Administration Drafts Cost/Benefit Report On Bay Delta Conservation Plan
California Natural Resources Board recently announced a new economic
analysis of the costs and benefits of Gov. Brown’s plan to revitalize the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and stabilize water deliveries shows a
net benefit to California residents of $4.8 billion to $5.4 billion statewide.
The plan seeks the conservation of 57 different Delta wildlife and plant
species. It is an application to federal and state wildlife agencies to permit
the continued operation of the Delta-based Central Valley Project (CVP) and
State Water Project (SWP) under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the
California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act. Those water projects
supply two-thirds of California’s population with at least some of their water
supply and provide water to irrigate 3 million acres of farmland in the Central
No regulation requires such a statewide economic analysis, but it is part
of the extensive economic research undertaken by the state to design the plan,
weigh its economic impacts, inform the public, and help guide policymakers. The
report released Monday is draft and may be revised based upon public comments.
The conservation plan includes 145,000 acres of habitat restoration and
protection in the Delta and construction of three new intakes and two tunnels
to divert water supplies in ways less harmful to native fish species than
possible with the current water project infrastructure. The plan seeks to
achieve the dual goals defined by the California Legislature in the Delta
Reform Act of 2009: provide a more reliable water supply for California and
protect, restore, and enhance the Delta ecosystem.
The economic study concludes that implementation of the $25 billion
conservation plan is a worthy investment for the water districts in the Santa
Clara Valley, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California that would
pay 68 percent of the costs. It finds both positive and negative impacts in the
Delta, but far larger statewide benefits from implementing the plan.
“This report compares California’s economic outcomes under the BDCP to the
conditions we can expect without BDCP,” said California Natural Resources
Secretary John Laird. “The result is clear: Achieving the water supply
reliability goal of the BDCP is crucial to California’s economic future. But
what cannot be quantified in an economic analysis like this is equally
important. By safeguarding and enhancing the fish and wildlife of the largest
estuary on the West Coast, we act in the interest of all Californians to come.”
Impacts to the largely agricultural Delta region are significant in terms
of temporary, construction-related air pollution and traffic delays and the
loss of farm jobs as land is converted to tidal wetlands and other habitat. An
estimated 37,000 farm jobs could be lost as habitat restoration is implemented,
according to the economic analysis. The economic cost of traffic disruption is
estimated at $53 million to $79 million over a nine-year construction period.
The study also predicts that the total costs of changes in regional air quality
will range up to $16 million.
Overall changes in salinity in Delta waterways due to implementation of the
BDCP is expected to cost $1.86 million per year in farm revenues – a decline of
less than one-half of one percent of total annual farm revenues in the Delta.
The biggest economic stimulus of the conservation plan would be centered in
the Delta. The Delta would be home to an estimated 110,600 construction jobs
(over 7.5 years), 11,300 operations and maintenance jobs (over 40 years), and
55,800 jobs related to restoration (over 50 years). (A job is defined in the
economic analysis as a position equivalent to one full-time worker for an
Measures to protect, restore, and enhance wildlife habitat are expected to
provide a net increase to boating, picnicking, wildlife viewing, waterfowl
hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities, with net economic benefits
estimated at $222 million to $370 million over a 50-year period.
One of 22 conservation measures described in the BDCP involves building
three new intakes along the Sacramento River near Hood and twin 35-mile-long
tunnels to carry water to the existing SWP and CVP pumping plants in the south
Delta near Tracy. The new northern intakes would be screened to protect
juvenile salmon and other passing fish species. Use of the new intakes would
allow water project operators to reduce pumping in the south Delta, where
reverse flows in nearby channels can directly entrain and disorient fish.
The new water delivery system proposed by the conservation plan would also
help safeguard water deliveries in the event Delta levees were breached by
flood, earthquake, or other forces.
“Because the ultimate economic benefits of the BDCP depend on factors that
cannot be known with certainty (e.g., demand growth, future hydrology, future
regulations, climate change), an exact quantification of the direct benefits of
the BDCP is elusive,” states the economic analysis. “Nonetheless, given the
available evidence, two conclusions seem certain. First, the BDCP will result
in substantial net benefits to the water contractors that rely on the Delta for
at least a portion of their water supplies. Second, implementing the BDCP will
reduce a range of risks that are of great consequence to the public. These
risks include the vulnerability to floods or earthquakes in the Delta region
that may disrupt water exports for an unknown period of time; gradual,
long-term sea level rise that could progressively restrict Delta water exports
unless mitigating action is taken; and an increasingly strict regulatory
environment under the state and federal Endangered Species Acts that could
further restrict exports from the Delta.”
Among the key assumptions made in the economic analysis is that operational
components that may be implemented as part of the conservation plan to help
native fish species recover – including higher seasonal flows to the ocean –
may be imposed by federal and state wildlife agencies even if the conservation
plan is not implemented. The imposition of such regulations on the current
delivery system would significantly reduce the water supplies that could be
provided south of the Delta.
For more information
about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, please visit www.baydeltaconservationplan.com
Labels: $5.4 billion, Brown Administration Drafts Cost/Benefit Report on Bay Delta Conservation Plan, habitat Restorations