Critics are calling the Economic Sustainability Plan a status quo plan. That isn't right, but I understand how it can be misperceived since it is starting with the Delta economy and it's goal is to determine the best future for the Delta (that is consistent with the state's "co-equal goals" of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration).
For California water wonks, it might be easier to see the ESP's recommendation through the familiar framework developed by the PPIC. I recommend everyone go back and read chapter 8, Evaluating Delta Alternatives, of the 2007 Envisioning Futures PPIC report on the Delta. Before reading further in this post, open up chapter 8 in another window, and go to Table 8-2, pages 166-167.
Make 2 adjustments to Table 8-2 for things that have changed since 2007. First, go to alternatives 4 and 5, cross out costs of $2-3 billion and replace it with $12-15 billion since the estimated costs of isolated conveyance alternatives has gone way up since 2007. Second, due to the co-equal goals being state law, you can rule out alternatives 7 and 8, because the water supply is way too unreliable for current law.
With those 2 adjustments, any reasonable person viewing the Delta problem and accepting this framework has to go back and take a much harder look at alternative 2: Fortress Delta (Dutch Standard), as well as alternative 6.
The recommendation in the ESP is not status quo (that is alternative 1). It is most similar to alternative 2 with some significant environmental enhancements that should total less than an additional $1b (think BDCP with less tidal marsh and some compromise solutions on flood/fish bypasses).
When you go to Table 8-3, you see alternative 2 was primarily rejected due to "great expense." We are arguing that you could get an environmentally improved version of alternative 2 for an economically feasible $5b or less, as opposed to the current focus on an infeasible $15b isolated conveyance plan with really risky outcomes for both the Delta and the environment.
You could also argue that the 2009 Delta Reform Act also requires you to add a column to the PPIC framework for the Delta as a place/economy. That additional adjustment further strengthens our case.