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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Delta Doozy: Water Agencies Benefit from Outdated Water System During Drought

March 4, 2015

This week’s Doozy comes from an article, “Drought Shows Folly of Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels,” written by Dan Bacher that appeared March 3 in Indybay:

“As strange as it sounds, officials from the Westlands Water District, Kern County Water Agency and Metropolitan Water District should be profusely thanking Restore the Delta (RTD), fishermen, environmentalists and Tribal leaders for opposing Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the twin tunnels.”

Some Facts for the Record:  Yes, that does indeed sound strange. The primary goal of modernizing the water system in the Delta has never been to capture large amounts of additional water in dry years. The goal has been to maintain the system’s ability to capture water in wet years and store some of this supply for dry years. The “fat levees” solution advanced by Restore the Delta is not the most cost effective alternative based on state-federal analysis. It poses major environmental and community effects to the Delta itself. 

To suggest that public water agencies are benefiting from today’s outdated water system during this drought by not investing in a long-term solution is simply not true. 

View the doozy here

Delta Doozy: Not Enough Water for Salmon because Cities and Farms are "Taking Their Share"

March 3, 2015

This week’s Doozy comes from an article, “600,000 Baby Salmon Head to the Pacific, With a Little Help,” written by Cynthia Gorney that appeared in National Geographic:

“It's not just that there isn't enough water; there's not enough cold water, especially after competing interests such as urban areas and big agriculture—each equipped with more political muscle than wild salmon advocates have—take their share.”

Some Facts for the Record: It is false to say that there isn’t enough water for salmon because cities and farms are “taking their share.” In reality, many cities and farms have received little to no water during the drought. The Central Valley Project export contract users, which serve farms throughout Central California, will get no water in 2015—the second year of zero allocations. Public water agencies that purchase water from the State Water Project and serve 26 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland received only 5 percent of the water they were contracted to receive in 2014 and are projected to get only 20 percent of their water in 2015.  

The vast majority of water that comes into the Delta first provides for upstream environmental purposes, such as maintaining cold water conditions for the benefit of wild salmon in the Sacramento River and other tributaries, before later providing for other purposes such as agricultural and municipal use. Cities and farms get a portion of what’s left, which in some cases, is none at all. To say that there isn’t enough water for salmon because it’s going to urban areas and agriculture is simply not true. 

View the doozy here

Quadruple Doozy: Motives Behind State's Plan for Delta Dams

February 13, 2015

Today’s quadruple Doozy comes from an article, “Motives behind state’s plan for Delta dams are questioned,” in the Central Valley Business Times:

“In 2004 there was a study called In-Delta Storage that led to a new project with Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District working with the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. The purpose was to expedite plans for stockpiling materials in the Delta region.”

Some Facts for the Record: The purpose of the study was to examine a possible storage/habitat project involving Bacon, Bouldin, Webb Tract and Holland Tract islands, not material stockpiling.

“Mrs. Suard said the In-Delta storage plan proposed that taxpayers purchase Staten Island for in-Delta water storage.” 

Some Facts for the Record: The study contains no such proposal.

“Last year the Bay Delta Conservation Plan moved a major part of its twin tunnel project to [Staten] Island to make a lesser footprint of the small town of Hood. “Last year the Bay Delta Conservation Plan moved a major part of its twin tunnel project to [Staten] Island to make a lesser footprint of the small town of Hood. The state owns an easement on the Island where they are planning to place some of their pipes, equipment and power lines.”

Some Facts for the Record: This year BDCP released modifications to the water system improvements that reduce the project footprint on Staten Island by 92 percent. No power lines are planned.

“Maybe the purpose of the barriers is to make sure an accidental oil spill (due to fracking) won’t get into the drinking water conveyance route.”

Some Facts for the Record: The California Department of Water Resources is studying the possible installation of three barriers in the Delta to maintain fresh water conditions in the event of a prolonged drought, not an accidental oil spill. 

View the doozy here. For more information, please visit: BDCP: Expanding Sandhill Crane Habitat.

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.

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