California commentaries, December 31st through January 6

Drought should raise skepticism about the BDCP, says Mercury News editorial:  “2013 was the driest year since California began keeping records in 1895. That fact will be used to try to fast-track the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, whose two massive tunnels would carry water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that now provides nearly half of Silicon Valley’s water.  The drought instead should raise skepticism about this $25 billion plan, the largest public works project in U.S. history, because it raises a conundrum: The plan says the tunnels will provide not a drop more water than the Delta provides today — and that is completely out of whack with the interests of agencies and communities lining up to pay billions of dollars to build them. … “  Read more here:  Mercury News editorial: Massive Delta tunnels could destroy fragile estuary

Delta tunnels would not harm Sacramento water users, says Jerry Meral:  Responding to concerns that Sacramento County water users could be harmed by the BDCP, Meral responds:  ” … The proposed new diversion is downstream of the water intakes for the city of Sacramento and Sacramento County water users. Physically, there would be no way for the new diversion (the intake to the tunnels) to take any water needed by Sacramento water users.  Layers of institutional guarantees ensure that none of Sacramento’s water could ever be diverted by the state and federal water projects. Sacramento has very secure water rights, which long predate those of the state and federal water projects. State “area of origin” water laws protect the rights of counties upstream of the Delta to use the water they need before any can be exported. … “  Read the full commentary at the Sacramento Bee here:   Another View: Delta tunnels would not harm Sacramento water users

Drought requires action now, says Sacramento Bee editorial:  The editorial runs down the local response to the dry conditions, and adds a plea for groundwater management:  ” … As Kerry Schmitz, principal civil engineer at Sacramento County’s Department of Water Resources, has said, “This is an unprecedented situation, exceeding even the conditions in 1976-77. While we hope that the area receives some significant rainfall over the next few months, it continues to be critical for everyone in the region to work individually and collectively to conserve water.”  At the statewide level, groundwater is a major issue. It is being pumped out faster than it can be replenished, especially in the Central Valley. Yet the state does not monitor and regulate groundwater.  … “  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Editorial: Water situation is dire, requires action

Dry conditions show California needs to improve conservation efforts, says the Daily News:  ” … Californians are a creative people, and can do better. Just as we have shown over the last 30 years that through innovative technology we can dramatically reduce air pollution in Southern California even as we added millions of new vehicles, we can continue to grow and yet use less water — and use it more appropriately. There’s no reason to suck the Colorado dry, or worsen the drying out of the Owens Valley. It’s a scandal that here in 2014 most of our golf courses and boulevard parkways are still being irrigated with the same tap water we drink and cook with.  The Metropolitan Water District, Los Angeles’s Department of Water and Power and local water companies need to coordinate the creation of “purple pipe” systems of reclaimed water for irrigation. Homeowners need to step up and install their own rainwater barrels to harvest roof-gutter runoff for their yards, and to better xeriscape their plantings. … “  Drought of 2014 rings in California new year: Editorial

A dry year means we can rethink our water use, says the San Francisco Chronicle:  ” … Typically, our state makes progress on evolving water management only in dry years, and thus 2014 promises to be a banner year for innovation.  Snowpack, nature’s water storage system that we rely on, so far this year is 20 percent of average, according to Friday’s statewide survey. This follows 2012, a year when the snowpack also measured 20 percent of average – and was the driest year on record. The other fact of life here is that dry years affect regions differently. … “  Read more here:  California’s dry year is a chance to rethink water use

There may be one aspect to the drought that’s helpful, says commentary:  ” …Having dealt with two of them before, I can attest that little good normally comes from droughts. Farmers always bear the brunt of the impacts, while city folks are usually blissfully oblivious. But if 2014 remains dry, as all data indicates it will, urbanites all up and down the state are going to get a huge dose of the harsh reality that California now faces a perpetual water supply crisis that can only be solved by building new storage facilities and updating our water-delivery systems. So maybe this is one instance where a 2014 drought will have one beneficial aspect to it.”  Read the full commentary here:  Lance W. Johnson: Drought reveals real threat to ag community

Selfish few trying to derail Bay Delta Conservation Plan, says Harry Cline, editor of the Western Farm Press:  “  … A lot of non-political work went into developing the 9,000-page conservation plan and its corresponding 25,000-page EIR/EIS. The public has reviewed drafts of these documents and significant changes were made from those comments. Still, there are concerns and unanswered questions.  However, this seems to be the best plan to date to generate more critically needed water as soon as practical.  It needs tweaking, but it does not need to be trashed as a basketful of splinter groups claim. They say it is too expensive and unnecessary. The groups include the likes of Today Food and Water Watch, Restore the Delta, 350 Silicon Valley, the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley, the Environmental Water Caucus, First Generation Farmers and the Raging Grannies. (I love the last one.) ... “  Read the full commentary here:  Selfish few continue trying to derail Bay Delta plan

Ray Stokes of the Central Coast Water Authority responds to recent commentaries, says Santa Barbara’s state water supplies are invaluable: California Water Impact Network’s (C-WIN) president, Carolee Krieger, recently provided her opinion about the State Water Project in Santa Barbara County and the proposed Twin Tunnels project currently being considered to move water around the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Unfortunately, Krieger’s opinion piece is short on truth and long on rhetoric.  Krieger likes to compare the construction cost estimates from the early 1990s for the Coastal Branch facilities of the State Water Project to the estimated total costs over the entire term of the contract (about 40 years). That’s similar to comparing the original purchase price of a house to the total cost of ownership over the 30-year mortgage, including interest, insurance, utilities, and so on. … “  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here:  The Truth About State Water

Compiled by Chris “Maven” Austin