Op Ed: BDCP a scientifically sound solution for water shortage
by Mark Cowin
Jul 18, 2014 | 4585 views | 8 8 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The state of California is taking decisive and comprehensive action to protect and develop water supplies throughout the state, both to manage the impact of the drought and to plan for the long term.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is just one piece in the Brown administration’s overall water portfolio — but it is a vitally important piece.

The value of the State Water Project to the people of California is extraordinary. Twenty-five million people and 3 million acres of farmland rely on Delta-conveyed water. The regions of California that receive water from the Delta produce hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods and services each year. Water from the Delta supports the state’s $42.6 billion agricultural industry, which produces much of the nation’s domestically grown produce.

Modernizing this water “transport” system while restoring and protecting the Delta ecosystem is a very high priority.

And so is the Delta economy, which relies heavily on agriculture. The BDCP would protect approximately 50,000 acres of cultivated lands, ensuring that agricultural uses on those lands would continue in perpetuity. Operators of the federal and state water projects would have to continue to meet the state-enforced water quality standards that protect farming and drinking water in the Delta.

Additionally, the BDCP addresses the need for financial assistance to help Delta farmers maintain or improve agricultural productivity through a range of stewardship strategies that have been developed with feedback from the Delta agricultural community.

In order to minimize the effects on local governments in the region, the BDCP has committed to offset the loss of local property tax and assessment revenue. The BDCP would create approximately 155,000 construction jobs and increase economic activity in local communities where those jobs are located. That would be in addition to jobs created through habitat restoration. The BDCP also would protect nearly a million jobs through water supply reliability statewide.

There has been considerable misinformation promulgated about the BDCP, which has confused the public. One important point is that the plan is designed to change and improve how existing water moves through the Delta. The amount of water moved through the State Water Project would not increase. In fact, water diversions under the BDCP would fall within 10 percent of the historic 20-year average.

While the BDCP is not intended to create more storage (other state initiatives are addressing storage), it is absolutely intended to capture water when it is available.

During the last wet month on record, December 2012, pumping was severely restricted because of the presence of Delta smelt near the pumps. About 800,000 acre-feet of water was lost because the point of diversion at the existing south Delta pumps posed an environmental threat that could not be avoided. If the BDCP were in place at the time, a different point of diversion in the north Delta could have captured that water.

Even water captured by newly created storage would need a reliable mode of conveyance, and the status quo in the Delta does not provide that reliability.

Failing to move forward with the BDCP, as one piece of the comprehensive water portfolio, would be costly to both the state’s economy and the Delta environment. It is time for a commonsense and badly needed upgrade to the state’s primary water infrastructure system.

The BDCP is viable, prudent and founded on cutting-edge scientific inquiry. It is the best hope we have to resolving the Delta’s long-standing, undisputed water conveyance and ecosystem problems. The status quo is clearly not an option. The BDCP is the solution we need today.

To get the facts on the BDCP, visit: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com.

• Mark Cowin is the director of the California Department of Water Resources.

 
Comments
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tracynative22
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July 22, 2014
The appearance of Mr Cowin's Op Ed in our local paper appears somewhat desperate and many people know why. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan has no conservation in it, and is not a solution for citizens, land and business owners and small farmers in Northern California. Do not listen to this deceptive argument about why it might be good for us - it is simply not true.

Corporate farming south of our region may benefit, but the small farmers and land owners in our productive and beautiful Delta region will suffer greatly, and the Governor and his staff, including Mr Cowin, know this. IT is a huge disappointment that the BDCP has gotten this far, and I urge everyone to strongly oppose it and let Sacramento politicians know.
grungymike
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July 28, 2014
We're working on it...

criticalreader
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July 19, 2014
For Mr. Cowin to say the BDCP would "protect" 50,000 acres of agricultural land is pure misinformation. Most of the agricultural land in the Delta is already protected by existing development limitations. Moreover, the BDCP "protected" lands would be limited to certain crops that BDCP needs to provide habitat for the birds and other species that would be displaced by flooding existing islands. Sacrificing sustainable Delta agriculture to continue unsustainable permanent crops in the SJ Valley is ridiculous. Mr. Cowin also fails to mention that about 1/5th of the flows needed for the new tunnels would need to be purchased from Sacramento Valley agriculture, destroying even more farmland. BDCP is bad news for agriculture throughout northern California. Rerouting the Sacramento River into huge tunnels is not a long term solution to California's water challenges and will only cause more problems. Unfortunately DWR hasn't learned anything in the last 50 years since the CVP and SWP were built.
lamlr2@aol.com
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July 18, 2014
Mr. Cowin states that the Delta economy relies heavily on agriculture and that protecting the Delta ecosystem in a very high priority. He then proclaims, “The BDCP would protect approximately 50,000 acres of cultivated lands, ensuring that agricultural uses on those lands would continue in perpetuity”. Mark Cowin is the director of Department of Water Resources (DWR). According to the DWR’s website the Delta consists of over 538,000 acres of agricultural farm land. So, what’s going to happen to the other 488,000 acres of prime farmland when BDCP begins managing the Delta?
billmonroe
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July 18, 2014
Mr. Cowin is correct about one thing, " there has been considerable misinformation promulgated about the BDCP, which has confused the public." Most of the misinformation has come from Cowin's Department of Water Resouces (DWR) and the Natural Resource agency. It should tell you something when the Assistant Director of Public Affairs of the DWR charged with maintaining a good public image for the project makes as much as Gerry Meral, the Assistant Director of the Natural Resource Agency who was until recently in charge of the project (according to the 2013 state worker salary database both made $108,000 per year).

The heart of the BDCP is a scheme to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta with twin 40 foot diameter tunnels. While the original intakes proposed will have a capacity of 9,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) the tunnels themselves would have a capacity exceeding 200,000 cfs which could effectively drain the watershed of Northern California. The Delta is currently damaged because of excessive water exports and removing an additional 800,000 acre feet as Cowin proposes will create even more problems by killing fish and destroying agriculture. These are the m
billmonroe
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July 18, 2014
These are the main reasons that virtually everyone in the Delta and most people in Northern California oppose the BDCP. When you add the impact of 24 hour construction going on for possibly ten years and 155,000 construction workers commuting daily to the Delta during that time period it will create more of a disaster with the construction workers competing with agricultural trucks and equipment, residents, and visitors for narrow roads, many atop levees with no guard rails.

Cowin mentions the much maligned Delta Smelt (a two inch minnow according to wildlife expert Sean Hannity), it is not only the smelt that are suffering it is all fish in the Delta. Salmon, Striped Bass, Sturgeon, etc because of water exports.

Bill Wells

Executive Director

California Delta Chambers & Visitor's Bureau

tracyresdnt
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July 18, 2014
...again with the GD Smelt.
Macpup
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July 18, 2014
BDCP aka Tunnels aka Peripheral Canal.. It has been given many names, but it all means Southern California wants more water, and they don't want the leftovers transported by the California Aqueduct. The Department of Water Resources should be focusing on increasing dams to save water and produce hydro-power (clean energy)instead of this propaganda spewed by the Southern Water Contractors.


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