Today, January 15, 2020, the California Department of Water Resources released the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the Environmental Impact Report for the single tunnel project.  But engineering design of the single tunnel project has been ongoing since last May, as a continuation of previous design work for the WaterFix project.

The NOP states

The CEQA process identified in this notice for the proposed Delta Conveyance Project will, as appropriate, utilize relevant information from the past environmental planning process for California WaterFix but the proposed project will undergo a new stand-alone environmental analysis leading to issuance of a new EIR.

From the description in the NOP, “relevant information” clearly includes previous WaterFix engineering designs. The map in the NOP (shown below) clearly includes the WaterFix project alignment. The three North Delta intakes are in the same location as the WaterFix project, and according to the NOP, have the same capacity as the WaterFix project intakes (up to 3,000 cfs.) The NOP states that intakes would be constructed in two of the three proposed locations.

For the main tunnel, the Central Tunnel Corridor is in the location of the WaterFix main tunnel alignment. The map in the NOP does show an Eastern Tunnel Corridor, closer to  I-5, but the geotechnical drilling plan shows only “reconnaissance level” drilling along the eastern alignment.

The corridor for the Southern Forebay includes the location of Byron Tract Forebay from the WaterFix project, and the geotechnical drilling plan shows extensive drilling in the location of Byron Tract Forebay.

The potential alignments thus clearly include a revised WaterFix project.

Single tunnel NOP map

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As mentioned above, there has also been substantial engineering work on a single tunnel project since DWR rescinded the approvals for the twin tunnel project on May 2, 2019.

The 2018 WaterFix Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement delegated the powers of the Department of Water Resources to design and construct the “Delta conveyance” to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA), a Joint Powers Authority created by Metropolitan Water District,, Kern County Water Agency, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and other State Water Contractors.

Exercising DWR’s delegated authority, the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) executed the following contracts for the twin tunnels project, totaling $212 million:

  • Engineering Design  Jacobs Engineering, $93 million
  • Geotechnical services  Fugro, $75 million
  • Power  SMUD, $44 million

as well as contracts for survey, Right of Way mapping, and property acquisition planning. A $40 million contract for Program Management was also signed with Parsons Transportation.

The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority began engineering design of the single tunnel project immediately after DWR withdrew approvals of the twin tunnel project. The June 2019 report to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority shows services performed by Jacobs Engineering under the Engineering Design Manager Contract, including “Assess single tunnel scheme”

single tunnel 2018-19

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In June of 2019, several Delta Legacy community groups sent a letter to DWR Director Karla Nemeth, requesting recission of DWR’s approvals of the Delta tunnel project engineering and design specifications, budget, and schedule.  The letter stated:

The WaterFix was a project that Delta residents strongly opposed, and that now has no underlying approvals or environmental review. Allowing the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (“DCA”) to continue preliminary design, survey and right of way mapping, and real estate acquisition planning based on the withdrawn WaterFix project specifications is wholly unacceptable to our communities. To our knowledge, DWR has no approved plans or specifications for the new Delta conveyance.  And if the WaterFix project specifications are being used as the basis for the design of the new Delta conveyance under DWR’s authority, it is predecisional and will prejudice the new Delta conveyance CEQA process.

We are therefore writing to respectfully request that you address the issues with the contracts executed under the October 26, 2018 Amended and Restated Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement.  We specifically request that you direct the Delta Conveyance Office to do the following:

1.     Request that the Design and Construction Authority withdraw the resolution adopting the WaterFix CEQA documents for actions pursuant to the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement.
2.     Explicitly withdraw DWR approval of the WaterFix project engineering and design specifications, budget, and schedule.
3.     Explicitly withdraw DWR approval of the WaterFix project real estate acquisition plan.
4.     Explicitly withdraw DWR’s authorization to commence work on the WaterFix project.
5.     Disclose all invoices submitted by the DCA for the WaterFix project since the Governor’s announcement on February 12, 2019.
6.     Determine whether invoices for work done on the WaterFix project since approval of the project was withdrawn on May 2, 2019 are appropriate for reimbursement.
7.     Disclose the scope of work and schedule on all contracts executed under the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement that are being continued under DWR’s authority.

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Instead of rescinding engineering approvals, the Department of Water Resources amended the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement with the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) to authorize engineering design of a single tunnel.  The DCA held off submitting invoices for the engineering work done in May and June until after the amendment to the Joint Exercises of Powers Agreement was signed.  Engineering work on the single tunnel project has continued since that time, funded in part by a $19.7 bridge loan from the Department of Water Resources. Cumulative expenditures by the DCA total about $20 million since May of 2019, according to the January 2020 report.

