Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are PPIC water reports improving?

Two reporters called me yesterday on the eve of the release of yet another PPIC report on California water. I had not seen the new report, but did make some critical comments about the economics in their previous work.  If any of those comments make it in the papers, it might raise some questions about what I meant.

First, the new report was released last night, and I have now had a chance to briefly review the executive summary, and it looks significantly better on initial impression. There isn't a lot of economics, although it calls for public funding for a number of initiatives with fees, but has no analysis of cost-effectiveness or how high those fees might have to be. The comments about realigning state agencies and "triage" for endangered species will probably get the most attention. Notably, the 16 page executive summary doesn't contain their usual statement that a peripheral canal is the best solution for the Delta and emphasizes urban conservation much more than usual. [Update 8 AM:  I have now read 2 news reports with quotes from the press briefing and I may have been premature with this quick positive reaction.]

Let's hope they are improving, because the PPIC team has already done enough damage, and should think about some "reconciliation" of their own work. As I have discussed elsewhere, PPIC badly botched the economics in their 2008 analysis of the peripheral canal, and are largely responsible for establishing unrealistic expectations for the financial viability of a canal and a BDCP type plan. The financing stalemate plaguing BDCP and the Stewardship Council is not just interest groups maneuvering for the most favorable terms, but is caused by real questions of whether the isolated conveyance projects fundamentally provide enough value to beneficiaries to justify their construction costs.

Members of the PPIC also contributed to the water/jobs hysteria, although they have made some efforts to correct those mistakes. Finally, their previous reports have had a pro-exporter and anti-Delta bias (especially the Water Myths report that incredibly argued that CVP farmers were not subsidized, and conspicuously left Delta interests out of their "no villians" section), but this seems better.

As a final note, this quote from the executive summary amused me:
The lack of a strong state technical and scientific program
is allowing advocacy-funded “combat science” to take center stage
First, who says state funded isn't advocacy-funded. Second, hasn't the PPIC owned "center stage" among researchers in this debate.  Do you know any other researchers that routinely hold press briefings and media events when they release a paper?  Is their work less advocacy-funded and less combative than others.  What are they complaining about?

As I get around to reading the details of the report, I will try to post more detailed comments.  My impression could change for the better or worse.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like the goal is to throw the largest bound document possible on the table and challenge others with "outweigh those results!"

    I'd prefer to stick everyone involved in the room, lock the door, and wait to see who the last one standing is. (I've proposed variations on that theme before, of course :)