California Water Wars in the 500-Year Drought: Bay Delta Conservation Plan in the Crossfire

High level public policy comments

Notes: Content added by this Public Comment is contained in brackets [].
Hash tags, #, refer to an aggregation of other postings and articles so tagged as topics found in social media.

#DeltaSmelt are tiny fish in the vast and crucial #SanJoaquinDelta near Sacramento, but it’s impact on California water issues is far larger. Smelt is critical to salmon in the Delta, a vast network of wetlands fed by greatly diminished snowmelt from the Sierra every spring. #BayDelta is a major water source for California. But a sharp drop in smelt populations led to court decisions protecting it, affecting Delta pumps that support the state’s complicated water system, and threatening state agricultural areas that depend on water from the Delta. Now, the 500-year drought is challenging the very practice of agriculture as we have known it.

#BayDeltaConservationPlan proposes to adjust the pumps and pipes taking water from the Delta, diverting up to 25% of Sacramento River’s wet season flow via 40 foot diameter tunnels 35 miles south intending to provide the State with emergency water supply during any catastrophe’s aftermath, while protecting wetlands, wildlife and restoring more water resources to our agricultural regions. The Plan wouldn’t send additional water to Los Angeles, but they would likely affect the overall water balance in the state.

From the State’s perspective, the Bay Delta Conservation project is: “to resolve decades of conflict between water demand and wildlife habitat in the estuary at the heart of the state.”

But the Plan is no stranger to controversy. Farmers object to preferential benefits given to almond and pistachio growers. Other environmentalists claim that the proposed water pumping will not only fail to protect the smelt, but rather increase environmental damage in the Delta by allowing ever-rising seawater to flow north into the drier Bay and tunnel more water out of Northern California. The project cost and the additional cost to finance the bonds are a point of major friction. Critics point to extras increasing the estimated budget that has been presented so far, stating the final cost could be approaching three times higher. And while it has many funding sources, including some support from the federal government, the project will depend on state water bond and debt service, along with and contributions from local utilities, hiking water rates across the state.

Despite the ongoing arguments for and against, the Plan continues through the regulatory process. California’s Department of Water Resources extended public review comments until July 29, 2014 for the Plan and Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Over the course of the extended 228-day review period, California is not the same, from the ravages of worsening and permanent drought. Premise and policy supporting BDCP regulations have been moved by our Climate calamity. Mitigation of permanent drought has given way to Adaptation and Relocation as means of government policy and standard to address exigent of continued habitation in California. Relying on obsolete policy to address and solve problems is courting more human suffering and ecologic loss. This Public Comment will describe the degraded economic and ecologic conditions, offering proven yet creative alternatives to #BDCP centralized proposals, while maintaining adherence to the BDCP principled objectives.

[Taking exception to viability of Bay Delta Conservation Plan, or as it has become known as the “Twin Tunnels” project, using public money is intolerable for what amounts] to [dewatering] the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for the benefit of a few water contractors and agribusinesses.

These tunnels would sharply reduce water flow throughout the delta and harm thousands of sensitive aquatic species, including chinook salmon, steelhead trout, smelt, and green and white sturgeon. The tunnels would also wipe out food sources and habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife that depend on a functioning delta ecosystem to survive.

The project’s heads justify this killing by proposing future habitat restoration even as they readily admit uncertainty about where and how to make such a plan work. Further, the $25-$60 billion tunnels will rely on taxpayers to fund most of this restoration. Water is a public trust resource, and taxpayers shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of this project while water contractors turn a profit from exporting the delta’s water.

California’s water crisis is best solved by adopting a combination of water conservation, efficiency, reuse and desalination strategies for both cities and farms. The state and nation should invest in [] proven [and innovative] strategies, instead of wasting tax dollars and sacrificing our [vanishing] natural resources. [The BDCP permit process must not proceed, in order to protect our delta estuary with local watershed projects.] 

The BDCP also proposes to restore or protect approximately 145,000 acres of Delta habitat.
Many believe that the BDCP is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Delta’s environmental decline occurred as federal and state pumps in the south Delta diverted up to 60% of the estuary’s fresh water inflow. BDCP critics question the logic of trying to restore an ecosystem degraded by fresh water diversions by building new infrastructure capable of diverting even more fresh water. And despite millions of dollars of public funds proposed to “restore” Delta habitat, restoration will not be successful unless and until we restore fresh water flows into the Delta, particularly from the San Joaquin River system, to meet the needs of Delta fish and wildlife and the habitat that sustains them.
The 45 mile-long twin Delta tunnels and their fresh water intakes, forebays, tunnel debris disposal sites, and additional facilities will eat up at least 5,700 acres of Delta farmland and wildlife habitat. Some of the facilities and debris disposal sites will be located on Brannan Island State Park and on conservation land purchased with public funds to provide habitat for the threatened sandhill crane. The diversion intakes, access roads, lights and other urban intrusions associated with these facilities, will be directly adjacent to the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Delta Meadows State Park.

The BDCP project Environmental Impact Report has yet to be released in complete form. In addition, the State has failed to produce a cost-benefit analysis. All independent analyses indicate that Southern California ratepayers will be left to pay a disproportionate share for the project, with Westlands Water District and Kern County water agency receiving the majority of the benefits. Southern California will not receive any additional/new water from the project.