This post was edited for clarify on January 16, 2020.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | January 13, 2020

Evaluation of Governor’s proposed Climate Resilience Bond

This is an evaluation of the proposed Climate Resilience Bond in the Governor Newsom’s proposed 2020-2021 California Budget, and associated parts of the Newsom administration’s Draft Water Resilience Portfolio. This evaluation is done in comparison with the Principles for State Investment of Climate Adaptation, developed by California Water Research as part of the Water Portfolio Recommendations of the One Water Network of environmental organizations.

Our first principle for state investment in climate adaptation is:

  1. The first priority of the state must be increasing resiliency of the existing built environment, and protecting vulnerable populations from catastrophic effects of climate change. Catastrophic climate change effects include severe droughts, river flooding, heat waves, fires, and inundation from sea level rise.

The proposed Climate Resilience Bond does have clearly defined categories for river flooding, wildfire, sea level rise, and extreme heat. However, the biggest category is $ 1 billion for “Regional and Inter-regional Water Resilience.”  This category is vague and not clearly tied to drought resilience.

climate resilience bond

The definition of  the “Regional and Inter-regional Water Resilience” category in the Governor’s budget states:

Resilience—$1 billion to support various water management programs and projects with a focus on regional and inter-regional water projects, including but not limited to: Integrated Regional Water Management projects; multi-benefit stormwater management; wastewater treatment; water reuse and recycling; water use efficiency and water conservation; water storage; water conveyance; watershed protection, restoration, and management; and water quality. This funding specifically supports the regional resilience approach identified in the draft Water Resilience Portfolio.  (p. 122.)

But a search for “regional resilience” in the Water Resilience Portfolio does not turn up any clear definitions of the term with respect to climate adaptation. The discussion on page 16-17 simply states:

Local and regional water agencies are well positioned to deliver needed improvements to water systems. […] They work together to secure water, steward natural river systems, reduce flood, drought, and fire risks, and prepare for the future. […]

At the same time, state government plays an important role in water management. […] State government must focus on enabling regional resilience while continuing to set statewide standards, invest in projects of statewide scale and importance, and address challenges beyond the scope of any region.

Without any clear definition in the Draft Water Resilience Portfolio tying “regional resilience” to achieving drought resilience, the $1 billion proposed for “Regional and Inter-regional Water Resilience” in the Climate Adaptation Bond risks simply being an enormous taxpayer subsidy for a shotgun approach by water agencies.

The issues with multiple regional shotgun approaches may best be explained by considering the many divergent definitions of water supply reliability.  This was ably explained by Walter Bourez, Senior Water Resources Engineer for MBK Engineering, in the Delta Independent Science Board’s 2016 Water Supply Reliability Panel.  Bourez stated:

You can actually Google it and find definitely dozens and dozens of different definitions of water supply reliability,” he said. “CUWA defines it as the ability to consistently meet demands, CalFed defined it as the probability that a system does not fail, and a famous UCD professor is quoted as saying, ‘the likelihood that I can get all the water I want cheaply.”  […]

 “There are a lot of tradeoffs in the system,” he continued. “Water supply reliability in one area of the state could mean less reliability in another area. There are tradeoffs between water deliveries, Delta outflow, and environmental flows. North of Delta deliveries versus south of Delta. 

Just as there are tradeoffs between reliability of water deliveries, Delta outflow, and environmental flows, North of Delta deliveries versus South of Delta, there are conflicts and tradeoffs in definitions of drought resilience for these different regions and different beneficial uses.  The proposal in the Water Resilience Portfolio to “coordinate local actions” will not address the failure to clearly define the desired outcomes.

Our second principle for state investment in climate adaptation is,

The state must invest in increasing resiliency of ecosystems in the face of climate change.

So let’s look at investments in ecosystem resilience.  The Climate Resilience Bond does provide $140 million for freshwater ecosystems:

Enhanced Stream Flows and Fish Passage—$140 million to remove barriers to passage of native fish species and provide enhanced water flows, and reconnect aquatic habitat to help fish and wildlife endure drought and adapt to climate change.

But without tying investments in freshwater ecosystems to investments in “regional resilience,” and to clear, biological targets for enhanced flows, this investment seems unlikely to succeed. Similarly, the $270 million in the Climate Resilience Bond for “systemwide multi-benefit flood risk reduction projects” is not tied either to specific objectives for flood control, or to clear, biological targets for habitat restoration.

Flood Control: Systemwide Multi-benefit—$270 million to support multi-benefit flood risk reduction and ecosystem restoration efforts.

The lack of specific objectives for flood control is quite problematic, because there is no specific funding in the Climate Resilience Bond for investments to protect smaller communities that are increasingly vulnerable to flooding.  Without clear and specific objectives for protecting vulnerable populations, it should not be assumed that this goal will be achieved.

Our third principle for state investment in climate adaptation is,

We must recognize that demand for funding for climate adaptation measures will exceed availability.

