|Cynthia Koehler is Senior Attorney and
California Water Legislative Director for EDF.
|Ann Hayden is a Senior Water Resource Analyst at EDF.|
If nothing else, Tuesday’s joint oversight hearing before the Assembly Water Parks and Wildlife and the Senate Resources and Water Committees made clear that while the Delta package was enacted last year, the Legislature remains keenly focused on how that package will be implemented.
Assemblymember Jared Huffman honed in on the composition of the Delta Stewardship Council. He also raised a number of concerns regarding the role of the Department of Water Resources in getting out in front with a “Request for Qualifications” for consultants to craft the Delta Plan before the Council that is responsible for that Plan has even been selected. “We seem to be having an Al Haig moment – DWR is in charge,” he observed. Natural Resources Secretary Lester Snow offered that it was not the Administration’s intent to preempt the Council’s authority, but rather to ensure that things get moving so that when the Council is up and running it will have the option of moving forward more expeditiously, but of course it could start over if it chooses to do so.
In addition to the general concerns related to the Stewardship Council, the legislature provided specific concerns about the substance and schedule of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. As we highlighted before, there are specific provisions in the recent Delta legislation that are specific to the development of the BDCP. Many members expressed issues about how well the BDCP is adhering to the legislation. Below is a sampling of some of the key issues raised by members:
1. Need to align with goal of reduced reliance on the Delta – the "Purpose and Needs" (PDF) statement for the environmental impact review of the BDCP states a purpose is to “restore and protect the ability of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project to reliably divert and deliver water up to full contract amounts”. This statement should be revised to be consistent with the recent Delta legislation which mandates a reduced reliance on the Delta for water supply.
2. Need to incorporate demand management strategies - Given the mandate in the Delta legislation to reduce reliance on the Delta, the BDCP should consider demand management strategies (e.g., water use efficiency, conjunctive use, etc.) as a way to meet the water supply reliability goals of the plan. To date, the BDCP has focused on the quantity of exports (supply side) rather than reducing demand through conservation (demand side).
3. Need for a more realistic timeline- the BDCP must fully incorporate the new provisions in the legislation related to the State Boards’ instream flow recommendations (due in August) and Department of Fish and Game's development of biological performance objectives (due in November). The current BDCP schedule – which to many is overly ambitious – does not allow time to incorporate these provisions given that a draft plan is expected to be completed by September.
4. Need for transparent governance of water operations- the BDCP governance structure must be consistent with the legislative mandate that states that “transparent real-time decision-making of water operations that allows the fishery agencies to take protective actions in the Delta so that biological performance objectives are achieved”.
5. Need for local input – the BDCP must make a serious effort to engage and address the concerns of the five Delta counties in the development of the plan. Without their involvement and consideration it is unlikely the BDCP will be successful.
The legislature’s interest in the development of the BDCP should be seen as an encouraging sign. They have done a thorough job of identifying key areas where more progress must be made in order for the BDCP to move in a positive direction. As a member of the BDCP Steering Committee, EDF has raised many of these very same issues and we will continue to do so until they are fully resolved—the ultimate success of the BDCP hinges on this.