The financially unsustainable and untenability of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan serves to remind one we in the East San Fernando Valley have one of the largest aquifer in California that requires immediate Superfund cleanup to dovetail with LADWP’s Groundwater Replenishment project, LA County DPW, National Park Service, Army Corp of Engineers Sediment Management and LADWP projects: Big Tujunga and Pacoima reservoirs and Debris Basin cleanouts, and LADWP’s Tujunga Spreading Ground project to remediate the potential to wean Los Angeles off unaffordable and vanishing water from the Bay Delta, the Sierra, Lakes Mead and Powell, and the Colorado River.

We are on our own and must properly assess the survivability of our urban settlement in this bit of Mediterranean Climate in terms of Local watershed management to provide most of our water resources.

[We] promote a smaller and greener water bond [for each of California’s 58 counties] that prioritizes regional water self-sufficiency and a ‘reduce, reuse, recycle and restore’ approach; challenge the massive ‘twin tunnels’ that maintain our over reliance on environmentally devastating water transfers rather than taking a more holistic approach to water; continue leading the CEQA Works coalition and fight to ensure that California’s environmental ‘bill of rights’ stays strong and vibrant.

Flawed Twin Tunnel Documents Released

After seven years, $240 million, and numerous delays, the State has finally released an expensive paperweight: 34,000 pages of the public draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and associated environmental documents. This draft of the BDCP still stubbornly pushes to build two massive, multi-billion dollar, environmentally destructive tunnels over more sustainable water solutions. Despite their nine-foot thickness when printed, the BDCP documents continue to lack analysis and answers to key questions, including financing and operations of the twin tunnels. []

In order to press forward with BDCP, the water contractors are being asked to risk another $1.2 billion (yes, billion) of their ratepayers’ money – just in additional planning costs. This expensive gamble moves to a whole new level if the tunnels are built. An independent economist recently released a report detailing the 11 Financial Red Flags of BDCP, which include debt service costs, questions of financial liability, overestimated benefits, and drying up money for local projects.

It’s time to stop squandering money and paper on the tunnels, and start exploring viable alternatives.

Planning and Conservation League

Though separate from the Bay Delta Conversation Plan, budgetary overlaps seem evident in a water bond being floated to California’s November ballot, as advocated by a consortium of California’s water authorities, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA). Is it just possible some self-interest might be at play?

AB 2686 by Assembly Member Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and SB 1250 by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) closely reflect ACWA’s proposal for a modified water bond.
ACWA supports the current version of the water bond set to be on the November 2014 ballot. However, ACWA’s Board of Directors has recognized that modifications to reduce the size and remove earmarks from the $11.14 billion bond will improve its chance of passage.
The Association is working with legislators and stakeholders to build support for a water bond that can be approved by the necessary two-thirds vote in both houses, signed by the Governor and then approved by California voters in November 2014.

ACWA believes any bond that advances must meet the following criteria:
Include $3 billion, continuously appropriated, for additional water storage (both above and below ground);
Provide adequate funding for Delta restoration;
Eliminate “earmarks” that allocate funds for specific projects without a competitive process;

Provide substantial funding for:
Local resources development projects, including Integrated Regional Water Management programs
Groundwater cleanup
Safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities
Watershed protection

In addition, ACWA is advocating that the bond’s total funding remain below $10 billion to aid its passage this year.

Op. cit.

The government’s official estimate for the BDCP price tag is nearly $25 billion. Critics point out that this estimate does not include interest and other hidden costs, which could balloon the overall price tag to more than $64 billion. The construction of the tunnels and diversions would cost more than $14.5 billion, with another $4.8 billion in operation, maintenance, and administration expenses over the 50-year life of the plan. Federal and state water contractors are responsible for these costs. If the contractors incur this debt, you can be sure that they will push for diverting as much water as possible from the Delta to recover their costs. The federal and state taxpayers will be responsible for much of the BDCP’s habitat restoration costs. Most of the state’s share of Delta restoration costs is built into the $11 billion water bond on the November 2014 ballot.


Governor Brown’s supporting a water bond on the November ballot coupled to the Department of Water Resources and State water agency lobbyists pushing the Bay Delta Conservation plan is history repeating itself insanely so from 2010’s and 2012’s eerily similar political posturing putting legislative responsibility onto the People, abusing the Initiative process, to solve ecological problems with strictly economic means, chasing after California’s twin eco collapse “ambulance”. Eco means house, not opportunism for unsustainable economic activity. Agriculture lies about it’s draw on water and Big agriculture must evolve itself to permaculture, aquaculture – using a fraction of the current real or conjured statistic water demand.

We have millions of gallons of water in our watersheds, especially here in the San Fernando Groundwater Basin and the Tujunga Pacoima watershed which is in my district. To the maximum extent possible we need to require LADWP, Counties and State clean up and detoxify groundwater via primary and tertiary treatments. With Aquifer remediation and infusion (treated water replenishment) on a massive scale, the City of Los Angeles would be provided with 10% of its overall water supply. There is not enough groundwater to provide for the 18 million folks in Southern California, let alone Los Angeles County.

