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Delta Stewardship Council says Westlands lawsuit is 'disappointing'
by Dan Bacher
Friday May 31st, 2013 9:50 AM
In response to the Council's statement, Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and a board member of Restore the Delta and the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), quipped, "If the Council is disappointed by the Westlands lawsuit, they will be appalled by the avalanche of lawsuits from everyone else that is coming down the road."

Photo of Bill Jennings speaking at a Restore the Delta protest outside of the Delta Stewardship Council meeting in West Sacramento on March 16.

Delta Stewardship Council says Westlands lawsuit is 'disappointing'

by Dan Bacher

Chris Knopp, Executive Officer of the Delta Stewardship Council, on May 30 released a statement complaining that the Westlands Water District lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court seeking a redo of the Council’s recently adopted Final Delta Plan was "disappointing."

In a rare moment in California water politics, everybody who spoke during the public comment period during the Council meeting in West Sacramento on May 16 opposed the plan. Everybody from fishing group representatives to the Metropolitan Water District representative slammed the plan and Environmental Impact Report, though for different reasons. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/17/1209844/-Delta-Stewardship-Council-Adopts-Plan-Amidst-Massive-Opposition)

"The lawsuit filed recently by the Westlands Water District and San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority is disappointing, but not unexpected," said Knapp. "In essence, this suit challenges the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act, and the Council’s authority under, and compliance with, the Delta Reform Act. Neither avenues of challenge, in our opinion, have merit."

"The Delta Reform Act clearly tasks the Council with developing an enforceable management plan for the Delta that furthers the coequal goals of a reliable water supply for California and protection and enhancement of the Delta ecosystem," he claimed. "As we have stated all along, the Council’s Delta Plan is a moderate and reasonable path forward that is consistent with the requirements and authorities granted by Delta Reform Act. The Plan contains a mix of targeted regulatory policies, nonbinding recommendations, and a strong emphasis on interagency coordination."

"The approach advocated by plaintiffs—one purely facilitative and without regulatory effect—is inconsistent with the Delta Reform Act and resolving the ongoing crisis in the Delta," Knopp stated. "It is unfortunate that these two public water agencies would rather waste time in court than certify that they are using water efficiently and are in compliance with existing state laws and regulations."

"While we will strongly defend this lawsuit, the Council is committed to working with all the stakeholders to begin implementation of this important and foundational Delta Plan," said Knopp.

Westlands said it joined the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority in the lawsuit filed on May 24 to require the Delta Stewardship Council to revise the Delta Plan "to be consistent with the 2009 Delta Reform Act, which created the Council," according to a Westlands Water District press release.

"In particular, the action asserts that the Delta Plan fails to achieve the co-equal goals of Delta ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability established by the Act," the district said.

Tom Birmingham, General Manager of the Westlands Water District, also said, “The fundamental problem with the Delta Plan is that it goes well beyond the statutory authority granted by the Legislature. That extension of authority will impact the ability of the State to manage current water supplies and develop new infrastructure to secure California’s future needs.” (http://yubanet.com/california/Dan-Bacher-Westlands-Water-District-Files-Lawsuit-Against-Delta-Plan.php)

The complaint also claims the Council failed to prepare and certify a legally adequate EIR for the Delta Plan.

”For every resource area in the PEIR, the discussions of project impacts, mitigation measures, and conclusions fail to meet this standard and violate CEQA because they consist of mere speculation and unsupported assumptions...," according to the complaint.

The complete court documents are available at the Maven's Notebook website at: http://mavensnotebook.com/2013/05/28/court-documents-for-delta-plan-lawsuit/#more-4102

In response to the Council's statement, Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and a board member of Restore the Delta and the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), quipped, "If the Council is disappointed by the Westlands lawsuit, they will be appalled by the avalanche of lawsuits from everyone else that is coming down the road."

"I remind the Council that by developing a seriously deficient plan and a grossly inadequate EIR that supports the status quo rather than finding solutions to the water crisis, they have have ushered in the next generation of water wars," said Jennings. "Fishermen, Westlands Water District and San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority can all agree that the plan and the EIR failed to meet even even the minimum statutory requirements."

In his testimony before the Council on May 16, Jennings describe the Delta Plan as "a classic shell game to benefit special interests that if implemented, would represent a death sentence for one of the world's great estuaries."

The Delta Plan was developed under the helm of Phil Isenberg, Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, who previously served as Chair of the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" on California's Central Coast. Isenberg also served as Chair of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, which recommended the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnels.

As was the case in the parallel Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan “collaborative” processes, the goal of the Delta Stewardship Council was to present a façade of an "open and transparent" process where the “input” of the “stakeholders” was considered when the outcome of the process was predetermined by state officials and corporate interests.

For more information about the history of Westlands Water District, please read Lloyd Carter's impeccably researched article in the Golden Gate Environmental Law Journal, Fall 2009: http://www.c-win.org/sites/default/files/GGU-ELJ.pdf

Comments  (Hide Comments)

Let's go to the premise - The Delta is in Crisis. What caused the Crisis? -- Too Much Water pulled out. Now let's look at the Delta Plan..... More Water being pulled out -- BUT they're pulling it out upstream where we can't see it ..... Does anyone ELSE see a problem with this solution???