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Delta Doozy

Discussions about the future of California water and of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) have too often become a fact-free discourse that is not advancing an informed discussion. The State Water Contractors’ “Delta Doozy” series was launched in order to distinguish the facts from the fiction and promote constructive dialogue. 

Delta Doozy: Public Water Agencies Didn't Face Supply Cutbacks Last Year Due to Delta Smelt

January 27, 2015

This week’s Doozy comes from an opinion editorial, “Save delta salmon: Smelt are red herring in California water wars,” written by John McManus that appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle:

“When you hear about water users south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta complaining about delta smelt forcing restrictions on water pumping, take it with a grain of salt…The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is on record saying there were no restrictions on delta water pumping in 2014 caused by smelt.”

Some Facts for the Record: Salmon fisherman John McManus says to take it with a grain of salt when public water agencies say California’s two largest water projects (that serve much of the Bay Area) faced supply cutbacks last year due to Delta smelt. The problem with Mr. McManus’ assertion is that it is based on a statement made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on December 1 – a statement that is no longer true today. 

Here is a grain of information about what actually happened. The most severe restrictions are often triggered when water is abundant. When storms came through in mid-December, water agencies worked closely with fish and wildlife agencies to comply with endangered species regulations while trying to capture some water for people, businesses and farms. Despite these efforts, we still lost nearly 200,000 acre-feet of water. To put that in perspective, San Francisco uses roughly 80,000 acre-feet of water annually. Although water agencies voluntarily reduced exports to prevent more severe cutbacks, these losses were directly related to the regulations in place for Delta smelt. The claim that the state’s public water agencies did not lose water supplies due to Delta smelt protective regulations simply isn’t true.

View the doozy here.

Delta Doozy: Holy Toledo! NRDC Blames BDCP for Toxic Water Threat

August 12, 2014

The following comes from a blog titled “Toledo’s Toxic Drinking Water: Could it Happen in California” by Kate Poole, senior attorney at NRDC:

“Blue-green algae, or microcystis auruginosa, is a cyanobacterium that has bloomed in the Delta since 1999, and proliferated “dramatically” during the 2000s (a time when freshwater exports out of the Delta reached historically high levels).  The toxins released from the algae blooms can cause liver damage, cancer, vomiting, severe headaches, and fever when ingested, and rashes, hives and blisters on exposed skin. According to CalEPA, there have been no known human deaths from microcystin, but it has killed pets and wildlife…And, instead of addressing the problem, state regulators are proposing steps that may make it worse.”

Some Facts for the Record: The algae of reference thrive in low flow bodies of water. Poole attempts to link heightened levels of algae in the Delta with “historically high” water exports, but she omits that the higher diversions only happened in years with abnormally high rainfall and high outflows, creating conditions that are not associated with algae blooms. In the most recent high export year of 2011, for example, 26.9 million acre-feet of water flowed out to the Pacific Ocean. Wet-year diversions do not cause low flows and are simply not connected with algae blooms that cause liver damage and kill pets. For example, the 2011 State Water Project (SWP) Watershed Sanitary Survey did not detect microcystis at unsafe levels (one part per billion) during the four years surveyed. 

Poole writes that state regulators may make the problem worse through the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) that is “potentially threatening the drinking water supply for millions of Californians.” The BDCP proposes new water intakes that allow for sufficient capture of supplies during high outflow months of wet years and reduce pressure on the ecosystem in dry years. To further protect water quality in the Delta, the BDCP proposes a new research collaborative led by state and federal wildlife agencies that will determine future outflow needs and make decisions that will meet those needs.  While frightening to think that public water agencies are proposing to poison 25 million Californians and their pets via toxic algae in their drinking water, it simply isn’t true.

View the doozy here.

Delta Doozy: BDCP Will Cost LADWP Ratepayers $15 per month

December 18, 2013 

The following comes from a press release on the Californians for a Fair Water Policy website:

“The tunnel project is estimated to cost from $24 to over $50 billion and would force higher water bills and property taxes in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California…LADWP would need to increase water bills from $7-15 per month for over 40 years or $2,000-$4,500 per household to fund its cost share of the tunnels.”

Some Facts for the Record: The information in Californians for a Fair Water Policy’s press release that ratepayers in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power service area would see their monthly bills increase by $7-15 per month is incorrect. In fact, LADWP ratepayers would see a much lower increase of $3 per month on their water bills—it would have no impact on property taxes. To say that bills would rise as much as $4,500 over the course of the project, or up to $15 a month, is simply not true.

View the Doozy here

Delta Doozy: Water Contractors Will Have "Nearly Free Rein" Under BDCP

December 12, 2013

The following comes from an opinion editorial from Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, published in the Sacramento Bee: 

“In essence, the [BDCP] could provide nearly free rein to water contractors to operate the new water export system and decide whether that system is actually working to restore the Delta.”

Some Facts for the Record:  The proposed governing structure for BDCP is detailed in Chapter Seven in the public draft released earlier this week and in the earlier administrative draft.  This proposed structure repeatedly clarifies that state and federal agencies maintain their full regulatory authority. An example contained in Chapter Seven:  “The status of the water contractors as Authorized Entities will not provide them with any new authority over water project operations decisions or result in the delegation of authority from any state or federal agency.”  Fish and wildlife agencies will maintain their authority to establish all outflow requirements.

To say that BDCP provides nearly free rein to water contractors in the Delta simply isn’t true.

View the Doozy here

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