BDCP Opponents Submit Comments Calling for a Do-Over

The public comment period for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) ended on July 29, 2014—and with the deadline looming several of the plans opponents issued statements announcing their comments.

First at bat was Restore the Delta, which is self-described as “a grassroots campaign of residents and organizations committed to restoring the Sacramento­–San Joaquin Delta…” and has been a vocal opponent through the BDCP process.  Restore the Delta discussed its comments in a teleconference on July 28.  They characterized BDCP as “fatally flawed” and called for a new draft.  Among their complaints about the plan’s substance are failure to include a viable funding plan, lack of real alternatives, failure to comply with the federal Endangered Species Act, and potential tax increases (because water districts may increase property taxes under their pre-Prop 13 taxing authority to cover their share of the cost).  They also make allegations on procedural and ethical matters, including that there was a deliberate suppression of comments because comments and correspondence was not posted to the website, that there was secret planning with Delta exporters, and that officials failed to reach out to non-English speakers.

A Northern California congressional coalition led by Congressman Jared Huffman also had an extensive list of charges against the BDCP—and also voiced concern over the lack of suitable financing and narrow range of alternative projects—in a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Additional concerns cited in the letter include the project is too expensive, violates state and federal law, would harm fisheries and estuary health, and continues exports at unsustainable levels and the plan fails to explain how new facilities will be operated or how they will impact existing facilities and that it still contains flaws that were pointed out the scientific community in earlier reviews.  Ultimately, the congressional group says that the BDCP would not reduce reliance on the Delta and that it would not restore the Delta ecosystem.  Rep. Huffman’s letter was cosigned by Reps. George Miller, Mike Thompson, Doris Matsui, John Garamendi, Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier and Jerry McNerney.

Congressman John Garamendi, who cosigned Rep. Huffman’s letter, also produced his own comments focusing on the failure to provide a wide range of options and explains how that failure violates NEPA, CEQA and the state’s coequal goals requirement. To Rep. Garamendi, the bottom line is a comprehensive water plan, like his A Water Plan for All California, is needed instead of the BDCP.

The Natural Resources Defense Council would also like to see a new plan.  Among their charges against the BDCP are that it follows an outdated approach, would actually increase water exports from the Delta, ignores science on the relationship between increased flows and water quality improvements, and that alternative ideas were not considered.  The summation of NRDC’s argument is that the BDCP is the “wrong approach,” and would meet neither its goal to conserve the Bay-Delta ecosystem nor to improve water supply reliability.  The non-profit group’s recommended approach would require portfolio diversification, including implementation of the strategies recommended by Pacific Institute and NRDC in a recent issue brief on untapped water supplies in California.

The Bay Institute and Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA) both focus their arguments on the impact on species.  The Bay Institute argues that the BDCP includes incorrect assumptions that habitat restoration can replace the role of freshwater flows and that changing the water diversion location would reduce problems.  Overall, they feel that the BDCP would exacerbate existing problems.  GGSA charges that the project is harmful to salmon:  it leaves too little water in the upper Sacramento River basin for salmon spawning; the diversion intake screens will be harmful or fatal to baby salmon that are likely to get sucked up against them; and the diversion intakes will create reverse currents in side channels that will pull baby salmon off course to the interior Delta where they will die.

All of the plan’s opponents recognize that the system is broken, but according to their comments they see the proposed solution is no solution at all.

Written by Marta Weismann