[env-trinity] SF Chronicle 11 24 10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Nov 24 08:34:47 PST 2010


Westlands Water District yanks delta plan funding


Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer <mailto:kzito at sfchronicle.com> 

San Francisco Chronicle November 24, 2010 04:00 AM
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2010/11/24/MNP21GGIUR.D
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e.com/MAI/ca20101124MNP21GGIUR.DTL/E/ProdWednesday, November 24, 2010

 

 

 
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Michael Macor / SFC

Fishermen try their luck in the California Aqueduct near Mountain House Road
at the eastern end of the Altamont Pass in 2007.

 
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*
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/11/24/national/w03011
5S12.DTL> AP Exclusive: Color-coded terror alerts may end 11.24.10

The largest agricultural water district in the country has yanked its
support for a plan to manage the future of California's
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/California>  deteriorating Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Sacramento_-_San_Joaquin_River_Delta> ,
casting doubt on the fate of a process many hoped would solve the water
supply and environmental crises in the estuary.

In a strongly worded letter sent late Monday to David Hayes, deputy
secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/United_States_Department_of_the_Interior> ,
the Westlands Water District charged the Obama
<http://www.sfgate.com/barack-obama/>  administration with "misinformed
political interference" and said the district wouldn't fund the Bay Delta
Conservation Plan unless it was guaranteed sufficient water deliveries -
roughly 70 percent of historical averages.

"As a public agency, Westlands cannot continue to spend millions of our
ratepayers' dollars on a project that is likely to deliver no more and
potentially less water to the public than they are receiving today," wrote
Jean Sagouspe, president of Westlands, the agency that irrigates as much as
$2 billion worth of nuts and produce on 600,000 acres in and around Fresno.

In his response Tuesday, Hayes called the district's assertions about
reduced water deliveries baseless and committed his department to a thorough
scientific analysis of the plan, a draft of which was released last week.

"Given the status of the (Bay Delta Conservation Plan) process, the promise
it holds, and the consequences of its failure, it will be a disservice to
all involved if Westlands prematurely walks away from the process based on
unfounded conclusions or the mere fact that a range of operational criteria
are being reviewed," Hayes wrote.


Targeting Brown


Critics privately called Westlands' withdrawal political grand-standing
aimed at winning concessions on environmental rules from Gov.-elect Jerry
Brown <http://www.sfgate.com/jerry-brown/>  and possibly even federal
regulators. Earlier this year, Westlands ally Sen. Dianne Feinstein
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Dianne_Feinstein> , D-Calif., proposed,
then withdrew, a proposal to suspend the Endangered Species Act
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Endangered_Species_Act>  in order to
increase water exports from the delta.

One of the environmental groups on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan steering
committee said the delta's crashing habitat simply must come first.

"Westlands wants its supply guarantees before anyone else - that's not how
this process works," said Cynthia Koehler, water legislative director with
the Environmental Defense Fund
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Environmental_Defense_Fund> . "This is
about saving the estuary from death. We could all march into this process
and have temper tantrums, but that's not going to get us very far."

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan committee convened four years ago under the
auspices of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The idea was to craft a roadmap to
balance the needs of a healthy estuary and water supplies for farms and
millions of city dwellers over a 50-year period. While the effort involved a
coalition of water agencies, environmental groups and state and federal
agencies, Westlands picked up most of the $150 million tab for studies and
planning.


Focus on pipeline


To date, work has focused on a pipeline - now a tunnel estimated at more
than $12 billion - that would route water from the Sacramento River
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/Sacramento_River> , around the core of the
estuary, to large pumps in the south delta. Proponents say the structure
would achieve two goals: ensure a stable supply of water and prevent native
fish from being entrained in the current pumps. Federal orders designed to
protect those fish have in recent years reduced pumping by the federal and
state networks that send water to 3 million acres of farmland and 25 million
residents.

Recent federal scientific reports have suggested, however, that diverting
water around the delta would pull salty water farther inland and harm
sensitive fish species. And, some state research supports additional flow
through the estuary, not less.


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*
<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/11/24/national/w03011
5S12.DTL> AP Exclusive: Color-coded terror alerts may end 11.24.10

The political winds have also shifted. Water utilities that draw their water
from sources upstream of the delta, including many in the Bay Area - argue
that a new delta pipeline amounts to a water grab masterminded by a set of
politically connected agencies, mostly in Southern California
<http://topics.sfgate.com/topics/California> . At the same time, Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar has taken a more active role in trying to solve the
delta's thorny ecological problems. The state, meanwhile, mandated cities
cut water use 20 percent by 2020 to reduce stress on the delta.

California lawmakers discussed similar targets for agriculture during the
debate over 2009's water reform package, but none made the final bill.
Nevertheless, Westlands insists that it and its fellow water contractors
have done their part by forgoing about 1 million acre-feet of water annually
as prescribed by earlier environmental agreements. These days the agency
says it receives between 25 and 45 percent of the water it requests from the
federal Central Valley Project.


Sacrifices made


"We agree that everyone has to sacrifice," said Westlands spokeswoman Sarah
Woolf. "But we can't grow crops with no water."

Even without Westlands' checkbook, many of the other water agencies involved
in the planning process expect it to continue. The State Water Contractors,
a group of 27 utilities, said Tuesday enough money remains to complete the
next phase of the plan, including more technical analysis.

In the very near term, the state is planning to release an assessment of the
Bay Delta Conservation Plan work thus far. The early December report will
provide some guidance on next steps to the incoming administration.

With California mired in a $25 billion financial hole, however, few
observers anticipate any major moves on the water front.

"Westlands is laying out a marker here as we're in this holding pattern
between administrations," said Jim Metropulos, water analyst with the Sierra
Club. "But with the deficit, that's going to suck a lot of the air out of
the room."

 

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 

 

 

 

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