Desalination in San Diego County took 4 years from inception, construction to delivery. Desalination is appropriate for regions like San Diego where no natural groundwater basins exist. Los Angeles County needs to see its network of groundwater basins fully revitalized for potable water consumption. Desalination is costlier than groundwater cleanup and its salt byproduct threatens marine life while profiteering at ratepayer expense.

Conservation through greater appliance efficiency, fixing leaky pipes, composting toilets, must significantly reduce water demand.

This drought disaster, contrived from generational legacies of Mulholland’s stolen water web of corruption, deceit, exorbitant unjust enrichment, to this day’s out-of-control boss rule, was avoidable had there been forward planning on watershed remediation and conservation.

To answer the Drought calamity, immediate Federal aid and local/county/state matching funds are required to de-toxify almost 200 Superfund and Brownfield cleanup projects in California, with an end goal of potable use of watersheds within 3 years. Ecosystems, farmers and urban consumers are helped.

How Will California’s Agriculture and Urban Centers Survive Ever-Worsening 500-Year Drought?

The UNCTAD report identified key indicators for the transformation needed in agriculture:
Increasing soil carbon content and better integration between crop and livestock production, and increased incorporation of agroforestry and wild vegetation
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of livestock production
Reduction of GHGs through sustainable peatland, forest and grassland management
Optimization of organic and inorganic fertilizer use, including through closed nutrient cycles in agriculture
Reduction of waste throughout the food chains
Changing dietary patterns toward climate-friendly food consumption
Reform of the international trade regime for food and agriculture

The weakening of agricultural, financial and trade rules has contributed significantly to increased volatility and corporate concentration in agricultural markets. This increased volatility is harmful to long-term investments to protect the environment and build climate resilience in agriculture. Public investment and regulation is needed to ensure stable food supplies and fair prices, and to facilitate a shift to sustainable agricultural practices.

The world needs a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a “green revolution” to an “ecological intensification” approach.

Agriculture & food system contribute 50% of ghg emissions

The costs of negative externalities of brown agriculture will also continue to increase, initially neutralizing and eventually exceeding any economic and developmental gains.

“The pensions, life insurances and nest eggs of billions of ordinary people depend on the long-term security and stability of institutional investment funds,” she said. “Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to those investments and the wealth of the global economy.”

Extreme Weather from today’s Extinction Level runaway greenhouse gas emissions will not stop for hundreds of years even after carbon emissions dropped to zero. Yet divestiture from burning million year old garbage and abiotic oil is immediately required to give the slimmest chance humanity survives as a species.

Water conservation, remediation, recycling and smaller amounts are implicit in the IATPO excerpt from UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review 2013. Now to bring you back two years to show the cognitive dissonance between current exigent borne of permanent drought and statist government initiatives unresponsive to current and foreseeable conditions:

Gov Proposes Huge Underground Tunnels to Move Water North to South in California
That’s not the tune he is singing in mid 2014.

Governor Brown combined his shelved water action plan with new relief aid and Senate President pro-Tem Steinberg’s water efficiency legislation to become a rewrapped Emergency Drought Bill yielding support from across the aisle, farming interests and environmental concerns.

Poof! Behold Brown’s Emergency Drought Bill!

Permaculture, drip irrigation, phasing out water intensive crops like cotton for hemp, in situ brackish water desalination, groundwater cleanup, aquifer replenishment, reservoir storage, rainwater cisterns…

Some, not all of this is in Brown’s package.

Judging from the water rate payer’s response statewide of the Governor’s declaration of a voluntary 20% consumption cut and Los Angeles County’s unchanged rate, folks do not understand the dire implications of maintaining present water consumption. So much for good cop. Now bad cop will ratchet the the fine and penalty until the rate-payer gets it. At least for ratepayers who have not left the “Golden-crisp State.” Still 200 billion gallons of California’s groundwater is under threat by the Oil sector in their fracking greed and climate emergency denial.

One acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons (the amount of water two to four
families use in one year).

That means Big Oil is stealing water from 2,455,110 human beings for a year. Fracking, once stopped, provides water for California’s future.

To the extent 200 billion gallons of potable remains in the ground free from being fracked, prudent groundwater use and conservation obviates any so contrived need for Twin Tunnels. In this view, the BDCP enables fracking, and that is wrong.

Today’s exigent of permanent drought and eco-eco collapse seems to have brought off the dusty shelf the boondoggle of a huge 35 year abandoned, itself a myth, but remaining behemoth Plan. We need to address the situation on an accountable local watershed level.

Following Public Comment refers to the Plan EIR Chapter 5 Water Supply flawed, skewed premises:

If the basis for the discussion is water consumptively used by only agricultural and M&I users, then agriculture’s share would be estimated in the range of 80 percent of the total (24.66 MAF / (24.66 MAF + 6.51 MAF). However, if the percentage is based on dedicated water, which includes environmental uses, then agriculture’s share is more in the range of 40 percent (24.66 MAF / 61.24 MAF).

