Thursday, October 21, 2010

Delta Stewardship Council Should Ignore the Water Contractors' Protest Against the Environmental Water Caucus

I just read the letter the state and federal water contractors wrote to the Delta Stewardship Council urging them to ignore the Environmental Water Caucus (EWC).  I found the second sentence in the letter especially interesting, and completely misleading.
There is no need for the Council to revisit that which was reviewed by the Delta Vision process and has been evaluated carefully by credible independent analysts in recent years... (note: the analysts they refer to repeatedly in their letter is the PPIC and the 2008 Comparing Futures report)
Much has changed, and there are an abundance of good reasons to revisit these old reports.

1.  No one was talking about tunnels in either Delta Vision or PPIC, and the estimated costs of building the alternative conveyance have roughly doubled since these reports were done. 

2.  Those reports did not evaluate the type of proposal EWC is making.  In particular, PPIC compared a scenario of No Exports (with wildly exagerrated costs from water shortages) to a large surface canal.  There was no evaluation of a small tunnel vs. a large tunnel as many reasonable and credible people are now suggesting.  And even the BDCP "discussion document" says the loss in water exports if we do not build alternative conveyance in 2050 is about 1.5 maf, not the worst case, disaster scenario of 0 exports (-6 maf) modeled by the PPIC.  PPIC did not account for water conservation or anything close to what is being discussed by EWC or BDCP.

I should also note an unsubstantiated claim in the contractors' letter about the economic contribution of westside farmland.  "These lands develop about $12 billion in economic value for California annually." 

Really?  I challenge the water contractors to provide a reference for that ridiculous claim.  $12 billion is 3 times the entire GDP of Kings County ($4 billion of which $1.5 billion, 38%, is government/military spending.  For comparison, the GDP of Sacramento is only 23% govt/military).  Maybe they shouldn't be so quick to point out when people ignore gross vs. net water conservation when they are triple and quadruple counting dollars, and failing to differentiate between revenue/output and value/income.
Finally, do they have any references other than the 2008 PPIC report?  As noted above, the PPIC did not analyze $10+ billion tunnels, or an alternative scenario that looks anything like the EWC vision.  Furthermore, the 2008 PPIC has plenty of its own exagerrations that tip their analysis in favor of a canal.  For example, I wouldn't call a report that completely leaves out the commercial value of the salmon fishery, and uses phony projections of the state's future population as "careful."  Regardless of its weaknesses, that report is severely outdated now, to the point of being irrelevant.  We have a lot of new information, the scenarios have changed, and I am willing to bet that even the PPIC folks would have a hard time arguing against the need for some substantially updated analysis after nearly 2.5 years of new developments.
In fairness to the PPIC people, it must be frustrating to be so selectively cited, and their report isn't all bad.  For example, the contractors don't mention that their recommendation of new conveyance also hinged on the contractors paying a lot more for Delta restoration than currently proposed in BDCP discussion documents, they recommend water exports even with a canal quite a bit lower than the contractors want, and a number of these researchers were involved in the Delta flow requirements report for the SWRCB that the contractors like to disparage as irrelevant.

(A few minor edits on 10/22)


  1. Hi Jeff,

    I was looking for your email address, but can't find it, so I'll have to put it here.

    I am confused. The letter on the link is about the Environmental Water Caucus' plan, but your post is about the Environmental Working Group, which had another story up on Aquafornia yesterday about retiring selenium lands in the Central Valley.

    I think you mean the Environmental Water Caucus, and at the end, you reference "EWC".


  2. Thanks, it is mixed up.

    Folks should pay attention to the disclaimer in the margin. There are no editors or PR folks supporting this blog.

    I'll fix it.