assure the public that the state is committed to addressing the whole water picture, and not just Delta exports? And if there’s a water bond on the November ballot to fund Delta habitat restoration and improve the water situation statewide, will the votes approve it? The year 2014 could be pivotal.

Mary Lynn Carlton

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Discussion | 13 comments

  • Daily Digest: Drought, BDCP and more, plus Nunes says HR 1837 reforms necessary » MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK | MAVEN'S NOTEBOOKJanuary 13, 2014 - 8:40 am

    […] Q&A on the BDCP:  El Dorado Irrigation District's Mary Carlton talks with legal counsel regarding the BDCP in this Q&A from the Mountain Democrat, which includes this:  “Q:  I know the district has been concerned about losing water rights with this plan. Is this still the case and has anything happened to help ensure that this will not happen?  A. That remains a major concern to us and other upstream water users. The issue is whether implementation of the BDCP would require EID to forego diversion and use of water in order to provide more water for the Delta’s needs. This would essentially deprive EID of our senior water rights for the benefit of junior water rights holders who divert water from the Delta. EID, along with many other upstream water users and water groups such as Mountain Counties Water Resources Association and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), has repeatedly advocated that the BDCP include explicit water rights protections and assurances for upstream and other senior water users. Although Gov. Brown has said that he supports water rights protections for upstream users and senior water rights holders, so far, the BDCP includes no such protections. Even more concerning, the governor has given no such instructions to the state regulatory agencies that will carry out his initiatives linked to the BDCP. … “  Read more from the Mountain Democrat here:  EID Q&A on Delta Plan […]

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  • rodJanuary 13, 2014 - 12:42 pm

    Mary Lynn Carlton. Why have you not asked a single question on alternate water sources other than the Delta? Why is the elephant in the room question (desalination facilities) never asked. Sooner or later IT WILL HAVE TO ENTER THE EQUATION FOR SUSTAINABILITY. And why not ask, "how can taking more water from the Delta possible help its CONSERVATION"? You DID bring out senior water rights as a legitimate concern, but by not asking the more fundamental questions, only gives credence to the BDCP... a wild water grab... that does not solve the problem of less water in the future. The BDCP pettifogging will stop only when the truth is divulged.

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 13, 2014 - 2:51 pm

    Rod, let's have a race. I'll begin rounding up financing for a desalination project capable of producing one Folsom lake volume per year (1,120,000 af). You begin the process of getting EPA permission to dump salt back into the ocean at the rate of 150,641 tons per day. (((2.2 lbs. salt/cubic foot))) First one to the finish line gets a can of beanie weenies from the Colonel.

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 13, 2014 - 2:56 pm

    James, don't even ask why I involved you, but you are drafted.

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  • rodJanuary 13, 2014 - 5:48 pm

    Phil, have you seen the mountain of salt at the mouth of the Napa river near mare Island? Phil, seriously? the ocean IS salt. How many lake Tahoe's could be taken from the ocean and never be able to measure a salinity change? The Antarctic sea is the source of highest salt concentration. The more saline water is denser and flows along the BOTTOM of the ocean. I wonder how much salt Death Valley could hold? And EPA could profit GREATLY with new freshwater sources to regulate. Someday we WILL be distilling seawater commercially, Israel is already gearing up and the US Navy has new technology also, so why not cash in now before the Delta looks like the San Pablo bay mudflats? If the world depended on Debbie downers, we would still be lighting torches to find an outhouse.

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 13, 2014 - 6:08 pm

    . . . pondering what an environmental impact report might look like on the consequences of dumping 150,641 tons of salt per day into the ocean in a concentrated brine effluent . . . hmmm . . . dead zone? How large is acceptable? Mixing rate? . . . hmmm . . .

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 13, 2014 - 7:54 pm

    LINK - •The average cost to produce 1 acre-foot of desalinated water from seawater is projected to range from approximately $800 to about $1,400 (Source: 2007 {Texas}State Water Plan, 4.54 MB).

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 13, 2014 - 8:07 pm

    LINK - Santa Barbara Desal Plant, Completed, 1992, Shut down 2months later. Never reopened. ~~~ "Cost of desalinated water = $3600 to $6000 per million gallons (Pacific Institute, Desalination, With a Grain of Salt) Cost projection for Monterey Regional Desal = $19,000 per million gallons (California Public Utilities Commission Division of Ratepayer Advocates"

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 13, 2014 - 8:18 pm

    LINK - Impact on Marine Life

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 13, 2014 - 6:01 pm

    Rod, why are the ocean floor fauna expendable to concentrated brine? And why are the delta fauna protected from "brackish"? You claim that the delta ought to be protected from salt but you would kill the ocean floor with 150,641 tons per day of salt brine? We both know that each will adapt. But the EPA?

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  • Jan McCleeryJanuary 13, 2014 - 6:15 pm

    These guys sound like they work for the BDCP, not El Dorado Irrigation District. They just regurgitated the BDCP marketing literature's phony statements. Most non-BDCP lawyers are challenging that the BDCP is NOT a habitat conservation plan - just a tunnel plan. Upstream users should worry that they will lose their senior water rights. The junior water rights holders (Westlands Water District etc.) have tried everything (Senate Bills, CA Assembly Bills) to reverse the water rights and give them senior rights over everyone else. They continue to try to remove any environmental sanity so they can get more and more water. The BDCP and its tunnels are the biggest threat to the Delta and upstream users.

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  • RobertJanuary 16, 2014 - 6:34 pm

    The new dam being built off Folsom Crossing @ Folsom Lake markets itself to help regulate flood control in Sacramento and that is a bunch of BULL, our Folsom Lake is being drained at night to send water to the central valley and LA while our economy is will be destroyed(summer boating etc) and while we have in our area have to endure water rationing is so wrong! This is our water and our economy and we should be fighting to keep it here and not sending to LA! The largest lake west of the Great Lakes, Tulare Lake 60 by 30 miles is GONE, thanks to the farmers of the central valley, what’s next, our Folsom Lake!???????

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  • Phil VeerkampJanuary 16, 2014 - 6:42 pm

    It's a "catch 22" Robert. To keep it we have to use it. To use it we have to build more to demonstrate a need. Done well our "demonstrated need" nets us more of a cushion than we now "enjoy".

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