“agriculture claiming 80% of state’s developed water” appears to be not accurate and even alarmist:

‘In the long run, what’s sorely needed in California is a reprioritizing of water use. Currently, agriculture claims 80% of the state’s developed water. And 55% of exported delta water goes to two irrigation districts in the southern San Joaquin Valley.’,0,7451531,full.column

Quoted below from Jeffrey Mount has the marks of authoritative analysis of California water usage, not what Skelton cites in the above reference:

Which sector, urban, farming, environmental, uses what proportion of the our state water supply?

Jeffrey Mount, UC Davis Professor of Geology

Whereas agriculture used to consume 80% of the state’s water supply, today 46% of captured and stored water goes to environmental purposes, such as rebuilding wetlands. Meanwhile 43% goes to farming and 11% to municipal uses.
The Economist, October 2009

This excerpt is from an article that focused on the never-ending skirmishes over how to divide the water of California and simultaneously meet the objectives of water supply and ecosystem health in the Delta. The statement, which appears to be attributed to Tom Birmingham of Westlands Water District, is both a mangling of the facts and an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Interpreted literally, it implies that agricultural water use has been reduced from 80% to 43% with a transfer of agriculture’s use of water to the environment. Reading the news over the past few years, it might have seemed like such a thing happened. It hasn’t, of course.

If this were the case, we would have seen a dramatic decline in agricultural water use since the implementation of environmental laws. We have seen a decline, but it is nothing close to what is implied.

This statement requires some disentangling to separate the facts from the factoids (near-facts which are artfully spun). The roots of confusion lie with the change in how the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) reports water use. Historically, DWR only counted water that was applied for economic uses. Under this scheme roughly 80% of water went to agriculture with the remaining 20% going to urban uses.

Under the new reporting system, gross water use includes both the applied water for urban and agricultural use, as well as that set aside for flow requirements to meet habitat and water quality needs. This is the source of the second part of the above statement. A more accurate figure is roughly 40% agriculture, 10% urban and 50% environment.

Sounds like the environment is taking all the water after all, even with the new accounting system. But this is a larger total volume of water than in the old accounting system, since environmental water is now added in to the mix. This accounting method is both flawed and misleading.

The method used by DWR sums up all of the instream flows required by regulations. The large environmental number is dominated by flows in rivers designated as Wild and Scenic. Most of the volume that flows down Wild and Scenic Rivers is in the North Coast and includes flood flows, where there is no practical way to recover it for either agricultural or urban use (see blog “water to the sea isn’t wasted”).

When you examine water use within the interconnected network of California that feeds farms and cities, use is roughly 52% agricultural, 14% urban and 33% environmental. While a big difference, even this overstates the environmental take.

When you account based on net water use—meaning water that is lost to evapotranspiration or salt sinks and not returned to rivers or groundwater for alternative uses—this translates to 62% agricultural, 16% urban and 22% environmental. And some of that environmental water is used to keep water quality high enough for drinking.

Op. cit.

Broad statewide or system wide numbers also mask important local and regional variability in how water is used.  As illustrated in the map, based on DWR data, in the North Coast region most water is designated as environmental flow, and it lacks many connections to the statewide water supply system.  In the Tulare Basin, almost all water use is agricultural.  In the South Coast, water use is overwhelming urban.  Regions are often fairly specialized in their water use.  Real people and real fish live their lives locally, not statewide.

Broad statewide or system wide numbers also mask important local and regional variability in how water is used. As illustrated in the map, above, based on DWR data, in the North Coast region most water is designated as environmental flow, and it lacks many connections to the statewide water supply system. In the Tulare Basin, almost all water use is agricultural. In the South Coast, water use is overwhelming urban. Regions are often fairly specialized in their water use. Real people and real fish live their lives locally, not statewide.

Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban. However, the percentage of water use by sector varies dramatically across regions and between wet and dry years. Some of the water used by each of these sectors returns to rivers and groundwater basins, and can be used again.

The twin tunnel diversion plan may be premised on an overestimate of water given to the environmental sector, when in fact, it’s not 46%, but less than one-half, 22%. Diverting water flow from benefiting Delta wetlands in the Plan may be understated by 400%.

The argument that the environmental sector is being favored in the Plan is false. Just the opposite, it’s made to suffer and wither.

Whether it’s a case of stealing water by the use mix statistic, Big Oil fracking, or geoengineering, water cannot be cut from whole cloth as the purveyors and Big Agriculture benefactors of the present BDCP are pushing: an obsolete, outdated boondoggle that does not address the aggravating 500-year drought with ever increasing record-shattering temperatures, just alone over the 228 day EIR review period and out to the long term. Even the long term climate disaster scenario in the BDCP was tamped down. The real scenario borne of certainty, not corporate political posturing, is horrific and cannot be addressed or solved by big centralized politically inspired and unaccountable expenditures only lining Wall Street bond holder pockets and Big Agriculture.