For this reason, the Climate Resilience Bond needs to do a better job of targeting funds where they are most needed to address risks of drought, river flooding, wildfire, sea level rise, and extreme heat.  The Climate Resilience Bond should avoid “shotgun” approaches. Having separate categories for “Safe Drinking Water” and “Sustainable Groundwater Management” is a start.

Our fifth principle for state investment in climate adaptation is

We must develop clear, objective goals and priorities for state investment in climate adaptation, as well as criteria for evaluation of proposed projects. Clear and measurable targets must be set for Water Portfolio investments.

The Water Resilience Portfolio was developed over a very short period, and simply does not have enough clear, objective overall goals and priorities. Nor are there clear criteria for evaluation of proposed investments. These must be developed for the Portfolio to achieve its goals.   The Water Resilience Portfolio proposal to

Gather stakeholders from across the state each year to discuss progress implementing this portfolio and more broadly achieving water resilience across the state.  (32.2, p. 26.)

is simply not a substitute for the state setting clear, objective overall goals and priorities for climate adaptation.

Our fourth Principle for State Investment in Climate Adaptation is,

We must ensure that the best available, independent science is used to evaluate proposed state investments in climate change adaptation, to ensure that those investments truly increase climate resiliency.

There is also no proposal in the Water Resilience Portfolio for an evaluation of proposed state investments using the best available, independent science. Instead, the Portfolio proposes to:

Establish an inter-agency and public-private task force that includes diverse stakeholders to prioritize key scientific questions statewide that must be answered to better inform water managers about how to best manage water supplies and flood risk for all of California’s needs. (23.1, 24.)

While robust stakeholder engagement is a worthy goal, it should not be combined with setting priorities for key scientific questions and scientific research.  This should be done by scientists, not those who benefit from water sales or from investments in specific projects.  Determining key scientific questions should be the role of independent agency scientists at the Delta Independent Science Board and the Delta Stewardship Council,  the Delta Plan Interagency Implementation Committee, state and federal fisheries biologists, the US Geological Survey and US Army Corps of Engineers, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, and of researchers at the University of California and California State Universities.  To do otherwise risks politicizing science used in climate adaptation planning, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | November 18, 2019

Delta tunnel contract negotiations: water grab?

DeltatunnelseaThe Department of Water Resources has been engaging in negotiations with the State Water Project Delta export contractors on an Agreement in Principle for a contract to pay for the “Delta Conveyance Project” (aka the Delta tunnel.)

This post discusses the November 14, 2019 drafts of the Agreement in Principle. There is a fifth draft offer by the Department of Water Resources and a sixth draft offer by the SWP contractors, who are calling themselves the “Public Water Agencies” or “PWAs.”

The draft Agreements in Principle show that, while the single Delta tunnel capacity is likely to be less than Governor Brown’s twin tunnels project, the SWP contractors are proposing that it be operated in ways that could significantly increase Delta exports. Key provisions are explained below.

Defines the proposed Delta tunnel project for CEQA

According to the drafts exchanged by DWR and the SWP contractors, the Agreement in Principle will be used to define the proposed project description for the purposes of CEQA.

The Agreement in Principle defines the “Delta Conveyance Facility” as a water diversion intake structure or structures on the Sacramento River, connected by a single tunnel to the facilities at Banks pumping plant.

DWR’s negotiator revealed on November 13 that for the purposes of the Agreement in Principle the assumed capacity of the State Water Project share of the Delta tunnel is 6,000 cfs.  That value is used in both November 14 draft offers.

Reliability “not a purpose”

The SWP contractors have rejected language stating that the Delta tunnel “will provide benefits to the SWP as a whole, including potentially enhanced water supply reliability.”  Current drafts state that “This is not a purpose of the AIP” (Agreement in Principle.)

Opt-in and increased diversions

The drafts state that the Delta tunnel project will be “opt-in,” that is, only SWP contractors that choose to participate will pay for it.  The opt-in framework is similar to that proposed for the CVP share of Governor Brown’s WaterFix project.

The drafts define “Delta Conveyance Facility water” as “water attributable to the Delta Conveyance Facility.”  They state that DWR operational scheduling and accounting processes will distinguish between water under current contracts (Table A water) and
“Delta Conveyance Facility Water,” i.e. “additional water diverted at and attributable to” the Delta tunnel.

The drafts also state that to the extent DWR moves water under the existing SWP contracts with the Delta tunnel, participants in the project “will be given a first priority of available capacity to move up to that same amount of non-project water at Clifton Court Forebay Intake.”

The drafts do not specify the “non-project water” that could be exported, but it could include water available under Reclamation’s Central Valley Project permits, water from Sites Reservoir, as well as water acquired by purchase or condemnation.

If the SWP share of the Delta tunnel is not full, the drafts allocate any remaining available capacity to the participating State Water Project contractors.  Only if none of the participating contractors use the remaining capacity, is it offered to the non-participating SWP contractors.

