Citizens of the Sacramento region should continue to be wary of the state and federal government's Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
The plan threatens Northern California water supplies and places our economy and natural resources at risk. The plan will very likely degrade the quality of life for the region's residents in the future and increase the cost of doing business.
The Legislature in 2009 mandated the co-equal goals of improving water supply reliability and restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's ecosystem.
The proposed plan would establish more than 100,000 acres one-seventh of the entire Delta for habitat preservation and enhancement. This would require displacing and converting highly productive agricultural land.
Further, the current "conveyance" proposal consists of three massive water intake pumps and a 2-square-mile forebay constructed near the Hood and Courtland communities. These facilities would supply water to twin 35-mile long tunnels (33 to 37 feet in diameter) and send it south from the Sacramento River under the Delta to serve thirsty farms in the San Joaquin Valley and metropolitan areas of the Southern California.
Many members of our congressional and state legislative delegations understand and support the concerns of the Delta cities and counties. However, neither the governor nor the U.S. secretary of the Interior acknowledges that the current process would significantly threaten our region's long-standing water rights.
Proponents of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan have made statements that regulatory decisions regarding flow in the Delta, water quality and water use are not in their authority, but fall under existing processes outside of BDCP, and that the plan itself does not address water rights.
Taken at face value, this may be true, but does little to reassure our region that its water rights will be protected and guaranteed for future generations.
The proposal clearly is a threat to our water rights as there are no enforceable water supply assurances provided in the plan for our region.
We continue to seek reasonable legislative protections and assurances that our water rights will not be harmed.
The timing of the proposal is premature, and implementation of pumps and tunnels should wait until the needs of the Delta are clearly identified. Given the size of the plan, its success clearly will be dependent on the development of the new flow and water quality standards.
Further, given the accelerated push for implementation by the state and the water exporters, one cannot imagine that those separate processes won't be influenced by the BDCP.
Interestingly, the water exporters are committed to covering a large percentage 75 percent of the project-related costs.
However, implementation of the plan's key conservation measures will unduly impact our region's ability to fully use and exercise our established water rights for future growth and regional sustainability.
These rights will be chiseled away through additional and incremental regulatory mandates on water.
Meanwhile, the water exporters will build and operate the new pumps, leaving the state and federal governments to determine how to pay for the rest of the project.
Our region, and each and every one of its citizens, will bear disproportionate costs to support added regulatory mandates and restrictions for the benefit of those farther south. This threatens our regional self-reliance and ability to continue to use water for the benefit of our region and the Delta.
If Delta water exporters can receive a guarantee of water deliveries from the plan, why can't this region?
Together, the city and county of Sacramento, with our Northern California partners, will continue to do our part for a sustainable water supply and protection of the environment through progressive water conservation programs.
We have made significant investments to modernize water infrastructure, conserve energy, protect water quality and restore salmon spawning habitat on the American River. Our region's Water Forum Agreement, signed in 2000, provides a sufficient water supply for growth while protecting the environment through 2030 without reducing water supply reliability to other regions and while protecting and improving the environment.
The Delta is of utmost importance to our region, as well as to the state. We support a plan that fairly and equitably addresses Delta concerns and protects the existing water rights of all users.
However, the current plan does not do that. With the proposed release of the draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the plan this month, we ask the governor and the secretary of the interior to provide enforceable water rights and supply assurances for our area as part of the plan and to establish an even playing field for all water users in California.
We encourage our region's citizens to demand this, too. The economy and natural resources of this region are at great risk, and we cannot leave this matter to chance or vague political promises by those with competing interests. Our region and its citizens deserve much better.