I forgot to add in my prior review Review of the New Cost and Benefits Analysis one very important criticism. My husband Mike pointed out this error in the analysis on the first Cost & Benefit Analysis David Sunding did back when it the tunnel plan was being called the Bay and Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). And that is the “earthquake bogey,” a term coined by Dr. Robert Pyke. A recent paper on the subject is here: “Update on the Earthquake Bogey”.

The “rumor” of earthquakes in the Delta have long been one of the phony justifications used to build the tunnels.

Dr. Pyke’s points, which I totally concur with, are:

  1. It is wrong to assume a near-term repeat of the 1906 earthquake on the San Andreas fault. “The big one.” Such an earthquake has a mean recurrence interval of 200-300 years, (so before the year 2106 or at a minimum 2206) so that it is not necessarily imminent, but it will recur in due course and is a much greater threat to the dams of the Santa Clara Valley Water District which are close to the San Andreas fault than it is for the Delta Levee System, which is miles away.
  2. The risk of damage to the levee system from earthquakes is less than the risk of damage to the existing pumping plants and aqueducts which lie along the various segments of the Central Valley Coast Ranges thrust fault (on which the Coalinga earthquake occurred). That is what DWR, Reclamation, and the State and federal water contractors should be worried about.

Yet, Dr. Sunding in his earlier Cost and Benefits Analysis claimed a 2 percent chance/year of “the big one.” First, that is too high a percentage. But second, in his prior analysis and repeated in this one is the assumption that a magnitude 6.7 on the Hayward Fault would cause a projected average of 24 flooded islands.

So let’s think about this. 24 flooded islands?

  • When was the last time a levee failed due to an earthquake? Oh, let me think about it. Let’s see . . . never.
  • How often do levees even break? Well we did have some minor levees break during the big storms during 2016 (no major flooding of important farmland, etc. – just some minor islands where the levees aren’t maintained. Before that? Jones Tract 2004. That’s 14 years ago !!! And that wasn’t due to an earthquake. They still don’t know why it failed.
  • And what happened when it failed? Well, the farmers probably had quite a fright but as far as the water supply – no impact, nada.

Let’s face it folks – this is a made up scare tactic to get L.A. urban users to panic and say, “Gee – we’d better build those tunnels or we might be drinking salt water when the ‘big one’ hits.”

And Sunding weighs the earthquake bogie heavily into his Cost and Benefit Analysis. We could have an earthquake (even though there are no active faults in the Delta). It could damage some levees. But Sunding’s arguments and analysis are bogus.

Posted by: Jan | February 17, 2018

Why Save the Delta?

A personal perspective . . .10448717_10204505844510001_7595069425801879790_o

I had the good fortune of attending a birthday party last night for a dear man in our yacht club who has struggled with cancer for years. We all love him so much. If anyone can beat Stage 4 cancer, it’s John. He’s the most upbeat, optimistic, amazing person I know. And his wife, Cheryl, has also battled cancer. Wow.

People were talking at the event and I was chatting with Jean (Jean and John are boating friends of ours). They still work (bummer, says the retired person). They live in Silicon Valley during the week and come to their Delta home Friday night until either Sunday night or Monday morning, depending on work schedules.

We talked about how it feels arriving in Discovery Bay on the weekends. It’s like all the stress falls away. It’s an “Ahhhh” moment.

I don’t know why exactly, why this place is so special.

I was reminiscing with Jean about when Mike & I commuted on weekends. We’d sold our Sunnyvale house earlier than planned and we were both still working. So we thought we could just stay in a Mountain View apartment during the week.

Well, apartment living when you’ve had your own house for years just isn’t fun. We could hear the closet doors closing in the unit next to ours. And people coming down the stairs. Lucy, our yellow lab, hated it. She destroyed all the blinds the first day we left her. Anyway, after six months we gave up and moved full time to the Delta and commuted back to our jobs. That’s tough.

But every Friday, when we drove the 2-3 hours to Discovery Bay and turned off Highway 4 onto Discovery Bay Blvd., there’s like a feeling. All the tension drains out and you go, “Ahhh.” We ended up moving full time to DB before we retired and just commuting back and forth. That was better.

What is it out here in the Delta, that makes us go “Ahhhh?”

