17 Dec 2009

Report on California water laws

Addendum: Changed the title to reflect the content!

BP sent this report on The New Delta & California Water Legislation: How will it affect the Bay Area?

Here is an article that reviews the event.

Speaker: Ellen Hanak, PPIC
Ellen spoke about the PPIC reports Envisioning/Comparing Futures for the Delta (also see this op/ed). She described the future detla with sea level rise as large bodies of open water inland and loss of ~ 15 delta islands. With this future coming, which islands/levees are strategic and should be bolstered?
Four water supply "options"
  1. status quo
  2. peripheral canal or tunnel
  3. dual conveyance
  4. no exports.
PPIC conclusion is that best option to balance to economy and environment is #2. She mentioned that support of this option assumes that there would be substantial investment into delta ecosystem, habitat investments, and governance safeguards for environmental flows. The new legislation lays the ground work, important work to be done on who should pay: Export water users should pay (both upstream and downstream of delta), diverters should contribute funds for ecosystem (including bay area agencies).

Speaker: Karla Nemeth (CA Resources Agency)
Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)...designed to address multiple species. Will look at habitat restoration, water operations and other stressors. Dual conveyance would be designed to restore east-west flows to the Delta, allow fish to move through the delta without being physically handled. Potential habitat restoration of 20 miles channel restoration, 10k acres of flood plain, 65k acres of tidal marsh restoration, 5k acres riparian. More info to be found here.

Speaker: Peter Gleick (Pacific Institute)
Peter said "water is a human right". He spoke about the "Taboos" of CA water:
  1. We don't measure and monitor all water use in CA 
  2. We don't measure/monitor ground water in CA  
  3. We don't have a good sense of who pays and how much and for what, in terms of water in the state (prices, subsidies, productivity)  
  4. Water rights in general-- more needed to be done esp regarding illegal diversions.
  • On the water legislation: if it is a first step then good. If it is all that we do, then bad.
  • The legislation : weak (urban conservation 20x2020), weaker (monitoring & enforcement provisions), weakest (no specific targets for AG).
  • On the future of the Delta: unavoidable long term change : climate change, levy failure due to earthquake and/or storm floods. We won't prepare for either adequately and we'll spend more to fix after rather than prep upfront.
  • On Carlsbad Desal Plant: the water generated won't specifically be used to reduce withdraws from the Delta. this could have been a provision of the deal but isn't.
Speaker: Alf Brandt (Council for the Assembly Committee on Parks and Wildlife (works for Jared Huffman) He gave a summary of all the legislation. He emphasized that a key policy of the legislation is reduced reliance on the delta for water supply (although it isn't immediately clear on how that is accomplished). He emphasized that the legislation does not  authorize a peripheral canal. There would be many steps required before such a project is approved (permits, etc.) and that he thinks users should pay for such infrastructure. Flow criteria still being developed (to be determined by ~august 2010) and will go into BDCP. He said Huffman is now neutral on the bond measure itself.

Bay Area response to legislation:
  • Andrew Michael (Bay Area Council): Council generally supportive of bond and legislation. 
  • Erza Rapport (ABAG): we need to develop better language to communicate to the public the importance of the water bond (implying that the bond could fail otherwise)
  • Kate Poole (NRDC): NRDC supported the legislative package as a step in the right direction but does not support the bond. She said that the legislation represents a fundamental shift in thinking about a reduced reliance/diversions from the Delta.
  • Randele Kanouse (EBMUD): (See this PDF) A new conveyance will likely result in up to 6 MAF out of the delta. Making up that water is NOT an obligation of EBMUD.  On the bond: we should consider alternate mechanisms such as a statewide user fee.
  • Jennifer Cleary (Clean Water Action):  CWA opposed the legislation and the bond. The new Stewardship Council lacks real power and lacks funding authority. The water conservation legislation is weak, bay area already doing more than what the legislation would require.