2012-2014 BDCP Blog


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Correcting Stubborn Myths

By Karla Nemeth, California Natural Resources Agency

In light of the importance of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to most Californians, we thought it time to address some of the stubborn “urban myths” that are being perpetuated about the BDCP. We encourage Californians to get involved with understanding the proposed plan and investigate the details for themselves.

Good water policy in California requires an open discussion of facts. It also requires a good faith acknowledgment that “final” answers aren’t, by definition, to be found in “draft” documents. Public draft documents open up the process for review and constructive comments. Hopefully by correcting some more persistent myths, we will clear the way for a meaningful exchange of ideas during the public review process, set to begin on December 13, 2013.


Myth 1: No one knows how much water will be exported under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The BDCP would provide approximately 10% more or 10% less than the average annual amount diverted by the federal and state water projects over the last 20 years (see related video clip "How Much Water?" here).  For even more detailed analysis, please see Chapter 9. The main goal is to modernize a 50-year-old water system that leaves Californians vulnerable to water shortages from court-mandated decisions, earthquakes and other natural disasters.


Myth 2: This is a water grab for Southern California and San Joaquin Valley farmers. The BDCP is designed to secure existing supplies of clean, affordable, and reliable water to 25 million people from the Silicon Valley to San Diego, the farmers who grow crops on 3 million acres of farmland, and the whole of the California economy.


Myth 3:  The BDCP will destroy the Delta’s environment. The current system is not working for the environment or for California’s water users. The pumps in the south Delta tend to pull channel flows backwards, killing two out of three fish in the area. The new system would divert water from the north Delta when fish are migrating near the south Delta pumps and would use state-of-the art fish screens. Additionally, over 100,000 acres of wetlands and tidal marsh would be protected or restored to improve conditions for wildlife and the natural environment.


Myth 4:  No one knows how much it will cost or who will pay for the BDCP. The state and federal water contractors who receive water from the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project would pay for infrastructure construction and mitigation. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has estimated that this will result in an additional cost to its ratepayers of approximately $5-6 per household per month over a 10- year time frame.  Most of the habitat restoration and ecosystem improvements that provide a tangible benefit to the entire state would be borne by state and federal taxpayers


Myth 5: There is no cost-benefit analysis and no evaluation of alternative options. There is a cost-benefit analysis and an evaluation of alternative options. The BDCP Chapter 9: Alternatives to Take tests different alternatives, in part to determine if alternatives would be economically feasible.  Appendix 9A provides a detailed evaluation of the benefits of the proposed project to participating water agencies.  A Statewide Economic Impact Study looks at the economic impacts of the BDCP on various interest groups, including Delta farmers, commercial fishing interests, recreational Delta interests, and others.


Myth 6: No one knows how the BDCP operations will be governed. Section of the Draft Plan states that operation of the new and existing water conveyance facilities would be managed to specific criteria, and that flow criteria would be applied month by month based on water year type, and would always include a required amount of Sacramento River flow before water could be diverted.


Myth 7: There is no clear science being used for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Fishery scientists acknowledge areas of debate and uncertainty regarding the best ways to sustain Delta fish. The BDCP deals with this scientific uncertainty by creating a rigorous Decision Tree (See Chapter 3, Section process for scientists to evaluate and refine operational criteria in a structured, transparent, and collaborative way.


Myth 8: The BDCP process has not been transparent or open to the public. The BDCP was developed with input from state and federal agencies and independent scientists after more than 600 public meetings and stakeholder briefings. All of the more than 3,000 documents are posted online in an unprecedented commitment to public access and government transparency. In 2011, a working draft BDCP was released. In 2012, administrative drafts of the BDCP and Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement were released. Since then, the proposed project was significantly revised in response to stakeholder involvement.

The public review drafts of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement are scheduled for release to the public on December 13, 2013. This begins a 120 public comment period. We encourage more Californians to get involved with understanding the proposed plan by visiting http://www.baydeltaconservationplan.com.

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