When we first moved to our new home, we had an Open House event. One of my friends from work, Chanan, drove out from Sunnyvale with his family. He was on our back deck and we started chatting. He said that when driving out he couldn’t figure out why we’d moved so far away (knowing I was still commuting in/out every day). As they drove over Vasco Road, past the windmills, then dropped down and there were cows and farms and he said he wondered again what we were doing way out here. Then he got to the house and was sitting on the back deck and there was the water, the Delta, and the “Ahhhh,” and he said, “I get it now.”

That’s what so many people say.

Before we built our house, we were snow skiing one weekend with my daughter and her fiancee and talking about the lot we’d bought in Discovery Bay and hoped to build on one day.

“Where’s Discovery Bay?” Shane, our son-in-law asked.

We can drop by there and show you on our way home,” we offered.

So we took the route from skiing to Silicon Valley via Hwy 4 and pulled into Discovery Bay. The sun had set. We pulled into Drakes Drive and stopped at our vacant lot. Everyone got out and we walked through the dirt/weed lot to the back, to the water. We all stood there a moment, looking at the calm water, the Stockton lights in the distance, the peace, the quiet. And Shane said “Ahhhh. I get it now.”

What is it worth, saving the Delta? It’s worth everything.

Posted by: Jan | February 17, 2018

Review of the new “Cost and Benefits Analysis”

Everyone who opposes the Delta Tunnels and think they are a dumb idea has been complaining that there is no Cost and Benefits Analysis for the Delta Tunnels nor a Financial Feasibility Study. It was a major complaint raised last fall during the State Auditor’s review of the tunnels at a meeting held by Jim Frasier and the Delta Caucus Legislative Group. A document the DWR released claiming to do that, by David L. Sunding during the BDCP years (what they called the Delta Peripheral Canal, then Tunnel plan before they came up with the new “WaterFix” term), met with distain by independent reviewers, like Dr. Jeffrey Michael of the UOP, who’s analysis showed the tunnels to be a terrible investment.

But, not to be discouraged, Dr. Sunding tried again.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the group responsible for the Delta Tunnels, has released an Economic Analysis of Stage I of the California WaterFix Costs and Benefits to Urban and Agricultural Participants, again by David L. Sunding. The State is announcing that the tunnels are a good investment (Stockton RecordNet). Oh, yeh? I expect Dr. Michaels to be blasting this document as well.

Now Sunding has evaluated the one-tunnel approach and concludes that the benefits outweigh the costs to ratepayers in every scenario he analyzed and make economic sense (Courthouse News). “Really?” I ask.

But even before we get others chiming in, even I can easily poke holes in Dr. Sunding’s attempt to put lipstick on a pig – again.

Here’s what’s so very wrong with Sunding’s analysis:

(1) The benefits to farmers and urban users in his analysis is based on the additional water they plan to receive using the tunnels over the Status Quo. But wait a minute here – the status quo water is less than they want because they want (and are now taking) more than the environment can provide. Regardless of where the water is taken out, the point is more needs to flow through the Delta.

(2) Related to #1, he rightly assumes new biological opinion will be even more restrictive to the status quo scenario. He incorrectly extrapolates that to somehow believe it matters where the water is removed from instead of the correct assumption that the issue is lack of water flowing through the Delta, hence regardless of where it is removed from, less needs to be removed than the 5 MAF average/year they want. The point is, they need to start planning how to reduce export levels, not find some sneaky way to try to get more water out of the same Delta.

(3) His assumptions fail to include the costs that will result from the tunnels due to damage in Northern California. This is a biggie. There is no “cost” due to failed salmon fisheries; to the commercial salmon industry. There is no “cost” of loss of economic benefits due to boating and fishing in the Delta. No “cost” due to the economy of communities in the Delta – from the quaint historic towns like Lock and Hood to the boating communities like Bethel Island and Discovery Bay – lost due to construction and later loss of water quality. I’ve been researching lately the economic benefits to California from the bass fishing industry. Did you know that California (and mainly the Delta) is a huge economic resource for that industry: bass fishing boats and all the gear related to bass fishing. Plus what about the economic loss due to other recreational boating? The South Delta will basically be closed to recreational boating (water skiing, wake boarding) while this construction project is ongoing.

(4) There’s a discussion of the value of “improved water quality” but that is as it relates to the exported water used by farmers and urban users to the south. There is no discussion of extra clean-up costs and other issues due to lowered water quality in the Delta, including the cost to get rid of toxic blue-green algae and invasive weeds which will occur when the tunnels go in, just like they occurred during the drought years. The Delta needs fresh water flowing through it to keep it healthy and avoid these issues.