Geo-engineering weather modification through cloud seeding, a Pacific Gas and Electric Company practice for 60 years, to tease out rain and snow for a burgeoning population, has not been justified as having contributed to increasing water resources. Like a dog chasing its tail. Evidence is growing that as our climate wet gets wetter and and dry gets drier, geo engineering cloud seeding, unproven to making a net increase in water, may be worsening already increasing Extreme Weather. Though California hurricanes are not unheard of, the real threat exists of an Ark Event (that’s the size of ten Mississippi rivers deluging over a two week period). Like the 1857 event making an inland sea in Central California, reducing agriculture then by 2/3, today’s 500 year drought looms heavy to comparably destroy California’s economy already in tatters, from whatever cataclysm. Extreme Hurricane, Ark Event, Permanent Drought. Or maybe pick two or three of them.

California’s reliance on cloud seeding to produce rain and snow is stealing water

This link above takes the reader to a constellation of commentary groups specific to 28 referenced articles about deteriorating conditions in California’s water resources since the BDCP was written, with the clear indication agriculture and and urban settlement may end as we have come to know them. Pockets of permaculture in desirous watersheds may allow limited human settlement based on frugality, not wasteful Big Everything-driven consumerism.

Bond-floated #BayDeltaConservationPlan pair of 40 foot diameter tunnels likely to balloon to $69 billion with debt service designed to answer existing agriculture demands, drinking water quality for 25 million user/ratepayers, and delivery of water during and post catastrophic events like earthquakes. Though no new water supplies are for Los Angeles, water bills will skyrocket to pay off the water bond to over $30 month per ratepayer. Apart from the unbearable financial burden, a similar water conveyance plan was rejected by voters originally conceived 32 years ago by Brown, whose era then did not face a 500 year drought, rising ocean levels, and resource scarcity from the present Climate Emergency. Three unacceptable outcomes from the plan in it’s present form:

1) Given Sacramento River water diversions to the twin tunnels, salt water intrusion aggravated by rising sea levels will inundate and destroy Delta wetlands, in turn threatens local potable water supply, salmon and smelt, and the role of wetlands as a carbon sink to lower greenhouse gases.

2) Drastically reduced Sierra snow melt, surging water and atmospheric temperatures point to much lower water flow in the ‘high-outflow option’, estimates ‘based upon assumptions for the year 2060’. The twin tunnels, in our Climate Emergency future of no snow melt may see next to no use at all, with no ‘wet’ season.

3) No incentives are provided to wean Los Angeles off long-distance water, in fact, a greater dependency is proposed.

Barbara Vlamis of Chico, executive director of AquAlliance, said: “We join this lawsuit because we are the heart of the area of origin for the Sacramento River watershed. The Tuscan Aquifer in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties is the groundwater foundation that supports the streams and rivers that are vital for farms, fish, and communities throughout California. The Delta Plan’s goal to expand groundwater storage north of the Delta is a fool’s errand. The state of California has failed to protect its groundwater, and has acknowledged serious overdraft in 11 basins. The only reason we don’t know of more overdraft conditions is because the state Department of Water Resources hasn’t studied this since 1980! If water transfers increase in scope and duration, particularly when groundwater is substituted for surface water, it will escalate the losses already underway in the Sacramento River watershed’s creeks and rivers and will jeopardize what remains of the hydrologic system that supports the majority of California’s economy, the Central Valley’s fish and flyway, and the largest estuary in North America: the Sacramento/San Joaquin Bay Delta.”

California doesn’t need to build these massive twin tunnels, [new or expanded dams] and diversions to meet its water supply needs. A truly sustainable water plan for the state would focus on increased water conservation and efficiency, treating and recycling waste water, cleaning up polluted groundwater, capturing and treating storm water, and reducing irrigation of drainage-impaired lands in the southern Central Valley. The environmental, social, and monetary cost of these sustainable solutions is much less than what is proposed by the BDCP.

[] Water conservation, recycling and reclamation, and environmentally beneficial groundwater management can easily meet our needs at a fraction of the cost. The Delta ecosystem has been damaged by the construction and operation of upstream dams and by the pumping of fresh water from the Delta for export south. It is a fundamental reality that we cannot restore the Delta by building more dams upstream, as well as a canal that will facilitate continued or expanded exports. Most of the state is not as dependent on Delta water exports as claimed by the Governor and other elected officials. Statewide, Delta exports via the state and federal water projects make up less than 12% of the state’s developed water supply. Even southern California cities receive only about 20% of their water from the Delta. [The same 20% wedge Los Angeles City failed to conserve by not heeding the Governor’s voluntary measures.]Local surface storage projects, groundwater, and reuse/recycling provide most of the consumptive water supplies in California. No one is demanding that all Delta exports end.


Here’s more reason to adopt much less expensive local watershed management rather than a more expensive centralized solution the Plan presents:

Echoing the sustainable alternate Plan of local watershed management, UC Davis scientists Richard Howitt and Jay Lund, who co-authored a report outlining California’s drought expected to cost the state an estimated $2.2 billion of total economic losses in 2014, losing more than 17,000 jobs, from valuable crops fallowed.

“Without replenishing groundwater in wet years, water tables fall and both reduce regional pumping capacity and increase pumping energy costs,” it said.

“It’s critical that Californians develop an ethic of water preservation,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, stressing the need for more water storage and for capturing water run off during storms.

Op. Cit.

