Co-equally bad.

This op-ed by MWD pretty well sums up my reasons for supporting the Peripheral Canal, even though some of the other people supporting the Peripheral Canal are politicking in terrible ways.  I can believe that the studies that show the benefit of the Peripheral Canal are artifically inflated, and still think that LA will need water from the north after they max out every local option.  (I have no interest in a Peripheral Canal to delay the inevitable salt death of Westlands.  Retire the west side, says I.)

I don’t think the dual-function Delta is working.  Right now it is neither a healthy ecosystem nor adequate conveyance.  I think of a canal as a way to separate those.  Conveyance would be covered.  But I think it offers a chance to let an ecosystem just be an ecosystem (if not a mostly farming and human habitation ecosystem).  I know some of you are scared that the Canal will take everything and no water will trickle out to the Delta.  Considering the history of water in the state, that’s not a ridiculous scare-tale.  But I don’t think it is inevitable either (in a “plumbing is destiny” way).   I wouldn’t suggest that you trust DWR’s good word, although I don’t think DWR leadership is crossing their fingers behind their backs when they talk about Delta stewardship.  (I think they mostly mean what they present to the public.)  But there are more options now, laws to protect smelt and salmon.  A judge could enforce those in a universe with a Peripheral Canal, just like one is enforcing those laws in a world without a Peripheral Canal.  I know.  That’s not much.  But it can hardly be worse for the Delta as living place than what we’re doing now.

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9 Comments

Filed under Peripheral Canal

9 responses to “Co-equally bad.

  1. FiscalCons

    Don’t let MWD politics sway you! (I’ve watched ‘Chinatown’). When they cite data without noting the source you’ve got to dig deeper.

    In the article you cited Jeff Kightlinger states “Southern California on average has diverted only 4 percent of the runoff from this massive Delta watershed.” A quick Google search turns up this tidbit from the DWR:

    “Adding the 3 MAF of runoff from the San Joaquin River system yields about 20 MAF for average Delta inflow under current conditions. Of this amount, about 1 MAF is required to meet the internal needs of the Delta. Although constraints are reducing diversions, export demands remain around 6 MAF, which leaves about 13 MAF or more for average Delta outflow…”

    We can nit-pick about his definition about where you draw the ‘southern California’ line– but 6 MAF/
    20 MAF is 30% of Delta inflows that are heading south on an ‘average’ year. Its easy to see how in a drought year (in 1993-94 the total inflow was 7.8 MAF) the export demand of 6 MAF would be devastating to the Delta environment.

    (Source: http://www.water.ca.gov/swpao/docs/bulletin/95/view/text/cha9.htm)

    I do agree that we need to retire Westlands– an acre foot of water can produce far more revenue/ jobs/ GDP etc. in the ‘industrial/ residential ‘ sector than in agriculture.

  2. Dave Simmons

    I am a farmer in Westlands. I appreciate your view. Salt is a long term problem for us, no doubt. Though, some of us have been working very hard on this problem. We are that the fore front of the technology to turn this around. Who better to fix it. Salt is not just a problem here, but also in other places all over the world. Some say the the answer is close at hand. Don’t retire us just yet.

  3. The argument you make in support for the peripheral canal is nuanced and empathatic to most (sorry, Westlands, sorry, Preservationists). Not entirely clear what “let an ecosystem just be an ecosystem” means in practice, but as you point out would be laws for determining that just as there are now.

    Clearly, those laws are not doing much for the health of the ecosystem now. If anyone disagrees, check out the DFG’s numbers of key fish populations in the Delta 1976-present. Grim.

    That leaves two choices: Shut down exports of Delta water altogether, and let big ag and 25 million people (most of whom are Very Regular Folks) figure it out for themselves. They could leave, not take showers very much, etc. Or make difficult decisions that ensuring a water supply to those Regular Folks and cutting it off to unsustainable situations, like Westlands.

    I am in basic agreement with your view.

  4. dfb

    I have been doing my darndest to spread dissent in SoCal against the peripheral canal. It really will not bring the stability MWD users need or clamor for. One, it just moves the problems to a different spot. As you said, the salmon and smelt and other issues will be there to wreak havoc. Two, the rise in sea level and the amount of water needed to keep salt water at bay is likely to require more freshwater than is currently used, leaving less for consumptive uses. How much is anyone’s guess, but do we want to take that chance? Three, the benefits may not outweigh the costs. I know it is not popular, but an even bigger commitment to water recycling and desal is likely the only long term way to bring SoCal both control and stability in its water supply. It will cost a lot, but what won’t? Some areas are already seeing 60% price increases over the next 10 years, in addition to the 25% that was announced a few years ago. It will also require land use changes, but that’s already occurring little by little as higher density is built closer to the coast and in the coastal plain (albeit at the same time sprawl continues to crawl outwards). Perhaps, this is what we really need to make those tough decisions. And if the bay area were smart, it would pay money to help MWD build some of the infrastructure, in return for a sizeable chunk of MWD’s water to “retire” for delta restoration and hold back some of the calls (ridiculous) to tear down its infrastructure and stop robbing Delta feeder rivers of water.

    I would like to note that it is misleading for anyone to say that SoCal gets only 4% of the runoff from the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed. I have not seen the numbers lately, but it is over 25% of the water consumed by humans from the delta. Primarily, the runoff needs to go out to sea to, well, keep the sea back and out of the Delta. Otherwise we would be pumping saltier water than we already do out of the rivers and Delta.

  5. Mr. Kurtz

    If there is a catastrophic failure existing systems, it will be a public emergency that would dwarf Katrina. Nobody would give a toot about the fish or anything else, they would just get diggin’. That is a heck of a risk to take.
    Another benefit of a PC is the ability to manage and migrate the fresh/saline margin (there is a technical term for that interface, but I can’t remember it). This would be a huge help in controlling invasive species, who are not as mobile and adaptive as the natives. The present system has created an artificial environment that serves no master well. Simply ending exports would have far fewer environmental benefits than some imagine, since there are so many other factors affecting the fish.

  6. Mr. Kurtz,

    The X2 line is the legal boundary of saline water. Currently at Chipps Island, at the very western point of the Delta.

    You aren’t seriously arguing that a PC would create a less artificial environment and that stopping water exports would, are you?

  7. Jeff

    Mr. Kurtz needs to do a little research on Katrina before throwing out that levee collapse would “dwarf Katrina.” The worst case catastrophic Delta scenarios are more like Hurricane Ike or the 2008 floods in the midwest, although the Delta catastrophe is not as bad in some ways because it’s effect would be spread out over years and over a much larger population.

    Yes, it would be a costly emergency (if it happens), but not unprecendented. If Southern California develops more alternative water supplies, it is a much more manageable scenario.

  8. Thanks for tossing co-equal into the box of ridiculous terms where it belongs. Pat Mulroy kept using “mutuality” which spell check seems to accept, but I don’t. How she would have appreciated co-equal.

  9. Mr. Kurtz

    @ John Bass: No, I am arguing that it is a natural condition for the X2 line to migrate considerable distances upstream and downstream, instead of staying relatively fixed. Operating a PC to restore that natural condition could be a great help in making life miserable for exotic animals that evolved in a more static condition, like what we have now. Stopping all exports would do this, too. However, that is not politically possible, and now would cause environmental problems of its own.
    Remember, the CVP was a big “stimulus” project, like a lot of junk we see bandied about today. Such things create entitlements, and have many unpredictable side effects, almost all bad.