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Bay-Delta water plan step ahead

Bay-Delta water plan step ahead

Dan Bryant

CALFED’s Framework for Action for the Bay-Delta is getting the once-over from agricultural, environmental, and urban competitors for California’s water resources as the massive planning process takes another step.

The 57-page document represents the discussion and debate focused during the past four years on ways to restore and improve the water source critical not only as the drinking fountain for 22 million Californians but to irrigation for more than four million acres of farmland. Enhancement for wetland wildlife, fisheries, and migratory birds also is an important goal.

The framework launches CALFED, the group of 15 state and federal regulatory and management agencies formed under the Bay-Delta Accord in 1994, on the first seven-year stage of what is called the largest, most comprehensive water management program in the world. Estimates are it will take 25 to 30 years to accomplish at a cost of billions.

Components of the report deal with ecosystem restoration, watersheds, water supply reliability, storage, water quality, and governance, to name a few of the thirteen.

The storage component attracted comment from Michael Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition in Sacramento, who praised Governor Gray Davis and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt for leadership in bringing the framework to completion.

“It seems as though,” Wade wrote, “real progress can be made if all the stakeholders — agricultural, urban, and environmental — will pledge to work together in the way CALFED was originally intended.”

But Wade wasn’t so warm to some media coverage on the framework announcement, and he said an element of the environmental community is resisting Governor Davis’ efforts to move forward.

“There have been statements about water storage projects such as increasing the capacity of Lake Shasta and Los Vaqueros Reservoir because they may benefit farmers in the Central Valley,” he said.

“Those same projects provide flexibility and assurances for urban and environmental users as well. But opponents of these projects seem willing to throw out the baby with the bath water.”

Wade goes on record favoring the additional storage projects: “They go hand-in-hand with other necessary efforts such as water conservation and recycling programs that will be implemented in urban and agricultural areas as well.”

Expanding water storage capacity is identified as critical to the successful implementation of all aspects of the CALFED program, including the needs of a growing population and flexibility to improve water quality and support fish restoration efforts.

Briefly, the framework seeks to expand storage at existing reservoirs and other strategically. located off-stream sites by about 950,000 acre-feet, plus expansion of environmentally sensitive groundwater storage.

Initially the Stage 1 process will focus on four sites:

–An In-Delta storage project providing 250,000 acre-feet providing for fishery benefits and enhanced water project flexibility. Purchase of the Delta Wetlands project or an alternative will be considered. After environmental review and funding authorization, construction could begin by late 2002.

–Expansion of Central Valley Project storage at Lake Shasta by about 300,000 acre-feet to provide more cold water to enhance certain fish and other water management. After necessary clearances, construction could begin by late 2004.

–Expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir by up to 400,000 acre-feet for improved water quality and supply reliability benefits for the Bay Area. Following authorizations and funding (including local voter approval), construction could begin by the end of 2005.

–Construction of a bypass canal to the San Felipe Unit of the San Luis Reservoir for more effective water supply and potential storage enhancement of as much as 200,000 acre-feet.

Two additional projects are in the plan:

–The Sites Reservoir of up to 1.9 million acre-feet could enhance water management flexibility in the Sacramento Valley with environmental review and documentation by August 2004.

–Additional storage of 250,000 to 700,000 acre-feet in the upper San Joaquin River watershed, with environmental review and documentation by mid-2006.

The framework also envisions locally managed and controlled groundwater and conjunctice use projects totaling 500,000 to 1 million acre-feet of additional storage by 2007.

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