California selected a new Governor this month, along with a lot of new legislators. Voters also approved a majority legislative vote to pass a state budget – but then adopted ballot measures that complicate budget balancing. Go figure!
But regardless of who is elected some big problems remain. A reliable water supply for California, how to protect and improve the Delta ecosystem and protection and enhancement of the Delta are high on that list. Governor Schwarzenegger will continue to work on this problem until his term is finished, and Governor-elect Brown is likely to take up the task as soon as he is sworn into office.
At the Delta Stewardship Council, we are working hard to follow the new water/Delta policy legislation signed into law in 2009. Our biggest job is to adopt an enforceable Delta Plan:
On or before January 1, 2012, the council shall develop, adopt, and commence implementation of the Delta Plan … that furthers the coequal goals. (CA Water Code §85300(a)
The term “coequal goals” is one we use often at the Council, and it is one that is spelled out clearly in statute:
"\'Coequal goals\' means the two goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The coequal goals shall be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place." (CA Water Code §85054)
You can follow our work on our website deltacouncil.ca.gov, but I strongly recommend you pay attention to a couple of things:
• Start with the law. Information on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act of 2009 can be found on our website.
• Read the second draft Notice of Preparation (NOP) here, the key document starting our environmental review process. We have reviewed two draft NOPs after receiving public comments and will adopt the final version for publication in December 2010. Agencies and the public will have a minimum of 45 days to provide comments on the NOP following its publication.
The NOP is the first step in preparation of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Delta Plan. The NOP provides a notice to federal, state, and local agencies and the public to provide comments on the content of the EIR and the range of alternatives, potentially significant impacts, and mitigation measures that will be addressed in the EIR. Key issues in the NOP surround the extent of the planning area that will be addressed by the Delta Plan alternatives. The NOP identifies the Primary Planning Area, which includes the geographic Delta. The secondary planning area includes areas upstream of the Delta and areas that use water from the Delta watershed – places where decisions about water, flood management, and the ecosystem have the potential to affect the Delta.
The Notice is a starting point. The final alternatives to be evaluated in detail in the EIR can and will be changed after we receive public comments.
• Read the Draft Environmental Report when it is released in mid-June 2011. The Draft EIR will evaluate alternatives that the Delta Stewardship Council will consider during development of the Delta Plan. And, like the Delta Plan itself, the alternatives will be guided by the legislation, including the eight policy objectives defined by the California Legislature (Section §85020):
– Manage the Delta’s water and environmental resources and the water resources of the state over the long term;
– Protect and enhance the unique cultural, recreational and agricultural values of the California Delta as an evolving place;
– Restore the Delta ecosystem, including its fisheries and wildlife, as the heart of a healthy estuary and wetland ecosystem;
– Promote statewide water conservation, water use efficiency and sustainable water use;
– Improve water quality to protect human health and the environment consistent with achieving water quality objectives in the Delta;
– Improve the water conveyance system and expand statewide water storage;
– Reduce risks to people, property and state interests in the Delta by effective emergency preparedness, appropriate land uses, and investments in flood protection; and
– Establish a new governance structure with the authority, responsibility, accountability, scientific support and adequate and secure funding to achieve these objectives.
All this sounds complicated, and it is. But the Legislature and Governor want our process to be thoughtful, public, and detailed. Stick with us; the decisions could impact everyone in California.