[env-trinity] Environmental Water Caucus Unveils California Water Solutions

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Wed Oct 20 17:05:02 PDT 2010


Environmental Water Caucus Unveils California Water Solutions

by Dan Bacher

Proponents of the peripheral canal and new dams often complain that  
critics of these controversial water projects have no "solutions" to  
California's water and fishery problems.

Well, the Environmental Water Caucus (EWC), a coalition of 27  
environmental groups, fishing organizations, environmental justice  
groups and Native American tribes, has crafted a comprehensive  
solution to how Californians can restore their fisheries and meet  
water needs at the same time.

The EWC recently presented a ground-breaking series of proposals to  
the Delta Stewardship Council, the newly-formed state agency that is  
charged with finding a balance between water reliability and Bay- 
Delta environmental recovery.

The caucus provided a series of recommendations on water that  
included an aggressive statewide water conservation program that can  
reduce water use by 8 million acre feet annually and the retirement  
of toxic farmlands that use almost 4 million acre feet of water per  
year, acccording to a news release from EWC. They paired their  
recommendations with a reduction of Delta pumping that will help  
restore the Bay-Delta ecology and fisheries.

"The Caucus recommendations have been boosted by the State Water  
Resources Control Board’s recent report that concluded that more  
water must be allowed to flow through the Bay-Delta in order to  
protect the health and public resources of this critically important  
watershed," EWC noted.

The recommendations by the Caucus were presented as an alternative to  
the pending proposals by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Bay Delta  
Conservation Plan (BDCP). The widely-criticized plan is designed to  
construct either a tunnel under the Bay-Delta or a peripheral canal  
around the Delta

BDCP critics fear that the peripheral canal/tunnel, designed to  
facilitate water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern  
California, will lead to the extinction of collapsing populations of  
Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta  
smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail and other fish. The canal/ 
tunnel would cost an estimated $23 billion to $53.8 billion,  
according to an analysis last year by economist Steven Kasower.

Dr. Mark Rockwell, representing the fishing community for EWC, said,  
“This BDCP plan will continue the destructive water extractions from  
the Delta and block any hope of recovery for fisheries and the Delta  
environment. We have to find a new way to manage water that does not  
involve reliance on the Delta. The recently published EWC report,  
California Water Solutions Now, accomplishes this goal.”

For many years, fishermen, Tribes and environmentalistshave worked  
relentlessly to increase the amount of water flowing through the  
Delta and to San Francisco Bay in order to restore and protect the  
health of the estuary. Large water contractors south of the Delta,  
led by Westlands Water District, have fought just as incessantly to  
increase the amount of water pumped through the Delta in order to  
irrigate farms and accommodate a growing population.

"It’s a classic California water battle and seems to have no end,"  
said David Nesmith, EWC coordinator. "This battle for water must end  
if we are to ever achieve a balance between the State’s need for  
water, and our desire to have a healthy environment and save our  

“The Environmental Water Caucus has presented this alternative  
proposal that stresses water use reductions and avoids the multiple  
billions of dollars that would be needed to construct a major tunnel  
or canal through the Delta," said Nick Di Croce, long time water  
advocate and EWC consultant. "It is a non-structural alternative (no  
surface storage or new Delta conveyance) that can meet the needs of  
our growing population at least until 2050.”

This report documents numerous analyses of water efficient  
technologies and approaches that can save or reduce water consumption  
in urban areas by as much as 5 million acre-feet a year by 2030  
compared with current trends – enough water to support population  
growth of almost 30,000,000 people.

"According to the California Water Plan Update 2009, the state’s  
population can be expected to increase by 22,000,000 over the next 40  
years if current population trends hold," the report's executive  
summary states. "Clearly, a well-managed future water supply to take  
us to 2050 is within reach with the current supplies and with an  
aggressive water conservation program."

Using the Strategic Goals and Recommendations from the Environmental  
Water Caucus’ report, the Caucus showed in their presentation how the  
actions called for in the report will save or reduce enough water  
consumption to allow the Delta exports to be reduced, in keeping with  
the State Water Board’s report on Delta flows.

“In the same way that California can no longer just continue to build  
highways to accommodate our population growth, we must find different  
kinds of technological and societal solutions to protect our most  
valuable, limited and life-giving resource: water," said Michael  
Jackson, EWC steering committee member.

The Caucus closed their proposal by challenging the Delta Stewardship  
Council to analyze their proposal as one of the alternatives to be  
considered in the future Delta Plan. Additionally, they proposed a  
council workgroup to further develop the recommendations in the EWC  
report, and to bring together people from all sides to discuss how  
this can be implemented.

Mark Franco, headman of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and an EWC member,  
pointed out the absurdity of claims that building a peripheral canal,  
as envisioned by BDCP officials, will somehow "save" the Delta.

“The peripheral canal is a big, stupid idea that doesn’t make any  
sense from a tribal environmental perspective,” stated Franco.  
“Building a canal to save the Delta is like a doctor inserting an  
arterial bypass from your shoulder to your hand– it will cause your  
elbow to die just like taking water out of the Delta through a  
peripheral canal will cause the Delta to die.”

The EWC report shows how California can meet its water needs and  
restore its imperiled fish populations without building an  
environmentally destructive and enormously costly peripheral canal  
and new dams. You can read the report and find out more about the  
Environmental Water Caucus at their website: http://ewccalifornia.org.
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