The Delta flows requirement report (supplemental)

Took the water users a couple days to come out with a response to the State Board’s new report recommending much higher flows to maintain a native fish population in the Delta.  Here, the State Water Contractors wrote this (and a bit more):

As the Board notes in the summary, the draft flow criteria have not been screened through the Board’s usual balanced and comprehensive process. They are premised on the erroneous assumption that all the ecosystem’s deficiencies can be addressed through flow alone. Moreover, there is no attempt to balance ecosystem with human water supply needs.

The head of the Northern California Water Agencies was quoted saying:

It’s equally important what is not included in the report, Guy added. “It basically looks at Delta fish without regard to any other considerations — from Southern California, to farms, to birds to fish in other parts of the state.

Which got me to thinking.  It is nice turnabout to see a report come out that has one sole focus, and that’s fish.  For decades, we’ve seen One Thing engineering, and no one thought that was odd at all.

Engineer: You know, if we channelize this streambed, I bet we could really move some high flows.

Biologist: Well, um, that streambed has trees and fish and creatures and stuff.

Engineer: I’m thinking a nice trapezoid, maybe with a low flow notch.  I like a low flow notch.

City Planner: It’s just that people like to come down to the creek with their kids sometimes.

Engineer: Get a smooth concrete surface, get that Manning’s N down, you could see some screaming velocities in there.

Local District: Thing is, that stream  re-charges our groundwater bas—

Engineer: Get that water out to sea in two hours flat, I bet you.

Reports with one sole focus, “without regard to any other considerations” were the way we’ve done things for decades, until CEQA and NEPA cracked the door open in the 80’s, and worse, brought those whiny biologists and planners inside the agencies to dilute the vision.  It isn’t that the folks who said the quotes above haven’t seen reports that focus on only one aspect of a problem before; they’re old enough to remember that era.  They’ve just never seen it focus on fish to the exclusion of everything else.   I admit, it is startling to have the water supply for the state treated as an unaddressed aside.  But that’s how the project designers treated the salmon runs of the state.  If the One Thing approach doesn’t seem like it offers practical solutions and creates additional spin-off problems, I submit that has always been the case.   Those new problems just didn’t matter to water managers before.  Honestly, I find the turnabout kinda wonderful.

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