[env-trinity] Commentary in Sacramento Bee
bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Apr 7 10:44:35 PDT 2009
My View: New canal would not help the 'ailing' Delta
The Sacramento Bee - 4/7/09
Commentary by Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson co-manages Wilson Farms and Vineyards in the Clarksburg District
of the Delta. He served on the Stakeholders' Advisory Group to the Delta
Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force and was appointed by the governor to the Delta
Protection Commission in January 2008 as an agricultural production
The recent Viewpoint by Jeffrey Knightlinger of the Metropolitan Water
District and the Northern California Water Association's Donn Zea ("Canal
would help ailing Delta to recover," March 20), purporting a consensus
around a peripheral canal as a means to "help the Delta to recover," and
former MWD executive Timothy Quinn's letter ("Delta left out of climate
scenario," March 20) present a one-sided view of a multifaceted situation
that affects Delta residents and the entire state.
>From co-managing a family farming operation in the Delta that dates back to
1922, I am gravely concerned that the plans being made to benefit water
exporters would negatively impact the people, economy, natural resources and
ecology of the Delta.
George Orwell would grimace at the claim that a canal built through five
tributary rivers to the Delta, thousands of acres of prime farmland, a
national wildlife refuge, American Indian burial sites, migratory corridors
and other sensitive resources, and that significantly reduces freshwater
inflow into the Delta somehow helps the Delta. A canal does not create any
new water and is first and foremost a new northern diversion point for those
with contractual rights to Delta water.
The canal would secure better-quality water for out-of-watershed users and
potentially avoid some of the endangered species problems plaguing the
pumping of water from the south Delta. Yet this would be accomplished at the
expense of the Delta watershed and long-standing beneficial uses.
While new intakes south of Sacramento would decrease intake of Delta smelt
at the current pumps, the potential effects caused at the new diversion
points are unknown. What other species may be affected by the new
diversions? What effects will the resulting changes in water quality and
hydrology have on existing natural and human communities in Northern
California and the Delta?
The reference to "isolation of a recovering ecosystem from the movement of
the water supply" as some kind of favor to the Delta is self-serving. A
canal does nothing to address the underlying problems caused by the vast
distance between most of our state's surface water supply and the bulk of
water demand to the south.
Some may point to the benefits of the tens of thousands of acres of habitat
"restoration" that is another element of the Bay Delta Conservation
(peripheral canal) Plan. Creating new marshes on working farms and other
landscapes is a disruptive and dangerous experiment, not good science.
Little is known, about the effectiveness of these activities to avoid,
minimize or mitigate take of listed species like the coho salmon and Delta
smelt, which is what a habitat conservation plan is supposed to do. And what
about the destruction of existing habitats when new habitat is constructed?
Pointing to restoration projects of little known benefit that will certainly
harm existing ecosystems and economies is also a farce.
We need to address a host of problems, including rising sea levels, seismic
risks, water pollution and invasive species, while protecting endangered
species, improving water quality within the Delta, sustaining agricultural
economies within and outside of the Delta, all while providing a sustainable
water supply to a growing population. It is no small task, and has been
called a "wicked" problem.
To address these challenges, we need an "all hands on deck" approach. We
need a process that respects all interests and draws on the entire body of
As a participant in the various processes, I can attest that substantive
in-Delta concerns have been treated primarily as an outreach issue.
Surprisingly, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not a collaborative process
built on consensus as one might expect, given the massive support for
watershed-based planning that emerged from the CalFED process.
Despite the well-known fact that the best way to protect endangered species
would be to reduce water exports, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's only
real core component is, and always has been, the canal. Serious
consideration of water use efficiency and conservation, alternative supplies
such as desalination, wastewater re-use, rainwater collection, groundwater
banking, conjunctive use and additional storage south of the Delta are all
apparently being relegated to the EIR alternative analysis, where there is
little chance they will become project elements.
Calling a canal a help to the Delta is illogical doublespeak and should be
rejected, as it was in 1982. The Delta is more than the state's plumbing
system. Though not in a purely natural state, it hosts an incredible variety
of ecosystems as well as vibrant human communities. We all need to be part
of the conversation about conservation of this unique place on earth while
continuing to supply at least some of the water needed by our agricultural
and urban neighbors to the south. We all must do more to conserve water,
protect water quality and respect the myriad species that depend on the
Delta for survival.
It is obvious that the biggest loser in the current plan will be the Delta
itself. In the short term, this may meet the needs of the water exporters,
but in the long term we will all lose because the so-called solutions are
neither comprehensive nor sustainable. We can and should do better. #
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land
415 519 4810 cell
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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