Chapters on Ecological Effects, Implementation, and Governance Posted for Public Discussion; Public Meeting to Follow
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration today released three additional chapters of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). This is an effort to provide the public with the latest status of the plan and an early opportunity to consider it. The remaining chapters will be released next month.
“At the beginning of the Brown administration, we made a long-term commitment to let science drive the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “Today, with the public unveiling of the effects analysis, we make that a reality. Science has and will continue to drive a holistic resolution securing our water supply and substantially restoring the Delta’s lost habitat.”
The draft chapters made public today describe the anticipated ecological effects and proposed governance structure of the BDCP. The 50-year plan seeks the recovery of native fish and wildlife species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while also stabilizing water deliveries for 25 million Californians and three million acres of farmland.
The California Natural Resources Agency released the first four chapters of the draft BDCP on March 14. Chapters five through seven were made public today. The remaining chapters are scheduled for public posting the week of April 22. The full plan and an accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) will be released for formal public comment later this year.
A public meeting to discuss chapters five through seven is scheduled for April 4, at a location soon to be announced.
“This project relies on 40 years of intensive scientific study of the Delta’s ecosystem,” said California Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. “It aims to change the way we divert water from the Delta to better protect fish, and it ties future water deliveries to the health of the Delta’s fish and wildlife populations.”
The BDCP is a Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan that must meet the standards of the federal Endangered Species Act and California’s Natural Community Conservation Planning Act as it seeks to protect more than 50 species of fish, wildlife, and plants over 50 years. It takes into account the effects of climate change, which experts predict will hinder the recovery of the Delta’s already-stressed native fish species and also jeopardize the reliability of water deliveries.
The newly-released documents describe in detail the effects of the BDCP on ecosystem processes, natural communities, and protected species. (Other environmental impacts are being evaluated in the EIR/EIS.)
The Obama administration has been working with state agencies to assist in developing a plan that can meet legal requirements and allow for appropriate integration with the federal Central Valley Project.
The BDCP has been substantially modified since an earlier draft of the plan was released in February 2012. In July, Governor Brown, joined by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, announced revisions to the plan, including a reduction from five to three intakes along the Sacramento River and a 40 percent reduction in the capacity of the proposed intakes and conveyance facility, from 15,000 cfs to 9,000 cfs.
Those revisions have led to significant changes in Chapter 5, “Effects Analysis.” The chapter is a core element of the BDCP. It represents a systematic, scientific evaluation of the potential beneficial, adverse, and net effects of the BDCP. This analysis, based upon literature review and 68 different scientific models, is intended to provide federal and state fish and wildlife agencies the information they need to decide whether and on what terms to issue permits and authorizations for the BDCP. It also provides the informational foundation from which the plan addresses scientific uncertainty through adaptive management and monitoring. Though the effects analysis chapter continues to be refined, a draft has been released so that the public may assess the progress made to date.
“An immense amount of science has gone into the draft BDCP, but we know there will always be scientific uncertainty,” said Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham. “We also know that doing nothing is unacceptable from a conservation point of view. Success for BDCP will depend on the use of the best science available now, and ensuring through regulatory and governance processes that science guides the project in the future.”
The newly-released documents describe how the BDCP would result in substantial ecological benefits including:
· Restoration, protection, or enhancement of more than 100,000 acres of habitat.
· A shift in the location, amount, and timing of federal and state water project diversions from the Delta during most years.
· Restoration of more natural flow patterns through the Delta.
· Habitat improvements for almost all of the 57 covered species.
· Expanded and improved habitat for salmon, smelt, and sturgeon, as well as increased food supplies for these species and reduced entrainment at pumping plants.
Another chapter made public today, “Implementation,” describes the BDCP approach to the scientific uncertainty inevitable in a plan so comprehensive and long-lasting. BDCP would use adaptive management to adjust conservation measures to achieve specified biological objectives based on new scientific information and insight gained from monitoring and targeted research and to respond to changed conditions. The newly-released documents also describe the proposed governance and implementation structure of the BDCP, the overall aim of which is to bring sufficient institutional expertise, capacity, resources, and focus to bear in order to accomplish the BDCP goals and objectives.
The “Implementation Structure” chapter made public today identifies the roles, functions, authorities, and responsibilities of the various entities that will participate in BDCP implementation. It describes the institutional structure and organizational arrangements that will be established to govern and implement the BDCP.
Like other aspects of the BDCP, details of implementation and governance are expected to change as the proposals are refined and input from the public and government agencies is received and considered.
Chapters of the plan to be released in coming weeks will describe estimated costs and potential funding sources and analyze alternative ways that the dual goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability might be achieved.
The plan includes 22 separate “conservation measures,” many of which are designed to offset the effects of covered activities, including operation with new diversion and conveyance facilities of the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP), which draw water from the Delta. The California Department of Water Resources, which operates the SWP, will apply for state and federal permits for the plan, while the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the CVP, will seek coverage under a separate provision of the federal Endangered Species Act.
A media-only briefing call regarding the latest release of draft BDCP chapters will be held today.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 11 a.m.
Call-In Number: (877) 941-8638
John Laird, secretary, California Natural Resources Agency
Gerald Meral, deputy secretary, California Natural Resources Agency
Mark Cowin, director, California Department of Water Resources
Charlton H. Bonham, director, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Michael Connor, commissioner, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
To read the BDCP chapters and obtain more information about the plan, please visit: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com.