Conclusion

Given the provisions of the draft Agreement in Principle, it is difficult to see how the Newsom administration can continue to claim that the Delta tunnel project is about State Water Project water supply reliability, and will not be used to increase Delta exports.

 

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | October 14, 2019

Climate change and instream flows

During the 2012-2016 drought, the State Water Resources Control Board temporarily suspended at least 35 minimum instream flow standards. The Department of Fish and Wildlife reported in 2015 that there had been 783 fish rescues in 52 different watersheds, comprising 51 species, and more than 264,000 fish. Six hundred wild McCloud River redband trout were captured and held in nine holding tanks in the Shasta River fish hatchery until stream conditions improved.  In the Scott River, an estimated 116,000 endangered Coho salmon were rescued and relocated. This was crisis management.

In reviewing the effects of the 2012-2016 drought, Hanak, Mount, Chappelle and Lund et. al. noted that “many of California’s aquatic ecosystems remain chronically starved for habitat and water in all years,” and that as a result, “native species enter droughts with diminished and geographically limited populations, only to encounter greater stresses during drought.”  In the Delta, critically endangered Delta smelt may have gone functionally extinct from relaxation of minimum Delta flow standards.

Unless we do a better job of keeping water in our rivers and streams, California’s native aquatic species will not survive climate change.

Scott River, Reach 14, August 2014      CDFW / NOAA Fisheries et. al.
Cooperative Report of the Scott River Coho Salmon Rescue and Relocation Effort, August 2015.

Comprehensive instream flow standards

During the 1976-77 drought, Governor Brown created a Commission to Review California Water Rights Law.  The blue-ribbon panel was charged with reviewing the Water Code in light of the drought and Article X, Section 2 of the California Constitution on “Reasonable Use” of water.  The Commission’s 1978 Final Report recommended increased protection for instream flows, and providing for better management of groundwater.  The groundwater recommendations were ahead of their time and were not implemented for decades.  For instream flows, the Commission proposed:

  1. That comprehensive instream flow standards be set on a stream-by-stream basis by the State Water Resources Control Board and that the Board comply with these standards in its administrative and adjudicatory decision making; that instream flow standards be expressed in terms of certain quantities or flows of water which are required to be present at certain points along the stream at certain times of the year to protect fishery, wildlife, recreational, aesthetic, scenic and other beneficial instream uses; and
  2. That compliance programs be developed where it is determined that the limitations on administrative actions imposed by the instream flow standards are inadequate to secure the beneficial instream uses of water envisioned by the standards.

(p. 129.)

Although legislation was subsequently passed mandating the determination of instream flows, doing so has been delayed for decades.

In 1982, the legislature passed a law requiring the then-called Department of Fish and Game to “identify and list those streams and watercourses throughout the State for which minimum flow levels needed to be established in order to assure the continued viability” of stream-dependent fish and wildlife.  DFG was then required to prepare proposed “streamflow requirements” for each stream not later than July 1,1989 (Pub. Res. Code §§ 10001-2.)  The Department of Fish and Game did not even transmit the identification list to the Water Board until 2008. The transmittal identified 20 priority streams and was accompanied by obsolete and incomplete streamflow studies done over the previous 20 years.  The now-called Department of Fish and Wildife has since proposed only two actual “streamflow requirements” for the identified streams, for the Big Sur River and Butte Creek.

In 2014, Action 4 of Governor Brown’s California Water Action Plan mandated that the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife develop “defensible, cost-effective, and time-sensitive approaches to establish instream flows using sound science and a transparent public process.”   However, the action was not even begun until after the drought ended, likely due to agency resource limitations. The chosen streams include:

  • Shasta River, tributary to the Klamath River
  • South Fork Eel River, tributary to the Eel River
  • Mark West Creek, tributary to the Russian River
  • Mill Creek, tributary to the Sacramento River
  • Ventura River

The Water Board passed a resolution authorizing additional funding for instream flow studies for these five streams on October 3, 2019.

Klamath river
Photo by Tupper Ansel Blake,  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In 2010, pursuant to the 2009 Delta Reform Act (Water Code section 85087), the Water Board sent a report to the legislature estimating that comprehensively determining instream flows for 100 priority streams outside the Delta and its watersheds would cost $107 million.  The Water Board has been collaboratively developing analytical tools for assessing instream flow needs that may reduce the costs.

As part of recommendations for the Water Resilience Portfolio, California Water Research collaborated with the One Water Network of environmental groups to propose the following actions:

  1. Launch a major new initiative for the Water Board to set long-needed comprehensive instream flow standards statewide.
  2. Require explicit analysis of the constitutional principles of reasonable use and the public trust doctrine in state water management decisions. Make those principles the foundation of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update.
  3. Determine instream flow needs before consideration of petitions for major new diversions.
  4. Create mechanisms for public funding for alternative water supplies where needed to mitigate impacts of reduced diversions to maintain instream flows.
  5. Provide dedicated funding to support and expand the Water Board’s core water rights and water quality actions.

