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Gov. Brown, federal officials outline delta plan

Issue Date: August 1, 2012
By Kate Campbell

Calling a revised plan to address problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta the "path forward," Gov. Brown and federal officials called for an end to "analysis paralysis" and for action on long-studied solutions to habitat restoration and water supply reliability. A final Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, which underpins future actions, is due before year-end.

Flanked by state and federal officials, Brown introduced last week a new "preferred alternative" for moving water from the Sacramento River to the south delta, where it would be transferred by state and federal water projects to agricultural and urban water users to the south.

The newly proposed project would include three intakes from the Sacramento River with a combined capacity of 9,000 cubic feet per second. Water would be pumped into a single-bore tunnel before moving into an intermediate forebay in the north delta. From there, it would move by gravity flow through dual-bore underground tunnels to carry the water 35 miles south to a new forebay near the state and federal pumping plants.

"This alternative has been a long time coming and we know a lot more today about the delta than we knew 30 years ago," Brown said, referring to the failed peripheral canal proposal during his first governorship in 1982. "There have been endless studies and discussions, and the proposal we've unveiled (now) is a big idea for a big state."

No final decisions on the proposed conveyance facility can be made prior to completion of regulatory and environmental review and public input, officials said. The project components will undergo further analysis as required by a variety of state and federal environmental laws.

Asked about the costs of the proposed conveyance project, Brown said the costs—when spread over 40 years—were a small fraction of the state's annual economic output.

Generally, water users south of the delta—urban residents and farmers—would pay the estimated $14 billion in construction costs for the project. State taxpayers would fund most of the estimated $3 billion for habitat restoration, which is included in a water bond measure now due to go before voters in 2014.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urged an end to "analysis paralysis" when it comes to further studies on the delta and said, "California's water system is at constant risk of failure. Nobody can afford the dangers or costs of inaction."

California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said the outcome of the proposal "will be crucial to the future of the state's farmers and ranchers."

"In nearly every corner of California, family farmers and ranchers have a stake in these decisions about the delta," Wenger said, "And so do the people of California, the United States and those throughout the world who depend on food and farm products grown by our farmers."

Farmers will continue to use water as efficiently as they can, he said, "to nourish their crops, replenish their soil and benefit the wildlife that lives on farmland." Wenger pointed out that since 1967, crop production in California has doubled, while farm water use has risen just 10 percent.

"But water efficiency has its limits," he said. "To sustain agricultural production to feed our growing population, California must add new surface water storage as a crucial element in resolving our state's water problems."

Funds for new surface storage projects are included in the 2014 bond measure.

"Farm Bureau policy seeks a water system solution that brings benefits for all California agriculture and that hinges on enhanced water storage and improved water conveyance. We will look carefully at the revised Bay-Delta Conservation Plan and review it with that in mind," Wenger said.

"Farm Bureau will continue to press for solutions that benefit all California agriculture and those who depend on our farmers and ranchers," he said.

State and federal officials said in a prepared statement that agencies will continue to explore new ways to satisfy competing water needs, including reducing water demand through conservation, increasing water supply and improving efficiency of water project operation.

The executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, Timothy Quinn, called the bay-delta effort "vital" to the state's environment and economy.

"Though there is still much work to be done, progress is being made. We urge the governor and the secretary to keep the process on track and complete the BDCP in a way that works for the entire state," Quinn said.

Information about the new proposal is available online at www.baydeltaconservationplan.com.

(Kate Campbell is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at kcampbell@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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