Of the 38 million people affected by the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), at least 60 phoned in to get an update last week. The public meeting held in Sacramento was chaotic, with sounds of dogs barking, neighborhood chit-chat and the double-toilet-flush from the call-in listeners who forgot to mute their lines.
Despite the bizarre atmosphere, serious clarifications were made regarding the big-picture plan to build two giant tunnels through or around the Delta—the largest estuary on the West Coast.
Gov. Brown’s tunnel conveyance plan continues to dance around the science, although the project’s leaders have publicly claimed to embrace it.
The latest news? The current plan being pushed ahead is an operations proposal known as Alternative 4. That alternative intends to raise the limit on exports for south of delta contractors from an average of 4.9 million acre-feet to 5.3 million acre-feet.
And that may be a problem—4.9 isn’t an arbitrary number. It’s a vetted biological opinion put in place to keep key species, such as delta smelt, chinook salmon and steelhead from perishing forever. Among other things, water diversions and pumping have severely impacted the beleaguered estuary. Giant pumps sit in the south Delta and send water uphill to drier parts of the state, including Los Angeles, the Central Valley and Santa Clara. When the pumps operate, rivers flow in the reverse direction and entrap fish trying to spawn. On average, 95 percent of juvenile San Joaquin River salmon and 60 percent of Sacramento River salmon don’t survive migration through the Delta. The biological opinion limits the damage.
“It was widely recognized that the alternatives analyzed in the February effects analysis would lead to further fishery declines and the likely extinction of several salmon runs,” said Kate Poole, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The state has promised that BDCP would be a science-driven process and would recover the ecosystem and imperiled salmon and other fisheries.” Choosing Alternative 4 means that the process is not being driven by science, Poole added.
What’s driving the process seems to be the state and federal contractors who are funding the BDCP, and their interest lies in increasing water exports.
Regardless, fish and other wildlife need fresh water flowing through the system, and a lot more than they’re getting. The public trust recommendations for flow, as set forth by the State Water Resources Control Board, would limit exports to 3.7 to 3.9 million acre-feet. That’s more than a million-acre feet less than the current proposal.
But there is a caveat. The current plan suggests that by increasing land habitat more water can be exported—although it is unclear whether scientific studies will validate that.
“They keep saying trust us; we will build it now and figure out the science later,” said Bill Jennings,the Executive Director of California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). “We no longer trust those who guided these species to the brink of extinction to do the right thing. The science and assurances must come first.”
State and federal wildlife agencies are responsible for permitting the BDCP, and they are trying to ensure that science does come first, but they’re still working out the numbers. Remediating habitat is an important part of that process as well. The Delta has only five percent of its original wetlands intact.
The costs are another matter. It’s an expensive project and who will pay for it appears to be in flux.
“At least they are being honest that they expect more water,” said Dr. Jeffrey-Michael, Director of the Business Forecasting Center at the Eberhardt School of Business. “But from a benefit-cost perspective for the state, 5.3 million acre-feet is still not enough to justify the costs of the project. It is not a good project for the state. The fact that they won’t do an official analysis shows the truth to that. If they could prove its value, believe me, they would do it.”
The project cost hovers around $23 billion, with an additional $1.1 billion in debt servicing for 35 years. The debt costs nearly double the price. Currently, contractors are set to pay 75 percent of the costs, and taxpayers the other 25 percent. But those percentages will be adjusted in the future, as noted at the meeting.
Funds from state bonds provided 78 percent of the financing for the construction of the original State Water Project.
Other details were not discussed, in particular, the total capacity of the system to export water. The topic makes local delta farmers nervous. They rely on fresh water from the Sacramento River to irrigate their crops, and the tunnels may affect that. At the meeting, one commenter verbalized his concern that the project would “bleed the river dry.”
The current alternative decreases the intake size of the proposed tunnels and limits tunnel exports to 6.5 million acre-feet a year. But that’s an incomplete picture of the system. The pumps in the southern end of the Delta will still be there, and they also have a similar export capacity.
Thus, the only physically limiting factor is the size of the California Aqueduct. The system would have the capacity to export nearly 10 million acre-feet a year.
Mike Taugher, Communications Director for the California Department of Fish and Game, carefully noted that the state pumps have always had the capacity to export more water, but they’ve always been limited by operational regulations.
What next? More meetings and a forthcoming Environmental Impact Report.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A senior Pennsylvania state senator faces allegations he violated rules of professional conduct for lawyers while working for a Utah-based company that helps find heirs to people who died without leaving a will. Continue reading
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came to conclusion that Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation, Senate Bill (S.B.) 1070, was determined to be mostly unlawful following a 5 to 3 vote —which excluded Justice Kagen out of the 9 members— ruled in the case Arizona v. United States.
