Representatives from the Natural Resources Agency and the Contra Costa Water District say the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process will be more open and transparent – including the development of alternatives for a water conveyance in the Delta.
At the April meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Karla Nemeth, Natural Resources Agency program manager for the BDCP, explained the new engagement plan for completing the BDCP and the broader public and stakeholder participation goals.
“The big challenge BDCP is facing is its program’s complexity and varying stakeholder interest,” Nemeth stated. “We must move in a transparent way.”
Her presentation was important to the Council because if the completed BDCP meets the requirements of Water Code section 85320, including the approval by the Department of Fish and Game as being a natural community conservation plan, and the approval of the federal Endangered Species Act as being a habitat conservation plan, it must be included into the Delta Plan as mandated by the Delta Reform Act of 2009.
Nemeth further defined the goals and purpose of the BDCP by saying the new process will include holding work groups with up to 12 stakeholders to help address specific issues that must be resolved before a draft BDCP can be completed.
The first phase of workgroups, she said, will address issues pertaining to biological goals, habitat restoration, governance structure and in-Delta water quality modeling. Progress made by the BDCP work groups will be presented during plenary and public meetings for all interested parties and the general public. Council member Randy Fiorini was complimentary of the new approach.
“I like the working group approach to focus on a particular issue in a smaller setting and then bring it to the public for review,” Fiorini said at the Council’s April meeting.
Referencing BDCP studies, Greg Gartrell, assistant general manager from Contra Costa Water District, reported on water conveyance alternatives that he said should be considered, including a tunnel option because of the Delta’s high seismic risks to existing levees.
“There is a 99 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 seismic event in the Bay Area occurring in the next 30 years,” Gartrell said. “There is no way we want to build up levees high enough to create a canal when our existing system is at such great risk.”
Gartrell further expressed that he didn’t know if a canal would improve the Delta ecosystem in the long term. But, he believes the construction of one in the short term could worsen the ecosystem up to and including the Delta smelt’s food supply, its water temperature and problems with predation.
“We have a long time to deal with long term fixes” Gartrell said. “In the short term, we need fixes real quick.”
Nemeth and Gartrell said the BDCP is expected to be completed in 2014.