Enviro comments on the 5th Draft of the Delta Plan.

I read the enviros’ comments on the Delta Plan yesterday; a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that I critique them the way I critiqued ACWA’s Ag-Urban “plan”. My thoughts:

1. I don’t see how the DSC can get away without defining “reliable supply” much longer. I’ve heard the water users asking the burning question: making recent exports reliable by building NODOS and a Peripheral Canal, or only exporting a smaller supply that can be reliably extracted without hurting habitat and fish? Now the enviros are asking precisely that question:

For example, reliably receiving full contracted quantities or receiving the present level of water deliveries is considerably different than reliably receiving water after the public trust has been balanced and the Delta ecosystem protected. What are the yardsticks by which success will be documented?

They aren’t mincing words, either.

The inescapable reality is that consumptive water rights issued by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) exceed unimpaired flow into the Delta and contracts for state and federal project water are far greater than available supplies.

That’s fine. Fragile buy-in to the Delta Plan will collapse when that question gets answered and at least one side will sue. But this is the fundamental question about the state’s water future. It will have to be answered by someone. We will have iterative processes that struggle with this question until it is settled or the Delta levees give way, whichever comes first. Might as well be answered in this process as the next. Mr. Isenberg’s thoughts on the matter are hinted at in this wonderful letter.

2. Lot of signatories on the enviro comments. It is nice to see them come out in force to match the long list of signatories on ACWA’s plan. I don’t see them in the meetings much, so it starts to feel one-sided.

3. The enviros go awfully easy on the upstream diverters. In fact, I found no mention of them. Water that never reaches the Delta is also lost flow for Delta fish, you know. The enviros are many of them upstream diverters themselves. It isn’t always the right interpretive lens, but looking at a conflict through the classic top-end/tail-end lens is often illustrative.

Mostly I liked their comments, as would be expected. I liked that they want the DSC to do more than “coordinate state government”. They want it to actually govern water use that touches the Delta. Which seems perfectly appropriate to me. I have a new question for ACWA’s Ag-Urban coalition. Suppose that a different project from within the state bureaucracy took on the project of coordinating and unifying state agencies. If that task were addressed in a credible process, what would you have the Delta Stewardship Committee do with itself?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Enviro comments on the 5th Draft of the Delta Plan.

  1. What is especially wonderful about Phil isenberg’s letter that you reference is that the Council is actually responding to comments in a meanigful way, perhaps for the first time. Better late than never, I suppose.

  2. Isenberg’s letter not withstanding, and I thought it was pretty cool, your commentary is on point with one exception.
    Delta levee’s are highly unlikely to collapse in unison, contrary to popular belief. The decision(s) to continue to oversell the available supply will, at some point, take the endangered species beyond the point of no return.
    Then there will be no reason to continue to “waste” water that could be used to make money.
    If we can’t get past the lip service and B.S. we’re doomed.