While the political fashion has swung towards non-regulatory actions and voluntary agreements, such actions have manifestly failed to keep enough water in our streams and rivers for aquatic and stream-dependent species.

Regulatory actions would be consistent with the 1983 California Supreme Court decision in National Audubon Society v. Superior Court that “[t]he state has an affirmative duty to take the public trust into account in the planning and allocation of water resources, and to protect public trust uses whenever feasible.”

They would also be consistent with the 2009 Delta Reform Act. California Water Code section 85023 mandates that “[t]he longstanding constitutional principle of reasonable use and the public trust doctrine shall be the foundation of state water management policy and are particularly important and applicable to the Delta.”

California’s constitutional principle of reasonable use and the public trust are fundamental to creating more resilient aquatic ecosystems in the face of population growth and climate change.

The history of instream flows was researched and written by Deirdre Des Jardins in collaboration with Lowell Ashbaugh and the One Water Network of environmental groups on recommendations for Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio.

This blog post was updated on 10/15/19 to add a picture of the Scott River in 2014.

The Department of Water Resources’ 2018 California Water Plan Update proposes that the state invest $90.2 billion over the next 50 years in increasing resilience of water supply and flood infrastructure, and ecosystem restoration. The enormously costly proposal is ambitiously named the “State Water Investment Plan.”

The $90.2 billion in the proposed “State Water Investment Strategy” includes $59 billion to “Strengthen Resiliency and Operational Flexibility of Existing and Future Infrastructure.”  The $59 billion includes implementation of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan, which was determined to need $17-21 billion over the next 30 years in the 2017 CVFPP update.  The investment plan also proposes to subsidize maintenance and rehabilitation of the State Water Project and locally owned water supply infrastructure, ending the longtime state policy of “beneficiary pays.”

State Water Investment Strategy                           Source:  Department of Water Resources

DWR is proposing that the State Water Investment Strategy investments increase steadily, reaching $20 billion per decade by 2048.   But if investments in water supply are front-loaded, needed improvements in Central Valley flood protection may not be reached by 2050. This could be catastrophic. Daniel Swain et. al. estimated in 2018 that there is a 50% chance of an Arkstorm like flood event in the next 40 years.  The investment plan also includes no consideration of the need for investments in adaptation to sea level rise, which could become a major issue for coastal cities by mid-century.

Sea_Level_Rise_(14227656790)

Coastal flooding   Source:  National Parks Service

DWR’s State Water Investment Strategy also suggests diversion of funding from the GHG Cap and Trade fund to water infrastructure needs.  Diverting funds from mitigation would also increase risk of catastrophic effects of climate change and should be a non-starter.

The Department of Water Resources and the Natural Resources Agency need to revisit the State Water Investment Plan with an eye to a more balanced investment plan that takes into account needs for investment both in climate mitigation and adaptation.  The plan should consider the need for state investments in adaptation to sea level rise, as well as to increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts.   The plan should also prioritize state investments for “orphan” projects that otherwise have no revenue stream.

This post was updated on 10/14/2019 to include DWR’s graph of proposed State Water Investment Strategy investments.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | September 30, 2019

Voluntary Agreements on Delta flows have no real backstop

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Delta smelt        Source: USFWS 

A September 19, 2019 Los Angeles Times Op Ed urged that Governor Gavin Newsom sign Senate Bill 1.  One of the reasons given was that by affirming the Endangered Species Act protections in the bill, Newsom would signal that standards for the Voluntary Agreements on Delta flows would be kept high:

Newsom has put a lot of stock into the voluntary settlement talks as a keystone of his still-developing water policy. He appears to believe that he can get the various water interests — agriculture, urban suppliers, environmentalists — to reach an accord that has eluded them for decades. […]

By making clear that the state would keep its standards high, SB 1 would have provided crucial leverage to keep water agencies at the negotiating table with the understanding that they will ultimately have to take less instead of — as Trump would have it — more.

Newsom’s veto of Senate Bill 1 shows just how little backstop there is for the Voluntary Agreements on Delta flows.  This should not be surprising, given how the regulatory framework for the Water Board’s determination of Delta flow objectives has been gutted.

When the Water Board voted to approve new flow requirements for the Lower San Joaquin River and South Delta in December 2018, the resolution encouraged Voluntary Agreements within the Water Board’s regulatory framework.  The resolution states in part:

The State Water Board encourages stakeholders to continue to work together to reach voluntary agreements that incorporate a mix of flow and non-flow measures that meet or exceed the new and revised water quality objectives and protect fish and wildlife beneficial uses, and to present those voluntary agreements to the State Water Board for its review as soon as feasible.   (underlining added.)

