[env-trinity] SF Chronicle 4 12 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Sun Apr 12 09:48:30 PDT 2009

State must rescue delta from crisis


Congressman George Miller, State Senator Lois Wolk


Sunday, April 12, 2009



California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the
Pacific Coast of the Americas, is in crisis. Multiple species of fish are in
rapid decline. First the delta smelt, and then the steelhead and salmon that
once migrated through the estuary by the tens of thousands. Now, even the
orcas that feed on the salmon are threatened. The dominoes are falling every

California water resources 04.12.09 

This crisis didn't happen overnight. It came after years of mismanagement by
the federal and state water and wildlife agencies that ignored what the
science was telling them and resisted new realities about climate change. 

Fortunately, change in Washington is giving Californians new opportunities
to rescue our delta from the failed policies of the past. With a new
administration committed to sustainable energy and environmental policy, it
is time to form a new state-federal-local partnership to save the delta. 

We need this vital region - its ecosystem and its economy - to thrive.
Working together, we can use new tools to meet our clean water needs,
overhaul the responsible agencies, and implement a new management plan that
is grounded in science - and gets results.

But first we must realize that there are no silver bullets that will solve
all of California's water woes. Suspending the federal Endangered Species
Act certainly won't do it. Nor will sprinting to commit billions of taxpayer
dollars to dig a water supply ditch the size of the Panama Canal around the

Our years in California water policy have taught us that you've got to put
the right policies in place before you decide to build expensive and
divisive water infrastructure. 

Yet the state Department of Water Resources is now spending more than $1.1
billion on canal and water project planning - off budget, with no
legislative oversight or public accountability - while Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger's Cabinet has asserted that the state could break ground on a
canal before the governor's term expires. 

There are better answers, both short and long term, that have a greater
chance to bring back our fisheries, deliver reliable clean water, and
bolster, not threaten, the delta region, including its $35 billion economy
with more than 200,000 jobs. These solutions include the region's
communities as partners, not adversaries. 

Immediately, we should expand proven and cost-effective water supply
strategies such as conservation, recycling, groundwater cleanup,
desalination, enhanced coordination between reservoirs, and regional water
supply projects in Southern California and the Bay Area. President Obama's
economic recovery package included a record $126 million for water reuse
projects across the West: a good start, but only a drop in the bucket given
the demands we face. 

In the longer term, we believe that the delta needs a steward, an entity
whose sole responsibility is the recovery and health of the delta. We
propose a Delta Stewardship Council, which will include representation from
different perspectives, all bound by a legal obligation to restore and
protect the delta ecosystem. This would help resolve the confusion of 200
federal, state, and local agencies bumping into one another, often at cross
purposes, while decision-makers' primary obligations are to outside
interests with no responsibility for this critical estuary's survival.

The delta and its watershed also need funding, a conservancy like those
California has established to preserve other natural treasures: the coast,
the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe. 

Much like the Florida Everglades, the delta is a vital economic and
environmental resource - not just a plumbing fixture that two-thirds of the
state relies upon for its water supply. 

Several months ago, the Delta Vision Task Force took an important first step
by identifying two co-equal goals for delta policy: water supply reliability
and restoring the ecosystem. We believe in elevating a third goal, the delta
itself as a place, including the communities, economy, culture, historic,
recreational and environmental values that make it valuable to all

We recognize California's water supply challenges are real and
interconnected to the crisis in the delta. Both issues demand action and
results. As residents and elected representatives of the region, we urge all
Californians to work together to get the policy right before we make the
problem worse. 

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, is a member of the House leadership and the
former chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. State Sen. Lois
Wolk, D-Davis, is chair of Senate Select Committee on Delta Stewardship and
Sustainability, and a member of Delta Protection Commission.



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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