First thought on the Economic Sustainability Plan for the Delta.

I have the full First Admin Draft of the Economic Sustainability Plan for the Delta open in another tab, which is practically the same as reading it. For the moment, I’m relying on Valley Econ’s summary. , which is remarkably similar to Alex Breitler’s summary, and I think the latter could have thrown a link or two to the former and maybe to the report as a whole, seeing as we’re all water bloggers in this together and links are cheap.

The Economic Sustainability Plan does some stuff that I’m glad of, giving us an absolute sense of the size of agriculture and tourism in the Delta. It also gives us a good rough sense of the cost to the Delta of implementing the existing BDCP. Very roughly, the habitat restoration and putting in a Peripheral Canal would eat up about half of the existing agriculture in the Delta. Livelihoods, life-styles, ripple and value-added economy, everything that would imply. That would suck for them, no question.

I want to stress is that if implementing the Delta Plan and some version of the BDCP is the right thing to do, it is the right thing to do even if it incurs those costs. The State regularly comes up against real costs in the real world and the process stops dead. Real costs instantly disqualify an option, and we stew at status quo for another few years until we try again, fruitlessly searching the solution space for the mythical solution with no costs to anyone. We now know that there will be concentrated hurt in the Delta. That sucks. The question is whether implementing the restoration and conveyance measures in a legit BDCP (not the current one) averts even more costs to the state as a whole. Doing nothing doesn’t only mean we get to keep the current good parts. Doing nothing carries the risk of interrupting water service to Los Angeles, which is a great big horrific deal even if it gets managed well. Every option has to be compared to that risk, not to a world where nothing bad happens to anyone.

Honest and concrete reports like this ESP (presuming it is roughly accurate) give us two good things. It means we make choices in the full and explicit knowledge of the costs to the losers. That is way more honorable than making the same choices but pretending it is somehow win-win, or not acknowledging the costs. The other thing it means is that if we choose to implement (a much revised and better) BDCP, we can include ways to compensate and transition the in-Delta people who are injured by it. But even the full knowledge that this is a real bad option for some people in the state doesn’t mean that the DSC has to stop cold. It means we need a similar report for what happens to the whole state if we don’t “fix the Delta,” habitat restoration, Peripheral Canal and all.

ADDED: Alex commented to say:

For the (public) record, the summary I posted is basically right from the report — I didn’t take it from Jeff’s blog.

And I did link to the report itself in a previous post.

I plead not guilty, Your Honor.

My apologies.


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2 responses to “First thought on the Economic Sustainability Plan for the Delta.

  1. For the most part I agree with what you say.
    DPC’s plan, assuming accuracy, and plans similar should be the basis of the larger policy decisions for the delta and the state.
    If ultimately the delta is going to be the sacrificial offering necessary to continue making large scale farming in the central valley viable then we need clear, unequivocable, quantifiable, costs and benefits to the taxpayers who eventually end up paying the lion’s share of the costs.The balance that so many pay lip service to will never actually occur as long as the true costs are not publicly acknowledged. One of the realities illustrated once again by this report is this never was about fish versus farms. It’s farms versus farms or the have’s and have nots. Water exported for municipal use, while not inconsequential, is a small fraction of that exported for agriculture. Aknowledging that reality and making a decision on whether the collective “we” should sacrifice ag production in the delta to sustain ag production south of delta is without a doubt a difficult question and certainly not one that should be left for exporters to decide.
    I applaud the efforts of the Delta Protection Commission and Delta Plan participants efforts.
    I wish I could say the same for the BDCP.
    One thing is certain, if we do nothing long enough nature will decide for us and there will be nothing left to preserve.

  2. For the (public) record, the summary I posted is basically right from the report — I didn’t take it from Jeff’s blog.

    And I did link to the report itself in a previous post.

    I plead not guilty, Your Honor.