But a Trojan Horse clause was inserted at the last minute in the Board’s resolution adopting the Lower San Joaquin flow requirements, under Governor Brown’s direction.  The clause formalized Brown’s back-room political process for a “Delta watershed-wide agreement” that would be an alternative for the Water Board’s entire Bay-Delta Plan update, including the lower San Joaquin River flows.  Clause 7 states in part:

…State Water Board staff shall incorporate the Delta watershed-wide agreement, including potential amendments to implement agreements related to the Tuolumne River, as an alternative for a future, comprehensive Bay-Delta Plan update that addresses the reasonable protection of beneficial uses across the Delta watershed…

No one at the Water Board’s hearing had any notice of Governor Brown’s proposed insertion of Clause 7 in the resolution adopting the San Joaquin flows, nor did anyone except Board members have any opportunity to comment on the clause at the hearing.

Clause 7 has now largely gutted the Water Board’s regulatory processes for the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan update.  Under the Newsom administration, the “Delta watershed-wide agreement” has morphed from an alternative considered by the Water Board in the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update, determined by the Natural Resources Agency negotiations.

Given the end run around the Water Board’s independence and normal regulatory processes, it should not be surprising that the Voluntary Agreements are driven more by politics than science.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | September 23, 2019

The fate of the last Voluntary Agreements to restore the Bay-Delta

Voluntary Agreements to restore the Bay-Delta are a part of the Newsom administration’s Water Resilience Portfolio.  Water agencies have touted these agreements as a “new way forward.” But voluntary agreements to restore the Delta are not new – they just fail and are never discussed again.

This blog post examines the last voluntary agreements in the Delta – the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord — and how they unraveled.

SacDeltaSacramento Delta       Source: Wikicommons

In December 1994, environmental groups joined representatives of the state and federal governments and urban and agricultural water agencies in signing the “historic” Bay-Delta Accord.  The Bay-Delta Accord was described as a “consensus-based framework” to restore the Bay-Delta estuary while ensuring water supply reliability.  The 2000 CALFED framework grew out of the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord.  The major components of the CALFED framework included:

Ecosystem Restoration

Water Quality

Water Supply Reliability

Levee Integrity

Actions under the CALFED framework were negotiated with stakeholders, including environmental, fishing, and Delta groups as well as urban and agricultural water agencies.  But by 2008 the program was widely acknowledged to be a failure.

Failure of the Environmental Water Account

CALFED had an Environmental Water Account program, which provided for purchases of ecosystem water from willing sellers. Environmental groups rapidly became disillusioned with the Environmental Water Account. In 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council commented:

From 2001-2004, the EWA provided only 29% on average of the expected 195,000 acre-feet of operational assets …. These shortfalls have occurred while exports from the Delta have reached record high levels and the ecosystem has continued spiraling downward.  Clearly, the EWA experiment has not performed as planned.

The agencies have turned the EWA on its head and, instead of using it to supplement the resources needed and required for fish protection, have used it as an excuse to short the environment and avoid committing those mandatory resources.  Unless the agencies make very clear that limited EWA assets cannot be used as a reason not to take an action that would help protect or restore imperiled fish, it should be discontinued.

In 2006, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Bay Institute filed an emergency petition to change the listing for the Delta Smelt to “endangered” from threatened.   A period of intense litigation and conflict over federal Endangered Species Act protections in the Delta followed the filings.

Failure of Governance

There were other reasons that the CALFED science-based adaptive management program failed to recover Delta fish populations.

One of the issues for the state legislature was the cost of the CALFED program.   The Ecosystem Restoration Program commitments were $150 million a year, and the Environmental Water Account cost $50 million a year.  With the state’s growing budget crisis, these costs were an issue.   Governor Schwarzenegger directed a review of the CALFED program by the Little Hoover Commission in 2005.   The report included the following recommendation:

Recommendation:  Policy-makers must adopt clear and specific goals for the CALFED program and fortify those goals with budget and legislative authority.

  • Set clear, specific goals for CALFED. The Legislature must put in place goals that communicate to the implementing agencies and the stakeholders the State’s priorities and preferred strategies for restoring the estuary and meeting water needs.
  • Ensure the implementing agencies have sufficient authority and resources to succeed. The Legislature must embed the CALFED goals in the authorizing statutes of the implementing agencies, empower those agencies to achieve their missions, and provide sufficient staff and funding to succeed.

Correspondence by the CALFED Independent Science Board in 2008 showed that there was insufficient funding to even develop performance metrics for progress in the main program areas.

As a result of the Little Hoover Commission report, the Delta Stewardship Council was created in the Delta Reform Act in 2009. The Bay-Delta Authority was dissolved and the responsibilities were transferred to the Delta Stewardship Council.  But the governance problems continued.  The Delta Stewardship Council dropped the CALFED water quality program, leaving consideration of effects of contaminants in the Delta to the chronically underfunded State Water Resources Control Board.   The goals in the CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program, which included restoration of at risk native fish populations, were not included in the Delta Stewardship Council’s new Delta Plan.  The new performance measures in the Delta Plan were ruled inadequate by the Sacramento Superior Court in 2016.

Meanwhile, Delta smelt are going extinct.

Delta Smelt FMWT Abundance  1967-2018

Delta smelt abundance

Source: CDFW

Lessons Learned

The Newsom administration’s Water Resilience Portfolio is shaping up to look a lot like the 2000 CALFED program, with its emphasis on collaborative solutions, adaptive management, habitat restoration, and huge state investments. The reasons for failure of the 2000 CALFED program should be examined before any major new commitments.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | September 16, 2019

Principles for State Investment in Climate Adaptation

This is the first of a series of blog posts on California Water Research’s recommendations for the Water Resilience Portfolio.

640px-Climate_change_adaptation_icon

Source: Tommaso.sansone91          Wikimedia Commons

Principles for State Investment in Climate Adaptation

The first priority of the state must be increasing resiliency of the existing built environment, and protecting vulnerable populations from catastrophic effects of climate change. Catastrophic climate change effects include severe droughts, river flooding, heat waves, fires, and inundation from sea level rise.

The state must also invest in increasing resiliency of ecosystems in the face of climate change.

We must recognize that demand for funding for climate adaptation measures will exceed availability.

We must ensure that the best available, independent science is used to evaluate proposed state investments in climate change adaptation, to ensure that those investments truly increase climate resiliency.

We must develop clear, objective goals and priorities for state investment in climate adaptation, as well as criteria for evaluation of proposed projects. Clear and measurable targets must be set for Water Portfolio investments.

Water Supply

State water supply investments should prioritize public benefits such as increasing ecosystem resilience, and avoid subsidizing the cost of water, which indirectly subsidizes unsustainable patterns of use. State subsidies for water supply for disadvantaged communities should be targeted at those communities.

Targeted funding should also be provided to reduce reliance on aquatic ecosystems and aquifers by investing in urban and agricultural conservation and efficiency and alternative water supplies.

The state should evaluate current patterns of land use, including agricultural use, and ensure that state policies encourage uses that are sustainable and adaptive to climate change.

Ecosystems

For aquatic ecosystems to survive in the face of climate change and demand for new diversions, the state must ensure that there are adequately protective instream flow criteria.  Quantifiable goals and deadlines should be set.

The state must prioritize climate adaptation measures that increase sustainability in the use of surface water and reduce impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

For inundation due to sea level rise and river flooding, the state should prioritize pro-adaptive approaches which utilize natural infrastructure, where feasible.

Mitigation

The Water Portfolio should address mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions as well as climate adaptation.

These recommendations are endorsed and supported by the One Water Network of California environmental and environmental justice organizations.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | September 9, 2019

Delta tunnel – commitment to updated science on sea level rise

On August 28, 2019, the Sacramento Press Club held a panel on Droughts, Tunnels & Clean Water: A Conversation on California Water Policy .  Panelists included  Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot, MWD general manager Jeff Kightlinger, and the State water Contractors general manager Jennifer Pierre.

The transcript of the panel is now up on Maven’s Notebook.  Deirdre Des Jardins’ question is recorded:

I had a question about the Delta tunnel and sea level rise.  The last analysis that the North Delta intakes would stay fresh was done in 2010, which accounted for 55 inches of sea level rise and assumed no failure of the Delta levees.  My question for Mr. Kightlinger and Ms. Pierre is, are you going to do a new analysis for 10 feet of sea level rise?

The response by Jeff Kightlinger was explored in last week’s blog.   MWD is considering the cost-benefit tradeoffs of moving the Delta tunnel intakes north.

Secretary Crowfoot’s response is equally important:

I would add that’s the benefit of the new environmental review is to bring in updated scienceI think its scary for anybody who watches how these projections about sea level rise are changing, the acceleration of ice melt in the arctic so this new CEQA analysis will build in, as I understand, with the updated science as it relates to sea level rise.”

The Newsom administration’s expressed commitment to using updated science on sea level rise for the new CEQA analysis is long needed.  In 2014, a prescient review by the Delta Independent Science Board stated:

The potential direct effects of climate change and sea-level rise on the effectiveness of actions, including operations involving new water conveyance facilities, are not adequately considered. […] Similar comments could be made about the treatments of other disrupting factors, such as floods, levee failures, earthquakes, or invasive species, any of which could profoundly alter the desired outcomes of BDCP actions.