(5) Home values in my community (and many others in the Delta) will plummet. What’s the good of having a home on a Delta bay if the water is polluted and salty? Waterfront homes in Discovery Bay go for at least $200K more than off-water. Golf course homes also go for a premium – will they if the golf course is watered with salt water and turns brown? And if the bays are salty and full of toxic blue-green algae? During the drought a multi-million dollar home sale fell through because of the algae.

Well, I, for one, will sue their butts (pardon my French) if our bays turn to crap. And I think I know a great lawyer who would happily take them on (his house is also on the Delta).

Posted by: Jan | February 17, 2018

Summary of Recent Events

I feel I’m behind in keeping people up-to-speed. So this is just a quick summary of things that have been going on:

(1) The DWR released a new Cost and Benefits Analysis for their new one-tunnel plan. Stay tuned for my post about that (oh, yeh – not really beneficial for the state).
UPDATED 2/18: Here’s my two reports on what I think of their analysis:

(2) Metropolitan Water District (L.A.’s water) says “Wait a minute.” We want two tunnels not one and we want to both figure out how to pay for it plus take charge of building it. WAIT. We’re going to have Met in charge of construction through the Delta? Like that can’t be good. Like it’s Chinatown 2? “A ‘water grab’? Southern California water agency eyes possible control of Delta tunnels project.

(3) The Water Board plans to restart their WaterFix Hearings February 22.

Posted by: Jan | February 11, 2018

The Sierra Club joins the battle!

The Sierra Club joins the battle! Here’s what they have to say about one or two tunnels:

“The Delta tunnels represent a fundamentally flawed approach to managing the Delta. They would divert water needed to flush the Delta and protect wildlife.”

“One tunnel conveying less water makes even less financial sense. Many of the initial construction costs are still present, and the project promises even less water. This approach will likely stick ratepayers with higher bills with no benefit.”

“The shift to one tunnel without starting over in the application process on some permits isn’t legally defensible. Sierra Club California is currently one of many parties protesting the change in water rights for the tunnels at the State Water Resources Control Board. A big change like this substantially changes the project’s impacts. These hearings must begin again to provide adequate due process for impacted parties.”

“DWR will have to redo portions of its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project. A one-tunnel approach was never studied in depth in the original EIR. If the department does want to roll out the project in stages it will have to backtrack its findings in the original EIR that notes that a phased approach won’t work.”

“Sierra Club California continues to argue for an evidence-based, climate-resilient approach to the Delta. That means limiting the pumping that has degraded the water quality and species of the Delta, and letting more fresh water flow through.”

“A smarter path to building a strong water system in California would be to help communities that rely on the Delta’s water now to invest in strategies that help them become more regionally self-reliant.”

Posted by: Jan | February 8, 2018

The first day of the Water Board Hearings

Today, February 8, was the first day of the State Water Resources Control Board Hearings for the WaterFix (Delta Tunnels). Amid much controversy due to alleged ex-parte communications and due to the announcement yesterday of a one tunnel then the other tunnel later phased plan (which is a major change to the plan), both issues resulting many calls to delay the meetings, an abbreviated meeting was conducted.

From MavensNotebook report: “First, DWR Director Karla Nemeth began by reading a policy statement, essentially saying DWR is not altering it’s application and is still seeking approval for 3 intakes and 2 tunnels. Next, Doug Obegi from the NRDC and all others joining with NRDC’s motion to continue or stay the proceedings spoke in support of the motion, arguing that the phasing is a significant change in operations and that time is needed to evaluate the modeling data that was just submitted by DWR.”

“The hearing officers then retired to a back room to discuss next steps, returning 7 minutes later, asking DWR to submit the Department’s written response to the motion along with Ms. Nemeth’s policy statement by 5pm on Friday.”

NOTE: Protestants will have until Monday at 5pm to submit their response to the Department’s response.

All hearings through the end of next week were canceled.

See MavensNotebook for the report of today’s hearings.

Posted by: Jan | February 7, 2018

Just too Weird

NRDC, one of the groups wanting the Water Board Hearings to be delayed specifically because of the change from two tunnels to one, had the same thoughts as I did in my prior blog about the Hearings starting tomorrow even after the DWR formally announced the change. Obviously, if the Water Board said they wouldn’t delay the Permit Hearings (starting tomorrow) because DWR hasn’t said there was a change in the WaterFix project and then DWR announces a one-tunnel change to the WaterFix project, the next day, it seemed to me and to the NRDC and others, that’s an issue.

