On the release of the BDCP environmental documents.

You know that I’m not actually going to read those, right? I base my comments instead on the news summary, because that’s the kind of in-depth reporting you’ve come to expect here. What I read makes me simultaneously more cynical and more optimistic. It also tells me what the new direction for the Peripheral Canal must be, if it is going to exist.

You guys know that I’m in favor of the Peripheral Canal, because I don’t think there’s hope for the Delta to be both a functioning ecosystem and an important drinking water conveyance system. I want those functions separated. So I trot around to the blogs and say things like, ‘but it doesn’t have to be a “water grab.” It could be for reliability without being for pumping more water. Reliability for urban drinking water for 25 million people is really fucking valuable.’ Then opponents laugh at me and say, ‘of course it isn’t for reliability. Of course it is for pumping additional water.’. After today, I have to admit, yep. They’re right. The Preferred Alternative is the big tunnel, and it proposes to export more water than Delta has been able to support since its fisheries collapsed. The Peripheral Canal in these documents is, in fact, a bid to get more new water south of the Delta.

So that makes me cynical. Here’s what makes me not-cynical. We totally knew all this was true in the Schwarzenegger administration. The game was rigged then, like we knew. It is, however, the only game going on this scale. The Brown administration has been forced to play it, as has everyone. What else can they do, start from scratch? The new administration swears they are all transparent now, and the process is all open to new voices and stuff. After today, at least, it is way more transparent. It is a transparent bid for more water through giant tunnels. They have finally declared themselves. Now we can see whether the “open” part is also true. I don’t know what goes on in high level executive stuff. But I have somewhat more hope that the Brown administration would consider different Peripheral Canal options than they were handed from the last administration.

Which leads me to my other thought on the new information on the Peripheral Canal. The documents today released cost estimates, and Dr. Michael broke that down into $/af for us, which is what I need.

That comes out to between $3600 and $730 per acre foot of new supply – not counting operations costs – just to get the new water to the Tracy pumps.  Add a few hundred dollars more for operating costs and pumping to Los Angeles.

Y’all, this is not ag water. There are almost no crops that can return a profit on $1000/af water. Avocados. Strawberries. Maybe weed, before it is legalized and everyone can grow it. Paying for this water would bankrupt the West Side. They are beginning to realize this, which is why they are looking for other ways to secure their water supply. (If I were on the East Side of the SJV, I would start getting nervous, because they are some relentless motherfuckers.) This is, however, still cheaper than de-sal. This may yet be worth it to urban SoCal, especially a SoCal that sees water levels in Lake Mead falling and is in litigation over allocating water to dust control in the Owens Valley. In a catastrophic failure of the Delta levees, it would totally be worth it.

I am still a proponent of a PC, so I am glad to have this all out in the public. People can push back against taking more water from an unstable Delta ecosystem. We can figure out who wants this water at this price. We can figure out if there are cheaper Peripheral Canal options that still protect SoCal’s water reliability. This is all progress, which has me back to being mildly optimistic again.



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3 responses to “On the release of the BDCP environmental documents.

  1. Yo’all have likely not yet got to Section 31.3 of the EIR which says “The environmentally superior/preferable alternative will not be identified until full public and agency review of the BDCP alternatives has been completed. Following the close of the comment period on the Draft EIR/EIS, the Lead Agencies will consider all public and agency comments that were received and will identify the environmentally superior/preferred alternative in the Final EIR/EIS”. (Thank you Evelyn Wood!) Therefore you have to read all 5000 pages of the pre-admin draft EIR and make your own judgment as to the merits of the “alternatives” that are currently being studied. I had not thought that it would be possible to produce a more useless document than the Delta Plan Draft EIR but this might be it!

  2. Chris Gulick

    The only progress we’re making is into a corner surrounded by wet paint.
    If your cost estimates are correct, and I have no reason to doubt them, then this would reinforce my thought that the glaringly obvious lack of will for a cost/benefit analysis is no coincidence. Ag knows they can’t afford this and MWD knows they will wind up the beneficiary. All that is left is to con the ratepayers and taxpayers into subsidizing it.

  3. Jimmy

    In the water world, reliability is more water. If there were not more water out of BDCP the contractors would never fund it. But if you look at the BDCP documents You will see that most of the new water supply comes in normal and wet years, not dry years due to environmental operational constraints in the dry years. you need to have local storage to get a big BDCP benefits. Each water contractor will need to make an evaluation as to whether they want to buy into the BDCP project. Every district is different so you cannot make a blanket assumption of who will buy in. ESA assurances will make a big difference in participation. Weak assurances are no better than current regulatory situation. Why pay big bucks for uncertainty. A firm “no surprises” assurances would make it easier to buy in.