The Delta Stewardship Council convened a special meeting June 16 to discuss alternatives that will be reviewed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), as well as the newly minted fourth staff draft of the Delta Plan.
An EIR is a requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The document lists various concepts that will mitigate an issue, in this case achieving the coequal goals for the Delta. Seven alternatives make up the Council’s EIR, including the staff draft of the Delta Plan. The other six were offered by members of the public.
“This is a rare public process where you know your comments will be read, thought about, discussed, and often accepted,” said Anson Moran of The Delta Wetlands Project.
The seven alternatives cover five issue areas in which the Delta Stewardship Council will either enact policy or make recommendations through the final Delta Plan. Those areas include water supply reliability, ecosystem restoration, water quality, flood risk and protecting the Delta as an evolving place.
While every alternative addressed the coequal goals, each approached the five different issue areas with varying degrees of emphasis. For example, two alternatives offered an increased emphasis on water supply reliability. Another two had an increased on ecosystem restoration. And one alternative focused solely on ways to enhance the Delta community.
“It is a balance, because it’s a programmatic document (versus a project-level document),” said Project Director Gwen Buchholz. In other words, the Delta Plan will become a program of ideas instead of construction project. This makes it a fluid document requiring a balance from all who invest in the process.
It also means the Council has its work cut out for it. In order to evaluate all the reasonable alternatives, the Council must study a wide range of different options.
“We may end up choosing belts, suspenders and flying monkeys when we’re done,” Council member Felicia Marcus said facetiously.“We might do all of the above in order to have a safer path to the next 90 years.”
As the Council considered the alternatives, member Patrick Johnson offered thoughts on how the Plan should read regarding risk reduction for people in the Delta.
“We should say that reducing the risk of loss of life is a primary purpose (of the Plan),” he said. “But we should stop short of…saying that no more people should move to an area because there is a seismic risk. With that logic, if we tore down the Bay Bridge we wouldn’t rebuild it.”
When adopted, the Delta Plan will be a legally enforceable document that will guide state and local agencies to achieve the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.