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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Resources Agency releases peripheral canal planning documents
"This is an unprecedented release of thousands of pages of scientific research and data for public scrutiny whose release is going to prompt a lot of important questions,” gushed California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “What is absolutely clear is that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is in severe decline. Right now, fish populations are crashing and in the future climate change will have an even more dramatic impact on the health of the Delta. BDCP must be flexible to adapt and manage to this reality over time.”
Resources Agency releases peripheral canal planning documents
by Dan Bacher
The California Natural Resources Agency on February 29 released the "preliminary administrative drafts" of all of the planning documents for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build a peripheral canal or tunnel.
An unprecedented coalition of Delta residents, fishermen, Indian Tribes, family farmers, conservationists, environmental justice advocates and elected officials is opposing the canal because its construction would result in the destruction of Delta farms, communities and fish populations.
The canal, a project designed to facilitate the export of more Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern California, would lead to the extinction of native Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, striped bass, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales. The Obama and Brown administrations, in spite of massive opposition, remain committed to this enormously destructive and expensive water grab by agribusiness, Southern California agencies, water privateers and developers.
The documents are available at: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Library/DocumentsLandingPage/BDCPPlanDocuments.aspx.
Delta advocates will be reviewing and analyzing the extensive documents in the coming days. However, my initial impression of these “science” documents, after having reviewed reports like these for decades, is that they were rushed to fast-track the peripheral canal rather than being a genuine attempt to restore Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations.
They are turgid and poorly written, sloppily organized and rambling, in my opinion. They represent the type of “science” that results when there is a pre-determined agenda, rather than a genuine desire to find the truth, at work.
Here is a quote from C.7.1, Summary of Changes in Flow, in the Conclusions Section of the Effects Analysis, that gives you an idea of how the report is written.
“The preliminary proposal would result in very minimal changes in upstream flows or reservoir operations. As such, there are only a few instances in which changes to the environment and related effects on fish may occur. Flow-related temperature effects on spring-run Chinook salmon and green 5 sturgeon spawning and egg incubation are described in Section C.7.2,” the documents state.
“In the Delta, flows in and around the San Joaquin River and south Delta would improve, reflecting the reduced use of the 7 south Delta export facilities. However, the flow patterns in the north Delta could be altered by operations of the new north Delta export facilities and the increased inundation of the Yolo Bypass. These operational changes will reduce some Sacramento River flows, resulting in reduced flows in Sutter, Steamboat, and Georgiana Sloughs and the DCC.”
Essentially, what they are saying here is that flows in the South Delta will increase, while flows in the North Delta will decrease once the canal is put in.
The documents claim that while some species will decline in the short term, the canal will improve their long term prospects (if they don’t become extinct in the meantime.)
According to the Sacramento Bee on March 1, “The documents reveal that two native species, longfin smelt and endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, could initially see population declines as a result of water diversions into the new tunnels, which would occur at five locations between Clarksburg and Courtland.”
“But the planners assert 110,000 acres of planned habitat restoration will reverse those declines, over the project’s 50-year development, eventually boosting both smelt and salmon and the fortunes of 58 other species considered by the plan.” (http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/29/4301413/delta-water-tunnel-analysis-released.html)
A news release from Natural Resources Agency claimed the BDCP "is guided by the 2009 Delta Reform Act, which made it state policy to manage the Delta in support of the co-equal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration in a manner that acknowledges the evolving nature of the Delta as a place for people and communities."
The release featured the usual quotes by the Natural Resources Secretary, DFG Director Chuck Bonham and Director of Water Resources touting the "glorious" co-equal goals of water supply and ecosystem - while failing to acknowledge that is these same co-equal goals that led to the abysmal failure of the CalFed Delta program!
“This is an unprecedented release of thousands of pages of scientific research and data for public scrutiny whose release is going to prompt a lot of important questions,” gushed California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “What is absolutely clear is that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is in severe decline. Right now, fish populations are crashing and in the future climate change will have an even more dramatic impact on the health of the Delta. BDCP must be flexible to adapt and manage to this reality over time.”
The agency claimed these administrative draft documents analyze the movement of 5.9 million acre feet of water a year on average and the creation of over 110,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat.
"The movement of water number is derived from various proposed operating criteria for a conveyance designed to protect Delta fisheries. It represents one reasonable set of assumptions but is only a starting point for analysis," Laird stated.
“There is a great deal of scientific uncertainty about an estuary as ecologically complex as the Delta and the long-term effects of climate change on native fish species,” said the Director of the Department of Fish and Game Charlton H. Bonham. “With these materials, we can now engage in a scientifically rigorous and transparent discussion over how best to protect and restore fish, wildlife, and the Delta’s ecosystem while ensuring water supply reliability.”
The release said the "BDCP is the most holistic, complex and science-based regulatory effort ever undertaken in the Delta, guided by a decade of intensive scientific fieldwork and analysis."
“The state has not made a decision and is not committed to the project outlined in these draft materials. But we believe the draft gives us (and the stakeholders) the information needed to define the basic elements of a proposed project in July, as previously announced by Governor Brown and Interior Secretary Salazar," Laird concluded.
“These documents give us an important road map to meeting the dual goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability,” said acting Director of Water Resources Mark Cowin. “What is important now is robust, open engagement with all stakeholders so we can balance water supply and fisheries needs in a way that is consistent with the variety of important land uses and services in the Delta including flood protection, agriculture and recreation, to name a few.”
Unfortunately, Cowin failed to acknowledge that the "robust, open engagement with all stakeholders" has never materialized. In fact, the state and federal governments and water contractors have gone out of their way to exclude Delta residents, fishermen, Indian Tribes, family farmers, conservationists, environmental justice advocates and elected officials from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan Management Committee.
The corrupt, top-down BDCP process is driven by the same powerful corporate interests that have caused the decline of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations in recent years, due to record water exports out of the Delta.
In an egregious conflict of interest, an employee of the Westlands Water District is currently working “on loan” for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
Documents obtained by this reporter under the California Public Records Act reveal that Susan Ramos, Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, was hired in an inter-jurisdictional personnel exchange agreement between the Department of Water Resources and Westlands Water District from November 15, 2009 through December 31, 2010. The contract was extended to run through December 31, 2011 and again to continue through December 31, 2012.
Ramos “will serve as a liaison between all relevant parties surrounding the Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program (DHCCP) and provide technical and strategic assistance to DWR, in cooperation with all appropriate Federal and State Water Contractors, on a variety of matters based on her experience working with the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, federal contractors and others,” according to the agreement (Contract 4600008672). (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/12/14/westlands-official-working-for-dwr-on-delta-plan)
Westlands, the largest water district in the U.S., is notorious for the numerous lawsuits that they have launched against fish restoration on the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Trinity rivers and their continual lobbying of the state and federal governments for increased water exports from the California Delta. Corporate growers in the district, located on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, use subsidized water from the federal Central Valley Project to irrigate drainage impaired land laced with selenium and other toxic salts.
The news of Ramos’ service on loan from Westlands followed the alarming disclosure that DWR hired Laura King Moon, the Assistant General Manager of the State Water Contractors, to assist in the completion of the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/10/25/state-hires-water-contractor-rep-to-help-oversee-bay-delta-plan/)
The corrupt Bay Delta Conservation Plan parallels the equally corrupt, privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create "marine protected areas" on the California coast. Catherine Reheis Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the "marine protected areas" that went into effect in Southern California on January 1, 2012. Reheis-Boyd is a strange kind of "marine guardian" who strongly advocates for new oil drilling off the California coast, the Keystone XL pipeline and the gutting of environmental laws while kicking sustainable fishermen and gatherers off the water.