Here’s the DWR’s strange non-response.

    Department of Water Resources responds …
    Dear Hearing Officers Doduc and Marcus,

    On February 6, 2018 your ruling directed Petitioners to update you and the parties if and when DWR decides to modify the proposed WaterFix project. DWR interprets this language to mean that you would like to remain informed of any updates to the Department’s approach to the California WaterFix. DWR is not modifying the proposed WaterFix project or the petition, but in order to keep you informed of the most current thinking with regard to construction we submit the attached memo and serve it upon all the parties to the water rights hearing.

    The Department looks forward to the resumption of the hearing tomorrow, February 8th.

So the DWR is saying, the Water Board wanted to know if there are any big changes to the project so we just said yes, there are big changes to the project. Now let’s all ignore the big changes and just carry on as if there were no big changes ? ? ?

This whole thing keeps getting weirder and weirder.

See NRDC Renews Motion To Delay Hearings … Followed by DWR Responds.

Posted by: Jan | February 7, 2018

Fuzzy Logic

Yesterday, the State Water Resources Control Board rejected the multi-group demand for a stay to the Delta Tunnel Permit Hearings, requested by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Those requests were denied. Instead, the Water Board stated their plans to restart the hearings tomorrow, February 8th. Those requests were denied in part because some of the objections centered around the changing tunnel plan – from two tunnels two one. The Water Board said the DWR hadn’t formally announced any physical change in the WaterFix plans, even though there were newspaper reports and the Governor announced consideration of a one-tunnel plan instead of a two-tunnel plan, hence it was logical that the Hearings should continue as-planned.

Then today, the DWR announced they ARE changing to a one-tunnel plan. Yet the hearings are still scheduled to start tomorrow. Confusion reigns (or more likely, it’s purposeful obfuscation).

DWR plans to ”issue a draft supplemental Environmental Impact Report in June of 2018, with a final in October 2018.” So how can the Water Board Permit hearings continue as scheduled?

In addition, the plan is for one tunnel now, one tunnel later when funding is available. The first tunnel will be bigger than each of the prior tunnels, since they are planning two of the three intakes now and 6,000 of the prior 9,000 capacity. Depending on the size of the 2nd tunnel, that could ultimately end up with more actual physical capacity. There is just guessing at this point – the DWR announcement made today contains little concrete information about the new plan.

In many ways, a phased approach is much worse for the Delta. Longer construction phases so many more years of the waterways being torn asunder. The “one now, one later” plan is just as bad long-term as it relates to water quality and fish survivability as the prior plan.

As part of the announcement, Karla Nemeth, the new Director of the DWR said that the “State is preparing a cost-benefit analysis that will be available soon.” Really? They’ve never prepared a cost-benefit analysis for the two-tunnel plan that has been on the boards for years. Now they can get a reasonable analysis done in a few months?

The way this entire project is going is about the most illogical and disingenuous project I’ve seen in a long time.

Read the entire announcement here: >To: Public Water Agencies Participating in WaterFix; from the DWR

Posted by: Jan | February 6, 2018

Water Board Ignores Complaints of Bad Behavior

The State Water Resources Control Board issued a ruling today stating that despite strong opposition to how the hearings have been conducted, they are going ahead with the hearings on Thursday without any changes.

As we reported initially, Save the California Delta Alliance moved for a continuance of the Water Board Permit hearing for the Delta Tunnels while the hearing officers address alleged ex-parte communications between the Water Board Hearing Team and the Department of Water Resources (DWR). We weren’t alone. Numerous other entities (Counties, Cities, environmental organizations and others) saw what had admittedly been going on between the Water Board and the DWR and also cried “foul.” (See entire list of groups opposed below).

What was the Water Board’s reasoning? The Water Board claims that the communications between State Water Board staff and DWR staff either concerned non-controversial, procedural issues or were properly limited in scope to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) consultation. They claim that those communications did not violate the law prohibiting ex parte contacts.

