Delta Flows Newsletter
March 8, 2010
March 8, 2010

"For the villainy of the world is great, and a man has to run his legs off to keep them from being stolen out from underneath him."
--Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera
An Opportunity for a Tidy Little Profit

Just in case you weren't invited (and there's a good chance that you weren't), you may be interested to know that The Seminar Group, which provides continuing education for lawyers, is hosting a two-day seminar in Santa Barbara next week called "Investing in Our Water Future: A Focus on California."  And they do mean INVESTING, as in making money from.
Day One focuses on matters like financial partners and private equity.  On Day Two, they'll look at water transfers and supply development, plus water marketing.  (Yes, water is definitely something we have to persuade people that they need.)  DWR will be there along with all those investment advisors, and of course no meeting like this would be complete if they didn't hear from the Metropolitan Water District, Westlands, and the Nature Conservancy.
Most interesting is the seminar's co-sponsor, WestWater Research, LLC.  According to its website, WestWater "is the leading firm in the water rights industry."  (Water rights are an industry???)  "WestWater specializes in transaction advisory services, water right valuations and appraisals, marketing services, water resource economics, and investment services."
A fun feature on the WestWater website is a map with drops for Selected Project Locations.  The Delta region has two drops, one for Transaction Advisory and one for Economic Planning.  Now wouldn't we like to know what that is all about?
A Little Salt Will Bring Out the Flavor
You know all that salty, selenium-laced groundwater that Westlands can't figure out what to do with?  Thank goodness they've come up with a plan.  They're planning to put it in the California Aqueduct! 
That's right: Westlands' "Conveyance of Nonproject Groundwater from the Canal-side Project Using the California Aqueduct" proposes to discharge up to 100,000 acre feet of groundwater into SWP's California Aqueduct.  This is a great new idea for cleaning groundwater: Filter it through people!
The plan is to pump the groundwater from land near the California Aqueduct and convey it through the Aqueduct for withdrawal and use on other land within the district.  Sort of like taking an on-ramp to Interstate 5 somewhere south of Santa Nella, then taking the off-ramp at Kettleman City.  Of course, they won't have any trouble keeping that ground water (50% of it too brackish to use, according to the Bureau of Reclamation) from mixing with the other water in the canal and passing on through to some of the 20 million people who rely on the SWP for drinking water.
Westlands is the lead agency on the EIR for this project.  Maybe that's not a good idea.  This is a water agency that has given up any pretence of being willing to collaborate on anything with any other group.  It has even terminated its membership in the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA).  
 Now Where Did They Put That Annual Report?
 Speaking of Westlands Water District, purely by accident, RTD discovered that the district hasn't posted an annual report on its website since 2005-2006.  That's after posting them regularly every year beginning in 2000.
Curious to see what we were missing, we took a look at the 2005-2006 annual report.  The front cover features a tree with blossoms, apparently almond.  The back cover features cotton.  Facing General Manager Tom Birmingham on the second page is a lovely picture of . . . an orchard.  The featured family farmers pose in front of a field of . . . cotton. 
Check it out before they pull it off the website.
Contentious Conversations on Mercury

When the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board released its Basin Plan Amendment for Delta Methylmercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for public review in 2008, it heard from a lot of unhappy stakeholders. 
Apparently nobody was happy with the proposed plan and regulations-not the dischargers who will be regulated and not the people advocating on behalf of those eating mercury-laden fish.
The Regional Water Board's solution was to bring in a neutral third party (the Center for Collaborative Policy from CSU Sacramento) to convene a stakeholder process to advise the Board.  The Stakeholder group is now in its second year of negotiating a phased, adaptive approach to TMDL implementation. 
At its February 24 meeting, the Stakeholder group, some of them joining the meeting via conference call or webinar, spent several hours discussing a one-page document of Basin Plan Amendments related to an Exposure Reduction Program.  Among the issues generating controversy: when should the word "shall" be used, designating a requirement, and when should "should" be used, designating a strong recommendation.  Dischargers of mercury or methylmercury are supposed to make some contribution to educating people about the danger of eating fish from the Delta.  But exactly what is it reasonable to require those dischargers to do?
Moreover, where will the funding come from?  Who pays how much?  The meeting ended without answering any of those questions.
Phase 1 of the TMDL Program is anticipated to last eight years, beginning with approval of the Basin Plan Amendment.  During Phase 1, dischargers and State agencies will conduct mercury and methylmercury "characterization and control studies," including actions to minimize increases in mercury and methylmercury discharges to the Delta; development of a program to reduce mercury-related risks to humans; and development of mercury control programs for tributaries to the Delta.
At the end of Phase 1, the Water Board is expected to re-evaluate the methylmercury allocations for all sources and consider adjustments, as well as implementation of a Delta Mercury Control Program.
The Stakeholder Group will be involved throughout the process. 
A report is expected to be available for public review in April.  The Water Board has scheduled a Special Meeting on Basin Plan Amendments for a Mercury Control Program for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta Estuary and will take public testimony on April 22 (Earth Day).  The meeting will be held at the Regional Water Quality Control Board office at 11020 Sun Center Dr #200, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670-6114. 

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

An Orange, California couple who replaced their grass with wood chips to save water and money have been cited for violating a law requiring live landscaping to cover 40% of the yard.  They've since put in drought-tolerant plants, but the city isn't satisfied.  Quan Ha still faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. 
This is a family that should be proclaimed California environmental heroes.  Instead, they are being punished for creating a sustainable California landscape. 
We cannot help pointing out how promoting unsustainable water policies through local laws reinforces support for a statewide water system that privatizes profits from water, a public trust resource, for the few.  At the same time, infrastructure and environmental losses related to unsustainable water development will continue to be socialized and paid for by all Californians -- especially the people of the Delta.
In This Issue
Tidy Little Profit
Salt Will Bring Out the Flavor
Lost Annual Report
Conversations on Mercury
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Bridge in Delta
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Restore the Delta is working everyday through public education and citizen activism to ensure the restoration and future sustainability of the California Delta. Your general contribution can help us sponsor outreach events, enable us to educate Californians on what makes the Delta so special, and assist us in building a coalition that will be recognized by government water agencies as they make water management decisions.
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Restore the Delta is a grassroots campaign committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta - a coalition of Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community groups, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen, and environmentalists - seeks to strengthen the health of the estuary and the well-being of Delta communities. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
Restore the Delta
Email: [email protected]