California Ag News BDCP Invites Comments

BDCP Conducts Open Houses in Central Valley

By Don A. Wright

Public Comments on BDCP Plan in Fresno
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) handlers are on a road trip throughout California holding open house meetings. This week they stopped in downtown Fresno.

The event was different than most public meetings sponsored by the state. There were no speeches or verbal comments from lines of proponents and opponents cheered on by factional verve. The public was welcome to comment but encouraged to so in writing or to give a statement to a stenographer.

One retired government worker who came to see the proceedings told me it was nice to avoid the more unhinged public speakers but he thought the bureaucrats and therefore the elected officials they represent were getting off too easy by not having to make public statements. I found everyone I spoke with to be forthcoming and striving to make this huge government project as transparent as possible. Nancy Vogel and Paul Heliker, both in DWR management were very upfront, friendly and helpful. 
         
There were stations displaying parts of the plan around the edge of the room with BDCP staff in attendance to discuss matters and answer questions. Many, if not most, were consultants with a smattering of DWR and USBR employees mixed in.

The consultans were all helpful, courteous and very knowledgeable about their specific sphere of information. For example there was a section dedicated to maps of the alternate routes and the man standing there was up on the geography.

Another station gave all the data collected so far on water quality in detail. There’s a modeled result for all the alternatives at more than a dozen points spread over the calendar year based on a range of hydrologic conditions; wet to dry.

I was told the state figured in climate change as a modeling variable. It’s sad to see pop science become the state religion but what’s to be done? The so called experts don’t agree and I have neither the expertise nor inclination to educate myself, wade through the data and form my own opinion. It doesn’t mean the world’s flat because it looks flat; it just means sea rise is inconclusive according to some highly respected authorities. But the threat of rising sea levels does come in handy when predicting disaster to a vulnerable location where you’re trying to invest $24 billion dollars.
              
There wasn’t a standing room only turnout but it was decent. A couple of farmers, a couple of enviros, a few retired government workers wanting to get the latest on a problem they spent a career wrestling with – even a family with three children showed up – to view the presentation and try to gather some facts. Noticeably missing from this bunch was the de rigueur middle-aged hippy wearing sweat pants with dress shoes handing out flyers.

While the information on display was there for the pickings what I think most people would like to know wasn’t available. What happens after the April 14th comment deadline and the release of the final document? Is there a conspiracy that timed the comment deadline with tax day? If not, why not? Also and perhaps more importantly; what if the federal alternative passes NEPA but not CEQA and vice a versa?

When will the Record of Decision be ready? How much will it really cost? How will it be funded? Who will be accountable for problems? Who will be in charge of construction budgets and deadlines? Will ag be able to afford the water?

The series of open house meetings never promised to answer these questions, but they have to be answered for any logical decision to be reached.

Hopefully the BDCP doesn’t turn out to be another High Speed Rail fiasco – all sizzle and no steak.

Perhaps it will never be completed and serve as a pointer to yet another alternative like spending this great deal of time, money, brains and energy in increased surface storage and improved flexibility in water transfers. You know a workable, implementable solution without the sexy, feel-good, double-redundant, politically correct, co-equal goals fluff.
           


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