Delta Stewardship Council Releases Final Draft Plan

 The California Aqueduct, the canal that delivers Delta water to agribusiness and southern California. Photo by Dan Bacher. Delta advoca...

 The California Aqueduct, the canal that delivers Delta water to agribusiness and southern California. Photo by Dan Bacher.
Delta advocates say plan fails to include measurable protection actions

by Dan Bacher

The Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) nnounced the release of its Final Draft Delta Plan, along with the draft program environmental report and corresponding draft regulations for a 45-day public review period.

Delta advocates weren't impressed, accusing the plan of being "inefficient," and failing to include "measurable actions for protecting the Delta."

According to a news release from the DSC, the Delta Plan and its regulations will, when completed:

• "Create a single blue print for state and local agencies’ action to provide a more reliable water supply for California and restore the Delta ecosystem;
• Create new rules for significant state and local agency actions occurring wholly or partly within the Delta, with the Council as an appellate body to enforce those rules in a fair and timely manner;
• Create a unified science initiative and improved accountability to achieve the co-equal goals in the Delta;
• Create an effective interagency coordination body to implement the Delta Plan."

“After two years of arduous study and challenging compromise, a comprehensive management plan for the Delta is now within reach,” claimed Delta Stewardship Council Chair Phil Isenberg. “We will soon be able to focus on implementing the principles and recommendations that will help achieve the State’s coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem while protecting the unique values of the Delta as an evolving place.”

It is worth noting that Isenberg also served at the helm of two parallel Schwarzenegger administration environmental processes that cast a dark shadow over his role as DSC chairman - the controversial, privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and the equally controversial Delta Vision process -

From 2004 to 2006, Isenberg chaired Arnold Schwarzenegger's MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast that fail to protect the ocean from pollution, oil spills, oil drilling, military and seismic testing, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering. From 2007 to 2008, he also chaired the Delta Vision process that cleared the path for the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel.

Restore the Delta quickly responded to the plan's release, noting that Final Delta Plan fails to include essential measurable actions for meeting the Council’s legal mandate for protecting the Delta.

According to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta Executive Director, “The measurable actions left out of the Delta Plan include a much needed water availability analysis to determine how much water can be taken from the Delta; a water quality analysis to see how future water export projects will effect Delta water quality; and balancing of the public trust to determine to determine how the state should use water, our most essential public resource, for the greatest good.

A plan that fails to address how much water the Delta needs for restoration is simply incomplete and will fail in its implementation. We cannot continue to export half of the fresh water from the estuary and expect it not to completely collapse, let alone reach a point of healing.”

Clearly, the Delta Plan, which is to serve as the blueprint for meeting the state mandated coequal goals for the Delta of providing a more reliable water supply for California and for protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem, is an insufficient plan, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.

Barrigan-Parrilla added, “Our fear since the legislation was passed in 2009 has been that the Delta Stewardship Council would not be able to balance the coequal goals, which are irreconcilable. Fresh water flows through the Delta must first be restored in order for the state to protect, restore, and enhance the Delta ecosystem."

"To provide a more reliable water supply for California, the Delta Stewardship Council must look beyond the Delta and promote a rigorous development of water systems that lead to regional self-sufficiency so as to break dependence on Delta water exports. Only then, can the Council meet its mandate of meeting the coequal goals in a manner that will protect and enhance the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource and agricultural values of the Delta in addition to securing a reliable water supply," she said.

"The Delta Plan as it now stands is nothing more than a water export plan dressed up with some habitat creation projects. First and foremost, fish need sufficient water flows and good quality water. So do the 4 million people who live and work in the Delta and whose lives are tied to the $6 billion annual Delta agriculture and recreation economies," Barrigan-Parrilla concluded.

Fishermen, environmentalists, Indian Tribes, family farmers and elected officials from across the political spectrum oppose Governor Jerry Brown's peripheral tunnels because their construction would lead to the demise of Sacramento River chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, striped bass, largemouth bass, Sacramento splittail, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green and white sturgeon and other fish populations.

In addition, they criticize the BDCP's proposed conversion of vast tracts of Delta farmland, some of the most fertile on the planet, in order to greenwash the delivery of massive amounts of Delta water to irrigate drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

“Make no mistake,” emphasized Caleen Audrey Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “The peripheral canal will destroy river ecosystems, destroy fisheries and sentence us to a future where clean water is a luxury rather than a right. Make sure your voice is heard!”

The Final Draft of the Delta Plan can be viewed here. The other documents being released are a Recirculated Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (new Volume 3), and draft regulations based on policies contained in the Final Draft Delta Plan. A copy of the DSC press release is available here.

Restore the Delta is a 7000-member grassroots organization committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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