Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan Blog Proposing an Urban Subsidy of Agricultural Users in BDCP?

Recently, I have heard Mark Cowin and other state and local water agency officials repeatedly state that there will be no urban to agricultural subsidies for water supplies from the twin tunnels.  They have dismissed the notion as a "rumor".

How do these rumors get started?  Why won't they go away?  Look no further than the latest pro-tunnel propaganda from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan blog,  "Mature Choices for a Mature State."

In the piece, the tunnels are described as an affordable choice by comparing its per capita cost to the per capita cost of the Hetch Hetchy upgrade that only serves urban customers in the highest income area in the United States. 

In contrast, the vast majority of water that would be delivered through the tunnels is for irrigating crops, not urban use.  And state and water agency officials continue to vow that the tunnels will be paid for on an equal basis per bucket of water, not on a per capita or per household basis. 

If water leaders want to stop those urban-agriculture subsidy rumors, then they need to stop repeating this idiotic argument that compares per-capita costs of the tunnels to the per-capita costs of urban water infrastructure.   

The second obvious problem with this blog post is that it assumes that the tunnels are the only solution to the seismic risk of levee failure.  In fact, in all the other infrastructure examples in the blog post, the post describes seismic upgrades to the existing infrastructure - not outrageously expensive bypasses to the existing system.  The common sense, "mature" approach to addressing this risk is to invest in seismic upgrades of the levees themselves.  This is much cheaper and most importantly, it protects many more things from the seismic risk, including public safety which the Resources Agency has described as their top priority.  Thus, seismic levee upgrades both cost less and provide more benefits than the tunnels. 

Pushing the tunnels as a solution to seismic risk and ignoring seismic upgrades to the Delta levee system is not mature.  It is economically and morally wrong.

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