Governor Announces Preferred Water Conveyance Alternative For Bay Delta Conservation Plan

On July 25, 2012, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab announced a preferred alternative in the ongoing Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

An overview of the preferred alternative is described in the San Jose Mercury News. Under the preferred alternative, two large, side-by-side underground tunnels, each 33 feet in diameter, would transport fresh water 37 miles from the Sacramento River, under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta), to federal and state pumps at Tracy. Then, the water would flow into canals operated by the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project from the Bay Area to San Diego, to irrigate three million acres of farmland. The tunnels would cost an estimated $14 billion to build, and would be financed by farmers and other water users that stand to benefit from the project. The preferred alternative also focuses on restoring the Delta.

The preferred alternative’s conveyance facilities would rely on gravity flow to increase energy efficiency and decrease environmental impacts. The proposed total capacity of the water intake facilities was reduced from an earlier proposal of 15,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 9,000 cfs. Officials explained that the preferred alternative will be designed to help restore endemic species, protect water quality, and enhance the reliability of water supplied from the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

All officials stressed the Delta’s ongoing problems, such as habitat loss, threats to levee stability, and reduced water supply. They indicated that resolving these issues required a balancing of economic concerns and environmental interests. Underscoring the need for reevaluating California’s current water system, Secretary Salazar stated, “Through our joint federal-state partnership, and with science as our guide, we are taking a comprehensive approach to tackling California’s water problems when it comes to increasing efficiency and improving conservation.” The comprehensive approach unveiled today includes consideration of science, conservation, governance, financing, adaptive management, sustaining Delta communities, protecting upstream water users, and improving water management State-wide.

The details announced today are not final and other alternatives will still be evaluated in the BDCP process. The agencies intend to issue a draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement this fall. Once the proposed project is fully defined, it will be submitted for public comment, and review under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), California’s Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA), and NEPA/CEQA.

Additional information regarding the proposed revisions to the BDCP is available here.  For further information regarding the BDCP, please contact Hanspeter Walter, Rebecca Akroyd, or Elizabeth Leeper, or the KMTG attorney with whom you normally consult.

(This blog post was drafted by KMTG Summer Associate Jessica Almendarez, with assistance from the blog editors.)

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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