Reducing flows from the Sacramento River will also allow saltwater from San Francisco Bay to intrude eastward through the Delta. Increased salinity in Delta water will have profound and negative impacts on Delta agriculture and further degrade critical habitat for such imperiled species as salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt.

Twin Tunnels advocates claim adverse impacts on fish will be mitigated by restoring 100,000 acres of habitat in the Delta. These projects, they maintain, would result in seasonally inundated floodplains, subtidal and intertidal freshwater and brackish wetlands, and shallow-water channel margin habitat. They are intended to increase food production for native food webs and fish. But in the absence of additional fresh water, scientists are skeptical that these habitat projects will work as advertised by the BDCP. The State Water Resources Control Board has already stated that habitat restoration and increased flows are both necessary to the recovery of the Delta’s fish populations.

Op. cit.


Survivability through seismic events is touted as a benefit in tunneling subterranean peripheral canals with design performance.


But the very geoengineering Plan that diverts wet season river flow from wetlands causing ground subsidence, already at a furious rate from groundwater pumping from the loss of snowmelt reliance otherwise producing streamflow water, acts to increase earthquake frequency and magnitude. Cui bono? It’s poor risk management adding to higher cost of, and loss of: infrastructure, property and life. Investors win. Main Street loses.

But, again, fracking does not stop at contaminating aquifers with carcinogens, increasing ground subsidence and removing 200 billion gallons of potable water from millions of thirsty people, fracking causes earthquake swarms.

So, the tax and water rate payer gets slammed by the present form of BDCP in its reckless abandon ignoring prudent risk management, no,not mitigating risk, but increasing the risk of earthquakes two different ways.

[Two years ago, on July 25, 2012, prior to the declaration early in 2014 of a 500-year drought,] Governor Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar [] announced details of an expensive plan to ensure the future of Southern California's water supply (specifically, the supply shipped from Northern California). The most expensive part of the new plan would build the long-debated "peripheral canal," described by the San Jose Mercury News: "two huge, side-by-side underground tunnels, each 33 feet in diameter." The tunnels would "carry fresh water 37 miles from the state's largest river, the Sacramento, under the delta to giant federal and state pumps at Tracy ... There it would flow into canals run by the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, which deliver Delta water to 25 million Californians, from the Bay Area to San Diego, and to irrigate 3 million acres of farmland." The price for the plan? A whopping $23.7 billion. If you're an Angeleno and you're wondering why a tunnel built in Northern California is such a big deal, here's what you need to know: the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power buys more than half of its water from the Metropolitan Water District. The Bay Delta, where the canal will be built, is where MWD gets its water (in addition to the Colorado River). The peripheral canal has been a hot button political item since a 1982 ballot initiative that would have allowed the concept failed to win the approval of voters. More recent efforts to solve the ongoing ecological and health crisis that is the Bay Delta produced the 2010 Bay Delta Conservation Plan. [] The announcement essentially makes way for the state to revise the BDCP.

[Two years ago, on July 25, 2012, prior to the declaration early in 2014 of a 500-year drought,] Governor Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar [] announced details of an expensive plan to ensure the future of Southern California’s water supply (specifically, the supply shipped from Northern California). The most expensive part of the new plan would build the long-debated “peripheral canal,” described by the San Jose Mercury News: “two huge, side-by-side underground tunnels, each 33 feet in diameter.” The tunnels would “carry fresh water 37 miles from the state’s largest river, the Sacramento, under the delta to giant federal and state pumps at Tracy … There it would flow into canals run by the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, which deliver Delta water to 25 million Californians, from the Bay Area to San Diego, and to irrigate 3 million acres of farmland.” The price for the plan? A whopping $23.7 billion. If you’re an Angeleno and you’re wondering why a tunnel built in Northern California is such a big deal, here’s what you need to know: the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power buys more than half of its water from the Metropolitan Water District. The Bay Delta, where the canal will be built, is where MWD gets its water (in addition to the Colorado River).
The peripheral canal has been a hot button political item since a 1982 ballot initiative that would have allowed the concept failed to win the approval of voters. More recent efforts to solve the ongoing ecological and health crisis that is the Bay Delta produced the 2010 Bay Delta Conservation Plan. [] The announcement essentially makes way for the state to revise the BDCP.

At the core of the project is a pair of water tunnels, 35 miles long and 40 feet in diameter. They would divert a portion of the Sacramento River’s flow at three new intakes, proposed in Sacramento County between Freeport and Courtland. The tunnels alone are projected to cost $15 billion, which would be funded by the water agencies that benefit.

Another $10 billion would go into habitat-restoration projects, funded largely by taxpayers, including 100,000 acres of habitat restoration to benefit 57 imperiled species, including Delta smelt, chinook salmon, sandhill cranes and Swainson’s hawks.

Water agencies that stand to benefit from the plan have already allocated $240 million to get the project to this point, most of which has been spent. The Bee reported Saturday that another $1.2 billion will be needed to complete the planning before construction can start. This money has already been accounted for in the $15 billion cost of the tunnels.

Altogether, it is the most ambitious and expensive water-development and habitat project ever proposed in California. And it’s clear from the documents released Monday that many details of how it will work still have to be resolved.

