SF Chronicle – Water agreement should be rescinded
Friday, October 28, 2011
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and four other Northern California members of Congress want the federal government to rescind an agreement that gives Southern California water contractors undue influence over the future of the state’s water hub, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
A pay-to-play agreement is the antithesis of what the agencies and contractors are working on: a plan that respects the “coequal goals” of developing a more reliable water supply and protecting the health of the delta.
The Interior Department sought the memo from California water districts because it needs them to help pay for an additional $100 million in research and planning for a $12 billion “conveyance” or aqueduct, the keystone of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
Planners have already spent $150 million on proposals for a peripheral canal that farmers love but voters nixed in 1982. Trust is lacking in water issues. The department should rescind the agreement.
Oakland Tribune editorial: Delta water plan needs to be balanced, inclusive and transparent
Oakland Tribune editorial Posted: 10/29/2011 04:00:00 PM PDT(This also appeared at: Mercury News http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_19217860 )
If California is to make real progress on water policy reform at least three major elements must be a part of the process: a balance between users’ needs and environmental protection, inclusion of all interested parties, and transparency.
Unfortunately, a memorandum of agreement issued by the Interior Department appears to have violated all three principles. That is why it is being challenged by Bay Area members of Congress, including Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove and Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.
They signed a letter asking Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to rescind the agreement between the department and water agencies. Salazar should comply with the request.
The problem the lawmakers and we have with the agreement is its lack of transparency and apparent favoritism toward water-export agencies south of the Delta and in Southern California. Also, the agreement was made behind closed doors with inadequate input from other water interests in the Delta and elsewhere.
The way in which the memorandum of agreement was made flies in the face of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s duty to treat all affected water interests in a fair and open manner.
The agreement also runs counter to the mission of the Delta Stewardship Council, which was formed by the state last year to develop a comprehensive plan with the “coequal goals” of providing a reliable water supply for California and safeguarding and improving the Delta ecosystem.
By excluding stakeholders other than some state and federal water-export agencies, it appears that the deck is stacked against environmental interests.
The lawmakers who signed the letter to Salazar say that the agreement gives water agencies more access to information and greater control over planning than other groups that have been helping to develop a plan to protect the Delta as well as provide water for users.
If the water-export contractors, which have funded water studies, gain unbalanced control over the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process, where does that leave other interests and the public?
Miller said, “They sort of drove the train off the tracks. This looks like they’re turning the process into a pay-to-play. That’s not going to work.”
Miller is right. Water policy is complicated and controversial enough without adding secrecy and undue influence by particular parties who pay for the studies.
The lawmakers also said the agreement appears to be in conflict with environmental protection laws, salmon restoration and water quality protection in Contra Costa County and other areas in the Delta.
To ensure the fairness of any Delta water plan it is essential that all stakeholders have equal and transparent treatment and that they have equal access to Bay Delta Conservation Plan draft documents and meetings involving water export contractors and government agencies at the state and federal levels.
Most important, any plan must adhere to the coequal goals of meeting both the needs of users and preserving the Delta ecology.
It is not too late for Salazar to rescind the memorandum of agreement and open up the process to all water interests. At the very least, no action should be taken on the agreement until there has been adequate input from all stakeholders, including environmental groups and local Delta interests.
Stockton Record Stacking the deck (cont’d)
By Michael Fitzgerald | Published: October 31, 2011 |
“The failure of the Secretary to withdraw the Department’s endorsement of this flawed agreement leaves the special interests in the driver’s seat and the public interest in the back seat.”
– Rep. George Miller, commenting on an agreement between Uncle Sam and California water interests.
The agreement gives powerful water exporters virtual veto power over the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the effort to build a Peripheral Canal or tunnel and maybe also to save the Delta. No one party should have that sort of power, let alone the special interests that brought the Delta to the brink of ecological collapse.
Both the goal and the process of the BDCP have been highly dubious form the beginning.
“When you look at the BDCP, between 65,000 and 135,000 acres of farmland are being proposed to be turned into habitat,” Mike Machado, who serves on the Delta Protection Co0mmission, writes. ”How is that enhancing and preserving agriculture? If that much land is taken out of production it has a significant impact on the economic output of the Delta and support and service industries outside the Delta that support Delta agriculture.”
“ Another thought,” Machado writes. “The BDCP in exchange for the habitat wants a 50 year take permit to be able to continue export pumping. Lets see, create habitat to rear endangered species and then grant a take permit to kill the very species we are trying to restore!! ”
Now, the Department of Interior has anounced a two-week comment period on the agreement.
“The Department of Interior has been pushing off the concerns of families and small businesses in the Bay Delta region for far too long,” said Rep. Thompson (CA-1). “Its most recent response is completely unsatisfactory – giving these people just two weeks to weigh in on a project that is five years in the making.”
SacBee editorial says BDCP is on a “perilous path”. Editorial was repeated verbatim in the Fresno Bee.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Editorial: Bay Delta plan on a perilous path
Published: Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 – 11:00 pm | Page 6E
California desperately needs to make progress on its beleaguered Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Conflicts over imperiled fish have disrupted water deliveries. The ecosystem is in rapid decline. If left unaddressed, the threat of earthquakes and the long-term impacts of climate change could cause even more conflict and harm to everyone who has a stake in the Delta – water users, farmers, fishing interests, environmentalists and others.
Sadly, the linchpin of any sort of deal to bring peace to his estuary – the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, or BDCP – has been heading in the wrong direction for years, and continues down a perilous path. Paid for and driven by water contractors, this “conservation plan” has been disproportionately focused on construction of a canal or tunnel that would provide water exporters with extra supplies. State and federal officials seem determined to finalize plans for some form of tunnel or canal by next year, even though there remain serious questions about the financing, impacts and governance of this audacious feat of plumbing, and its impact on Delta communities.
Since taking office, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and his deputy, Gerald Meral, have worked to make BDCP more inclusive, getting rid of the “loyalty oath” that committed participants to accept the final outcome without criticism. Yet Laird and Meral haven’t gone far enough, and they haven’t seriously challenged the underlying premise of BDCP – that contractors will be able to get more water from the Delta and mitigate the impacts on fish by restoring wetlands on a vast scale.
Will these wetlands compensate for the extra water diverted? Or does the Delta need stronger flows to help salmon and other fish? And what will be the ecological trade-offs of a canal or tunnel? Will it help the Delta smelt (by reducing pumping in the south Delta) but contribute to the demise of salmon, which could be harmed by the enormous water intakes the state would build on the Sacramento River near Hood?
To this point, answers to those questions are muddled, which is hugely problematic. Answers – backed up by credible, independent science – are essential in planning any kind of multi-billion-dollar reengineering of the Delta.
Expediency and credibility are in direct conflict as BDCP lunges ahead. Last week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had to backpedal on finalizing a memorandum of agreement that federal and state officials quietly negotiated with water contractors a few months ago. The pact, which gave water contractors certain privileges in the BDCP process, had come under harsh criticism from U.S. Rep. George Miller and other congressional Democrats from Northern California.
To make matters worse, it was revealed two weeks ago that the state Department of Water Resources was hiring the assistant general manager of the state water contractors, Laura King Moon, to help the agency complete the conservation plan. While Moon is clearly capable and as