The Delta – A Sense of Urgency

SACRAMENTO – One of the things I’ve been struck by in my week talking to water people in Sacramento is a sense of urgency around the problems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – a feeling that now is the time to do something. I’m also struck by the lack of consistent clarity of what that thing might be, but some themes are emerging. I happened to parachute down in the midst of the release of the Delta Stewardship Council’s latest iteration (pdf), and the Association of California Water Agencies’ alternative Delta Stewardship Plan – a fun compare and contrast exercise.

Consider this contingent – lots more people to talk to, and my ideas shift after every conversation. But there seems to be a general momentum behind some sort of trans-delta conveyance, a Peripheral Thingie of some sort. A resulting return to a more natural hydrograph – moving water down through the remaining ecosystem in a way that’s timed to meet the old natural flow regimes – seems part of the environmental solution. And south-of-delta storage to allow the above to work seems high on everyone’s list. But how big and how much water the Peripheral Thingie might carry, and the critical question of how much south delta pumping it might enable, is murky. And I remain profoundly skeptical about paying for a lot of new infrastructure, as I read the daily litany of coverage of California’s budget problems (along with a clear “we won’t be paying for it” message from the Feds). Which leaves me thinking maybe none of this is possible and wondering about what the failure modes are.

But despite that lack of clarity around the solutions, the urgency piece got an airing from Berkeley’s Raymond Seed on the op-ed page of today’s Sacramento Bee:

The state’s water challenges cannot be solved overnight, but there is now an increasingly clear and defined path forward. The Delta Vision Strategic Plan should be implemented without further delay. If it is not, the Delta will continue to be at risk of either a weather-related or earthquake-related disaster – an entirely foreseeable, preventable and unacceptable disaster, and one just waiting to happen.



  1. So, you’ve parachuted in? Based on you intitial observations, including your comment about who agrees to what and that an isolated conveyance in the Delta would lead to a more natural hydrography in the Delta, I’d say you are still circling at 30K feet. For a better understanding of the background, history and impact of all of this, I suggest you speak with John Herrick, counsel for the South Delta Water Agency, who recently testified regarding Congressman Nunes’ water bill dealing with water rights, water supply, etc. Mr. Herrick, who is on the ground to which you would parachute, can provide you with some interesting insight. You can e-mail him here:

  2. Pingback: Playing Chicken with the Delta : jfleck at inkstain

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