Friday, January 16, 2009

The Delta, Water & Governance

The final Delta Report is out, reported by the California Chamber of Commerce, and key points are calls for more water storage, a canal, and new governance; specifically mentioning a conservancy for management & fund raising, similar to that which we suggest would fit contractually well with the Joint Powers Authority we call for to govern the American River Parkway.

An excerpt.

“(January 15, 2009) After two years of work and countless meetings by stakeholders, the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force and the Delta Vision Committee, the final report outlining strategies to safeguard the fragile Delta and provide a reliable source of water for millions of Californians was sent to the Governor on December 31.

“The report lays out an ambitious timeline over the next two years to jumpstart strategies.

“Most controversial in the report are the recommendation for dual conveyance of water through and around the Delta and a proposal for a governance council.

“The Delta Vision process was created by executive order in 2006 tasked with finding common ground on the two coequal goals of improving water supply and protecting the fragile resources of the Delta. The disastrous flooding in Louisiana underscored the precariousness of the Delta levees protecting thousands of residents, thousands of acres of farmland and the drinking water source for 25 million Californians.

“Conveyance and Storage

“The report concludes that a dual conveyance system would seem to be the best option to improve water quality in the Delta and provide a reliable source of drinking water to those served by the State Water Project.

“Levees would need to be strengthened to withstand natural disasters like floods or earthquakes. More flexibility to control water flows at certain times of the year would be necessary to balance environmental needs with water supply needs. A peripheral canal would provide flexibility.

“The proposed canal is not a new idea. It was originally proposed in the 1980s, but was the subject of a referendum. More recently, academics have released reports that the peripheral canal must be considered if the Delta is to be preserved. Continuing drought conditions add a sense of urgency to the need to fix the Delta and yet provide sufficient water for people of the state.

“Other key elements of the final report include proposals to build two new reservoirs (the locations are not specified). Additional water storage provides the State Water Project operational flexibility to manage flow requirements for environmental purposes, to improve water quality in the Delta and assure a reliable water supply.

“The plan also calls for fast-tracking the construction of the peripheral canal by the executive branch through the Department of Water Resources. A 1984 legal opinion from the state Attorney General suggests that the Governor could direct Department of Water Resources to break ground on the peripheral canal without approval from the Legislature….

“A new Delta Conservancy would also be established to develop a strategic plan to perform restoration activities in the Delta region, including purchasing and managing lands. The Conservancy would be empowered to enter into contracts, buy and sell land and other property and receive and expend grants as it sees fit, among other powers.”