California — As voters received their absentee ballots for the 2012 primary election, the California’s 13th Assembly District voters also received a negative campaign mailer by JobsPAC —a mailer that made Xochilt Raya Paredes reconsider her candidacy. Continue reading
(Stockton, CA) – The City of Stockton has selected a new director to head its Community Development Department. Steve Chase, Director of Planning and Environment Services with the City of Goleta, will join the City of Stockton in July as the chief official of building, planning and development. Continue reading
STOCKTON, CA— “We have to change the way we run this city; we need to change the structure of how we do things,” remarked Mayor of Stockton Ann Johnston at the 2012 State of the City. She highlighted, “We know that a band aide approach will not solve this… We have to do radical surgery to this patient —in that general fund.”
The city’s gloomy finances, a budget deficit, and sky rocketing crime shadow the city’s sunny days and in her State of the City Address, Mayor Johnston gave a detail account of the past, present and hopeful future for Stockton.
How did we get here?
Johnson explained the unsustainable retiree benefits costing 417 million dollars, the large bond debt of 319 million for infrastructure projects like local community, fire houses, the ball park and the arena that we are still paying on today. Generous labor contracts and State raids on City finances such as the removal of vehicle license fees and removal of the Redevelopment agency that she says helped to transform Stockton’s waterfront. The Prior council made mistakes and mismanaged funds without any back-up plan for a rainy day. The Valley continued deeper into its own recession beyond that of the country with extreme unemployment, foreclosures and housing market collapse (from 3,000 home built in 2007 to only 150 in 2011) with the next year’s budget looking just as gloomy.
Whats the problem?
The total budget for the city is 520 million, however only 125 million is accessible and in crisis. The 366 million that is left behind is in restricted funds for things like sewage, water, and measure k that cannot be touched. Past city councils tried to move some of the 366 million to the general to cover things like police, community centers and library’s but the city was sued and lost. With a little more than a month left, the council has until July 1st, 2012 to pass a balanced budget.
What is our current situation?
The city must pass a balanced budget; the city cannot print money or borrow. The city is required by the state and city charter to balance. Only three options, to tax, to cut, or to negotiate however, the taxes that the city would have to pay to get out of this debt would be unconscionable, the city has already cut the budget by 90 million and cannot cut any further without jeopardizing the safety of its residence, so Johnson says “We have to change the way we run this city we need to change the structure ,” by negotiating with debtors in a process called AB506, a new law, Stockton is one of two cities in the State (Mammouth Lakes is the other) that will be going through this process.
STOCKTON, CA – “We have an increase in crime. We have had an increase in violent crimes; most of it a result of lifestyle choices like prostitution, gangs and drugs but the city says they remain committed,” said Mayor Ann Johnson at the State of the City address early this month at the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce annual event at the Stockton Port, “We remain committed to cracking down on the criminals that are terrorizing our citizens.”
Johnston explained that the city is presently working on the following:
The Silver Lining
Johnson Said that it was not all bad. The city is overhauling the Community Development Department to make it easier to do business, and that over 100 people are taking out business licenses a month that want to do business here. The city is working with Public Works to create the delta water supply project – a 200 million project which will bring us a reliable water source.
“Many would be envious of the water we have,”added Johnson. The city has also partnered to create a coalition to fight the state to take Delta water, to save the delta adding that it would be an “Economic disastaster should anything take our water around the delta instead of through our delta.”
Johnston continued, “The city will continue with infrustruture for restricted funds, infrastructure like the I-5 interchange project that seeks to connect 99 to bring in more business to the south side of Stockton,”
The State has invested in a prison Hospital in Stockton, with a 50% local hire requirement the state will bring 2400 employees on board in 2013.
The port, as reported by the Port Commissioner, is an international point of commerce, it is the only port on the west coast that is exporting more than importing- a good economic sign.
EDITORS NOTE: Earlier this year, Investigative Reporter Deanna Lynn Wulff discovered the Peripheral Canal‘s 12 Billion dollar projection may be closer to 40 billion.
SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Bill Berryhill announced April 24, 2012 that the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife passed out two common sense water measures, Assembly Bills 2421 and 2422.
AB 2421 requires that an independent third party Cost/Benefit analysis must be completed on any plan that is submitted as part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). Many in the Delta have strongly expressed skepticism to the BDCP’s ability to achieve the co-equal goals that were mandated by the Legislature in 2009. Nearly all of the options being studied, including a tunnel that could divert the entire Sacramento River around the Delta, will have a significant financial burden on California. Continue reading