Hold it. Has the DWR produced those missing meeting documents? Remember, STCDA was told that all minutes and materials that were passed around and discussed in those meetings was gathered up by the DWR Staff. A Public Records Act (PRA) request was made to obtain those minutes and materials. Those haven’t been produced. So how can they say they know the meetings were on the up-and-up when the minutes and materials are still being hidden? Well, they do admit this much: “Finally, the possibility that grounds for a stay or other procedural steps could be found in responses to pending Public Records Act (PRA) requests does not justify granting a stay now.” Hmm. Why not first show us the data before starting the hearings back up?

They just delayed the hearings a few weeks to give them time to produce a long, long (98-page) document in order to try to make unacceptable behavior look acceptable.

California WaterFix Ruling.

Groups Opposed to the Hearings Continuing:
1 Save the California Delta Alliance, joined by South Delta Water Agency and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).

2 The joining parties are: the CSPA, CWIN, and AquAlliance; County of Yolo; Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Water Agency, and Solano County; South Delta Water Agency, Central Delta Water Agency, Lafayette Ranch, Heritage Lands, Mark Bachetti Farms and Rudy Mussi Investments L.P.; Carter Mutual Water Company, El Dorado Irrigation District, El Dorado Water & Power Authority, Howald Farms, Inc., Maxwell Irrigation District, Natomas Central Mutual Water Company, Meridian Farms Water Company, Oji Brothers Farm, Inc., Oji Family Partnership, Pelger Mutual Water Company, Pleasant-Grove Verona Mutual Water Co., Princeton-Codora-Glenn Irrigation District, Provident Irrigation District, Reclamation District 108, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Henry D. Richter, et al., River Garden Farms Company, South Sutter Water District, Sutter Extension Water District, Sutter Mutual Water Company, Tisdale Irrigation and Drainage Company, Windswept Land and Livestock Company, North Delta Water Agency, Reclamation District 999, Reclamation District 2060, Reclamation District 2068, Brannan-Andrus Levee Maintenance District, Reclamation District 407, Reclamation District 2067, Reclamation District 317, Reclamation District 551, Reclamation District 563, Reclamation District 150, Reclamation District 2098, Reclamation District 800 (Byron Tract), and Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority and its member districts; Friends of the River and Sierra Club California; Pacific Coast Federation of Fisheries’ Associations and Institute for Fisheries Resources; and Ms. Des Jardins.

3 Deirdre Des Jardins with California Water Research joined the motion in part; Restore the Delta, the CSPA, California Water Impact Network (CWIN), AquAlliance, Friends of the River, and Sierra Club California joined Ms. Des Jardins’ motion for partial conversion.

Posted by: Jan | February 6, 2018

New Desalination Plant for Antioch

Now THIS makes sense.

The City of Antioch’s plan to build a brackish water desalination plant on the San Joaquin River received a boost from the State Department of Water Resources, which is recommending a grant of $10 million in Proposition 1 Water Bond funds to the city for construction of the project.

“I am pleased to see the hard work we put into passing the Water Bond paying off on a local project that will improve the quality and reliability of fresh water for Antioch residents,” said Assemblymember Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay. “This is the type of project we envisioned in the Legislature when we passed the Water Bond legislation and asked voters to approve it.”

“This project creates new fresh water and is a great example of an alternative to the proposed foolhardy Delta tunnels project, which does not create a single drop of new water,” Frazier added. “This plant will use brackish water that is currently not utilized to increase our overall supply of fresh water. This is the type of water project California should be investing in – creating new water with minimal impact on the environment and unambiguous benefit to end users.”

Read the entire article here: State Supports Antioch’s Plan for Desalination Plant.

On the other hand, hating to add a negative side to otherwise positive good news, the reason a plant is even needed is that the State has irresponsibly managed the export pumps and continue to over-export. Their commitment is supposed to be to keep the “X2” line the other side of Pittsburg. (For those of you not from this area, Antioch is on the Delta upstream from Pittsburg. So keeping the salt water at Pittsburg means fresh water for Antioch.)

The “X2” line is identified by its distance from the Golden Gate Bridge where salinity at the river’s bottom is about 2 parts per thousand (ppt) and is the basis for standards to protect aquatic life (seawater salinity is about 35 ppt). For years, during BDCP meetings, we’d hear from representatives from Antioch about the struggles their city was having trying to take their water supply from the Delta. Back in 2009 the X2 line had come in so far that they could only get fresh water during an outgoing tide.

The exporters continued to ignored their plight. I’d prefer that the State do what it should and start reducing exports to the amount they were originally promised. But, failing that or until that happens, I’m glad to see something is being done to get Antioch additional clean drinking water.

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