Time is running out to fix Northern California’s beleaguered Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That seems to be the consensus from the latest major meeting of officials and stakeholders.
Today’s meeting in Sacramento was a rarity; both state and federal officials sat down to explain the complicated Delta planning process in a public setting.
David Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the federal Department of the Interior, underscored the urgency, telling the gathering that “We are one seismic event away” from a potential three-year interruption in water supplies to Southern California.
“Even if you don’t have a seismic event, the effects of climate change, a major flooding event, threaten the Delta because it’s built on quicksand — basically levees that will not hold against a major event,” said Hayes. The Delta provides water for 25 million Californians. Hayes said his agency and the White House are “in full lockstep” with Governor Jerry Brown’s process for dialing in a Delta strategy. The state is pursuing “co-equal goals” of satisfying California’s water demands while protecting Delta eco-systems, which several speakers said are “crashing.”
Local leaders were heard from, too. Solano County supervisor Mike Regan called for more inclusiveness, saying that Counties in the region have been “talked at” but not given a meaningful voice in the planning.
Various planning efforts have gone on for decades and millions spent on ways to balance the delicate Sacramento-San Joaquin river ecosystems, with ever-growing demands for water. But outside the Sacramento gathering, Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes says these are finally coming to a head.
“This year is the year that counts,” Hayes told me, outside the gathering. “This is the year that we’re finally going to see what a proposed plan would look like to move water differently through the Delta. We’re also going to see what alternatives are on the table, and start the public dialogue that will be much more grounded in specific proposals.
Those “specific proposals” will supposedly be revealed in a state-mandated Delta Plan, due out by the end of the year. The third draft of the plan was released last week. Today’s meeting focused on a parallel effort, known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which is intended to be part of the more comprehensive Delta Plan. Confused? You’re not alone.