More Public Discussions Regarding the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan

Posted on 14 August 2009

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Barbara-Parrilla.jpg By Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
Campaign Director
Restore the Delta

Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes promised federal involvement and more public discussions regarding the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. To learn more about Hayes' comments and the response from Delta advocates, click here to read Alex Breitler's article in The Record.

Below is an excerpt from the letter given to Deputy Secretary Hayes from Restore the Delta at the hearing.

Dear Deputy Secretary Hayes:

On behalf of Restore the Delta - a coalition of over 3800 Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community groups, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen, and environmentalists - I want to thank you for taking the time to come to California to learn more about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. We appreciate the efforts made by your office and Secretary Salazar's office to contact the people of the Delta who are deeply concerned about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and new state legislative proposals that if implemented would lead to the final demise of the Delta.

However, today's meeting exemplifies all that has gone wrong with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, Delta management, and water management planning in California. Department of Water Resource Director Lester Snow brought together for today's panel discussion representatives from the Westland Water District and the Metropolitan District, along with Dr. Jeff Mount. Who was not included in the panel? The Delta's agricultural experts, land owners, environmentalists, commercial and recreational fishermen, water agency leaders, business leaders, boaters, wake boarders, political leaders, the poor, and community advocates from the Delta.

Today, you heard the prophecies of doom for the Delta, but what you did not hear is that according to Delta engineers these dramatic prophecies are quite overstated. According to Delta engineers, who have the type of on-the-ground expertise that cannot come from an accelerated and removed academic study, the various threats to the physical stability of the Delta can actually be solved through manageable engineering projects that would cost a fraction of the proposed peripheral canal if implemented.

But somehow these facts, ideas, and alternative solutions never make it into the discussion. Instead the debate for Delta water management has been set by the Westlands Water District and its supporters, as well as the Department of Water Resources which is petitioning to circumvent the salmon biological opinion, under the guise of people versus fish.

What is being sold to the public is an untrue story that a decrease in Delta exports is the cause of the Central Valley's economic woes, when in truth as reported yesterday by the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific, the primary cause of unemployment and revenue loss for the Central Valley is the decline in construction jobs and projects. What has been left out of the BDCP process itself, and current proposed state legislation, is the people of the Delta and their numerous connections to the health of the estuary. What has been left out of a real public debate is the total economic value of Delta agriculture, recreational fishing, boating, and commercial fishing - economies all tied to the Delta.
In addition, state political leaders and water bureaucrats often describe the people of the Delta as the group that just says no to any changes in the Delta, and, thus, not worthy of including in the discussion. This, once again, is a mischaracterization of who we are and what we want for the Delta.

First, we strongly believe California's critical water issues need to be addressed, but we need to do so with a more comprehensive approach than what is being put forth by the Department of Water Resources and the other parties at the table for the BDCP. Second, we want Delta water management practices that safeguard the Delta, the environment, and the people who live and work in the area. Third, we want real solutions that include cost effective and environmentally sound programs and projects that will capture, recycle, and treat water for all Californians. And most importantly, we want long-term Delta management that is based on a firm understanding of Delta freshwater needs. Understanding Delta freshwater needs and putting strategies into place to manage the Delta so as to meet those needs must be the primary component of a real habitat conservation plan.

Delta farmers, Delta fishing leaders, Delta environmentalists, and Delta engineers understand the estuary better than any outside person. They are the people who live and work in the Delta. They are the primary hands-on stewards of the Delta. Good governance for the Delta would be comprised of equal representation between local interests and state interests in the Delta. Good governance for the Delta would more importantly make sure starting today that current laws on the books for meeting Delta water quality standards and fish screening at the water export pumps at Tracy would be enforced - which they are not presently.

Thank you for taking the time to hear and consider our ideas and positions.

Sincerely yours,

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Campaign Director
Restore the Delta is a grassroots campaign of residents and organizations committed to restoring the California Delta so that its waters are fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable.