[env-trinity] Water forum gets update on state plans

Joshua Allen trinityjosh at gmail.com
Wed Nov 17 11:39:46 PST 2010

Water forum gets update on state plans

Posted: 11/17/2010 12:08:58 AM PST

      CHICO — A push for a new water conveyance system around the Delta,
habitat restoration, endangered fish and other wildlife, a growing
population, and a lot of politics surround plans for what to do in
California about water.

Other big unknowns include climate change, earthquake risk and the question
of who will pay for what.

With all that on the table, the Northern Sacramento Valley Water Forum
gathered some heavy hitters in the state water world to talk about the Delta
and the idea of "more water flowing north to south" at Sierra Nevada Brewing
Co. Tuesday with an audience of about 80.

The push for the state is to recognize "co-equal goals" that include
restoring the ecosystem while improving water reliability for the entire

Within this broad plan are several pieces, which panelists addressed during
the forum.

Joe Grindstaff is executive director of the Delta Stewardship Council, which
is working on a plan that focuses on the Delta.

He noted recent studies have shown that since 1998, the state has been using
groundwater at an enormous rate.

Issues are especially precarious in the Delta, which has 1,300 miles of
levees, most of them privately owned, that could falter in a large

Also, even a rise in sea level of three feet could flood much of the area.

The Delta Plan currently calls for habitat restoration on 100,000 acres of
the 700,000 acres in the area, which Grindstaff said is "a massive

He said
it is "highly likely" the Delta Steering Committee will recommend building
either a canal or tunnel that would take water around the Delta.

Another part of the plan talks about preserving the Delta as a special
place, where generations of people have lived, farmed and enjoyed the

The second part of the plan calls for folding the Delta blueprint into the
Bay Delta Conservation Plan, currently in the works and led by the
Department of Water Resources.

Russ Stein heads the office of Environmental Compliance for DWR, which has
been working with federal and state agencies and many other water-related
groups on the plan since 2006.

The draft plan calls for restoration of 65,000 acres of freshwater and
brackish tidal habitat, 5,000 acres of riparian forest, 20-40 miles of
riverbank improvement, 10,000 acres of seasonal floodplain and using Yolo
Bypass for fish habitat.

Other targets would include control of non-native species and illegal
harvest, reducing predators and improving water quality.

Stein said all this would need to be done while existing systems such as
water delivery and power generation continue. Predictions are that climate
change will significantly reduce the amount of water available in the state.

Models predict that by 2015 there will be 6.2 million acre-feet of water
available for diversion each year, Stein said. By 2025, sea level rise is
predicted to drop this amount to 5.9 million acre feet, and a dip to 5.4
million acre feet of water by 2060.

One acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, enough water to flood one acre of
land with one foot of water.

Then there are uncertainties such as earthquakes or levee failures.

For these reasons, the plan is purposely crafted to be as adaptable as
possible, he said.

Two speakers also addressed recent reports on a process to quantify how much
water would be needed for protected land and water species, as well as
species of concern.

Les Grober of the State Water Resources Control Board, is the primary author
of the "Instream Flow Criteria," that, if taken verbatim, would dictate
enormous cutbacks to diversions along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Grober spent several minutes explaining this document.

Chad Dibble, a staff environmental scientist for California Fish and Game,
has been working on a a companion report which maps out the water needs of
different species, including 26 terrestrial and 20 aquatic species.

Some of the management concerns include the need for low salinity water in
the Suisun Bay, as well as water in the Yolo bypass.

The report is at: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/ water/water_rights_docs.html.
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