Review Period May (Or May Not) Get November 15 Start
California’s long-awaited Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), which includes proposals for twin tunnels to provide Delta bypass conveyance for water export supplies, is to be released for public review in mid-November.
Or perhaps it won’t be made available.
The uncertainty is the result of the recent partial federal government shutdown that the state Resources Agency says could affect the release date. A number of federal water and environmental agencies have had significant numbers of staff furloughs and the federal government is involved deeply in Delta water issues, problems and controversies.
A four-month public review period of what is expected to be a 25,000-page BDCP public review draft and associated state and federal environmental review documents was to have begun October 1.
On September 20, California Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird notified federal officials that the public review period would instead begin November 15. Laird wrote that the “hundreds of important changes” made to the project necessitated a delay in the formal release of the draft environmental impact report (EIR) and environmental impact statement (EIS).
In March, the state began releasing a BDCP administrative draft along with a draft EIR/EIS, all of which have been undergoing revision.
If formal public review should begin November 15, it is currently scheduled to extend through March 17, 2014. Documents will be available on line and in repositories throughout the state. A series of public meetings is to be held during January and February 2014.
In August, state officials unveiled a smaller BDCP. It would reduce by 50% the project’s total permanent footprint and shift portions of the project away from some homes and farms.
The smaller project would shorten by five miles the two main water conveyance tunnels that would run under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, reducing them from 35 miles to 30 miles. It also shifts a segment of the proposed twin tunnels east, away from some farms and homes, moving it to land owned by The Nature Conservancy on Staten Island.
The new routing, like the twin tunnels concept itself, remain highly controversial.
New options for operating the system also have been prepared at the request of federal biologists.
If ever built, the BDCP would cost an estimated $25 billion. Water supply beneficiaries would be expected to pay for the twin tunnels and some other related project elements. Those beneficiaries are largely located in portions of the Bay Area and Central Coast, Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.
Delta water exports are relied upon by some 26 million California residents for municipal supplies and well over 3 million acres of farmland for irrigation water.
NO FRIANT BENEFITS?
It still is not known what all this might mean for the Friant Division’s Central Valley Project contractors that have thus far been unable to identify any benefits that might result for users of the Friant-Kern and Madera canals.
Nor have any benefits been identified to the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors, who already effectively enjoy the first right to use CVP water from the Delta as the substitute supply that permits Friant Division diversions to occur upstream at Friant Dam. The San Joaquin River’s West Side supply and recirculation of San Joaquin River Settlement flow releases are Friant’s primary water supply links to the Delta. Cross Valley Contractors in the Friant service area also depend on Delta exports of CVP water .
The Friant Water Authority continues to make it clear that it supports the BDCP’s concepts in recognition of the necessity of eliminating or easing Delta water supply problems, but that operational and financial issues cannot negatively impact Friant Division water contractors.