In their response to our preliminary draft review, the Department of Water Resources noted that “the scope of an EIR/EIS is to consider the effects of the project on the environment, and not the environment on the project”. If the effects of major environmental disruptions such as climate change, sea-level rise, levee breaches, floods, and the like are not considered, however, one must assume that the actions will have the stated outcomes. We believe this is dangerously unrealistic. 

(underlining added.)

In 2018, the Delta Stewardship Council’s Draft Staff Determination on WaterFix Consistency Appeal stated:

… the Department stated its assumptions still reflect the use of best available science because they are consistent with the recommended estimates for the sea-level rise under the “likely range” reported for years 2030 and 2060 in the latest guidance from the California Ocean Protection Council for sea-level rise planning.The California Ocean Protection Council, however, recommends the “likely range” for use in low risk aversion decisions, such as a coastal unpaved trail. (Ocean Protection Council, 2018 Update, p. 25.) Whereas, it recommends use of the H++ scenario, which is extreme risk aversion, for projects with a lifespan beyond 2050. (Ibid.)

The H++ scenario, from the 4th National Climate Change Assessment, projects up to 6.6 feet of sea level rise at the Golden Gate by 2080, and up to 10.2 feet of sea level rise at the Golden Gate by 2100.  These dates would be about 40-60 years after any Delta tunnel project was finished.

While the H++ scenario is a maximum estimate, it is important to use conservative design assumptions for sea level rise in the engineering design.  The rate of mass loss in the West Antarctic ice sheet has tripled in recent years.

800px-glacier_on_antarctic_coast_mountain_behind

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | September 2, 2019

Delta tunnel:  MWD weighs moving intakes 20-30 miles north for sea level rise

On Wednesday, August 28, 2019, the Sacramento Press Club hosted a panel discussion, “Droughts, tunnels & clean water.”  The panel included Wade Crowfoot, Secretary of Natural Resources, Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager and CEO of Metropolitan Water District, and Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors. Stuart Leavenworth from the LA Times moderated the panel.

The Newsom administration has committed to modernizing Delta Conveyance to protect water supplies from earthquakes and sea level rise. In a July 8 update to the Metropolitan Water District’s Water Planning and Stewardship Committee, Crowfoot stated, “if you are a state agency and you are building infrastructure that you want to exist and be operating in 2100, you need to plan for between 5 and 10 feet of sea level rise.”  Crowfoot emphasized that sea level rise was one of the reasons the Newsom administration supported the Delta tunnel, stating, “when we’re talking about really protecting our water supply against sea level rise and saltwater intrusion, the underground conveyance or the tunnel becomes quite important.

The Newsom administration has relied on assertions by the Department of Water Resources that the North Delta is 15 feet above sea level.  But as explained in California Water Research’s August 12 blog post, this assertion is misleading.  In the North Delta, only the top of the Sacramento River levee is 15 feet above sea level.  Elevations at Courtland and Hood range from -1 to 8 feet above sea level, and the bottom of the Sacramento River is over 20 feet below sea level. California Water Research has recommended that new modeling be done of the performance of the North Delta intakes with high sea level rise.

During the Q&A period at the Sacramento Press Club luncheon,Deirdre Des Jardins advised the attendees of these facts. She asked Kightlinger and Pierre if they would commit to modeling the performance of the North Delta intakes with 10 feet of sea level rise and widespread levee failure. In response, Kightlinger stated that MWD is looking at moving the Delta tunnel intakes 20-30 miles north to accommodate sea level rise. Kightlinger stated that MWD is evaluating the increased costs of a longer tunnel, versus the benefits of extending the lifetime of the project.

It is unclear what intake locations Kightlinger was referring to.  But in 2010, the Department of Water Resources evaluated two sets of locations north of Freeport, which would resist salinity intrusion with 10+ feet of sea level rise.  The first set includes two locations on the west bank of the Sacramento River in South Sacramento, the second set, two locations upstream of the American River confluence.  A third set of alternative locations was downstream of the confluence with Steamboat Slough.  (see below.)  These would benefit salmon but have less resistance to salinity intrusion.
2010 intake locs

These alternative locations were considered and rejected in 2010, partly on the basis of modeling by Resource Management Associates (RMA) which was interpreted to show no impacts from salinity intrusion at any of the proposed intake locations.  But as explained in California Water Research’s August 6 blog, the 2010 RMA modeling is obsolete and has major limitations.  The 2010 RMA modeling assumed 55 inches of sea level rise, and no failure of North Delta levees.  The California Ocean Protection Council’s current estimate of maximal sea level rise by 2100 is 10 feet or 120 inches.  This is over twice the 2010 estimate.

As part of “assessment of efforts to modernize Delta Conveyance,” California Water Research has recommended that the Newsom administration document that the WaterFix intake locations need to be reassessed for performance with 10 feet of sea level rise and widespread levee failure.

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