For instance, one vital question – how much water the new tunnels will divert – is being deferred for a much later decision. The state proposes a “decision tree” process that postpones the decision to an uncertain date before construction of the tunnels is complete, after additional scientific analysis and regulatory review.

Instead, it offers two options that illustrate likely extremes: a high-outflow scenario and a low-outflow scenario. The former assumes wildlife officials order more unrestricted flow through the Delta to benefit wildlife, and allow less water to be diverted into the new tunnels. The latter assumes less natural flow and more diversions.

At issue in that choice is the still-disputed question of how much free water flow is needed to sustain endangered species like Delta smelt and juvenile salmon, which evolved in a Delta very different from today’s highly altered environment.

State and federal wildlife agencies have indicated they will approve only the plan with the high-outflow scenario. But the plan calls for that decision to be reviewed before the tunnels become operational – in 2027, at the earliest – if research demonstrates outflow can be reduced without harming the estuary. To some extent, this outcome depends upon whether the initial phases of habitat restoration are successful in breeding more fish.

Sizable diversions
Environmental and fishing groups maintain more natural outflow is necessary to sustain and improve the Delta’s fish species, and they’ve been critical of the proposal to delay a decision.

“I say twin 40-foot tunnels, big enough to dry up the Sacramento River at most times of the year, can’t be good for salmon no matter what,” said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association.

The project does not propose diverting the entire flow of the river. It will be capable of diverting water at 9,000 cubic feet per second, a maximum capacity that would be reached only during wet seasons, according to the plan. There are other conditions in which the project would divert less but still a sizable share of the Sacramento River’s flow.

Some of the most significant changes would occur in sections of the river near Walnut Grove, an area downstream of the proposed tunnel intakes. Computer modeling estimations buried deep in Appendix 5 of the draft plan show the effect. River flows would be reduced at least 10 percent in nearly every month of the year compared to flows that would occur without the tunnels in place. In summer months, river flows would drop between 20 and 25 percent. The estimates are made based upon assumptions for the year 2060.

To water diverters, convincing regulators to set aside the high-outflow scenario may be crucial to the project’s financial success. At a recent meeting of the Westlands Water District, a major Delta water consumer in the San Joaquin Valley, officials were told there are slim benefits under the high-outflow option, which commits more water to outflows for habitat purposes, and less for diverters like Westlands. In short, the cost of the tunnels may not justify the limited water benefits.


Following Public Comment addresses BDCP EIR Chapter 29 Climate Change forecasting dated and understated conditions, drought severity, temperature spiking and adaptability.

How dry is it?

Given the context of this highly anomalous and extremely persistent atmospheric ridging over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, it’s very interesting to note that there has also been a region of strongly positive sea surface temperature anomalies in same the general vicinity for the past 10-11 months [prior to November 14, 2013]. Causality is always tricky to assign in cases such as this one, since it’s entirely possible that the ridging itself has led to warm surface water though decreased oceanic mixing by wind and unusually high air temperatures. On the other hand, ocean-atmosphere coupling is very well recognized in this region on longer timescales (such as the multi-decade periodicity of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO), so it seems likely that the anomalous ridging that has led to to California’s extremely dry weather and the North Pacific warm pool are physically linked in one way or another.

All 58 California counties have now been designated by the federal government as primary natural disaster areas due to the drought. A state-level Drought Emergency has been declared, and state authorities have recently taken unprecedented measures to cope with dwindling water supplies. National and international media attention has become increasingly focused on this ongoing extreme climate event in California as economic damages to date surpass $2 billion, and continues to rise rapidly. Increasingly broad swathes of farmland are being fallowed in the Central Valley (especially the San Joaquin Valley), and entities with access to remaining water are auctioning off their rights for over ten times the long-term average rate. Groundwater pumping has increased exponentially over the past 12 months, and there are growing concerns that this virtually unregulated draining of California’s underground aquifers could have major major consequences within the next couple of years.

Over the longer term, climate projections suggest that this risk will continue or increase. According to the draft National Climate Assessment, the US Southwest—which includes California and five other states—can expect less precipitation, hotter temperatures, and drier soils in the future, meaning that by 2060, there could be as much as a 35-percent increase in water demand. Along with that comes a 25- to 50-percent increased risk of water shortages.

Most predictions say the warming of the planet will continue and likely will accelerate. Oceans will likely continue to rise as well, but predicting the amount is an inexact science. A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, push sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London.

NASA scientists say so, glaciologists say so, researchers who’ve spent their entire careers studying the slow and increasingly inevitable melt of our planet’s permanent ice stores say so. They say so in two new studies debuting this week; one in Science and one in Geophysical Research Letters. They are all saying we should begin getting comfortable with sea levels that lap up 10 feet higher on our shores.

…larger climate uncertainty mathematically compels greater urgency to address global warming. This conclusion runs in direct opposition to the claims of climate contrarians, who often argue against taking action to address climate change because they believe there is too much uncertainty to determine the optimal path forward. This argument exhibits a failure to grasp the concepts of basic risk management

…[P]eople who don’t understand how the climate or modeling work have used the surface warming slowdown to incorrectly argue that climate models aren’t reliable and that global warming is nothing to worry about. This new study shows once again that climate models are indeed reliable, and if we don’t soon act to slow down human-caused global warming and the risks it poses, we’re likely headed for a very bleak future.

Goes to the axiom: Garbage in: garbage out. Continuing with our high level policy driven Public Comment, BDCP regulation-driven responses justifying the exorbitant costs refers to non-applicable and outdated policy, in our state of 500-year drought where clean slate approach is called for, one of locally based adaptation to ever worsening but no longer scientifically predictable as to severity of consequences, as we are all on the exponential curve divorcing ourselves of linear predictedness of conditions which might otherwise linger for habitation in California and the world.

Dr. Alex Hall downloaded IPCC world climatic algorithms for Los Angeles County to allow a glimpse of our climate out to 2060 and his expertise was not tapped for the BDCP. His work needs to be expanded for California as it pertains to this Plan.

Dr. Hall, of the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and his team projected temperature profiles for the period 2041-2060 (30 to 50 years from now) for two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios: first, GHG concentration of approximately 1200 ppm CO2 equivalent (which
is projected to be the highest estimate among current policy options); and second, GHG concentration of approximately 460 ppm CO2 equivalent (framed in the study as at the lowest estimate within the current range of policy options).

Unforgiving, ever worsening conditions and outside formerly certain predictedness, here is Dr. Hall’s entire study.

Ethiopia’s resourcefulness to become water-sustainably resilient for habitation in today’s Extreme Climate Emergency shows California’s water wars to be on the wrong path. Water out of thin air works in Ethiopia but in relatively water-rich California, water appears to be politically cut out of whole cloth.

A new development by VittoriLab might offer a solution – The Warka Water Towers were inspired by the Warka tree, native to Ethiopia and commonly used as a central community gathering space. The tower, developed by architecture and vision is a vertical system that harvests portable, clean water right from the air through condensation.


When examining the Warka Water Towers project drawings, the foundations of sacred geometry as the golden ratio, spiral and flower life can be seen –



Op. cit.

More Alternatives to the present BDCP Plan: locally-based Permaculture, Edible forests (see Seattle’s citation), aquaculture, hydroponics (see NBC recent report citations on groundwater pumping shrinking aquifers and profound land subsidencesevere 2014 drought in California, and its affect on agriculture, food prices and water supply), to lower water demand: replacing water-intensive crops like almonds, pistachios and cotton with hemp. You know when mainstream media sounds alarms on this fad called Big Agriculture, it’s already a lost cause.

California’s cities have new policy tool to support “urban agriculture”

Water profiteering, irresponsible use, and lack of foresight bringing Texas farmers to their knees

Instead of using the water responsibly, some landowners have envisioned lucrative business opportunities through the years. Billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, who owns 211,000 acres near the Texas-Oklahoma border, sold his water rights for $103 million to the strapped cities of Lubbock and Amarillo.

NBC News declares ‘billions could starve’ as America’s water aquifers run dry

So as California’s water and persistence in agriculture disappears in permanent drought wracking the world’s 8th largest economy, don’t look for relief in the US mid-section for water or food growing. Meat consumption is becoming moot.

A new study, just out from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reaffirms that meat production has an outsized impact on climate change, and that beef is the worst offender. It suggests that, if we want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, it would be more effective to give up red meat than to stop driving cars. This means that, “from an environmental standpoint, paleo’s ‘Let them eat steak’ approach is a disaster,” Kolbert wrote.

Cost accountability, full disclosure, and transparency of a behemoth 25 to 69 billion dollar project is not attainable, but thoroughly achievable by holding the mission of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to maintain the largest estuary in North America, as a state-wide performance standard and vision to meet by breaking down the behemoth Plan to 58 local county-wide, watershed based action plans for water treatment, recycling, conversation, remediation, aquifer recharge, groundwater management, desalination of brackish not sea water. Local economic-based ecological-based job growth results.

The main difference between aquaponics and hydroponics, besides the absence of fish, is that in hydroponics, the water eventually becomes toxic and must be disposed of properly. During the growing phase, while the hydroponic system has relatively clean water, both technologies (aquaponics and hydroponics) cycle water very efficiently. In fact, both technologies have been shown to utilize vastly less water than the amount required in traditional in-ground agriculture; estimates range from 5-10% of the water required to grow an equivalent amount of produce in soil, outdoors. In hydroponics, however, the nutrient solutions eventually become so out of balance that they become unusable and the growers must discard them.

For any hope of continuing habitation in California, we need a resilient state-wide Plan to adapt to the inexorable 500 year drought, a Plan with locally based accountability, transparency and full disclosure of means and methods to reach ecological remediation of our estuary at a small fraction of the behemoth Plan to be affordable by water rate payers and taxpayers.


One thought on “California Water Wars in the 500-Year Drought: Bay Delta Conservation Plan in the Crossfire

  1. Copies of the documents, and a way to send your comments, are available at the official Bay Delta Conservation Plan website at:

    You can also find more information about the Plan and what it means for Los Angeles and the rest of California, and also for valued wetlands and rich diversity of animal life that call the Bay Delta home. You can also read about opposition to the Plan at various independent websites, including, but not limited to:

    Liked by 1 person

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