Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not the ‘most realistic plan’

Written By: Dan Bacher, December 3, 2013

Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not the ‘most realistic plan’


Dennis McEwan's opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee ( glorifying the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels is a classic example of the triumph of political science over natural science that characterizes the agency that he works for, the Department of Water Resources (DWR). 

Nowhere in this piece does the DWR biologist mention that federal agency scientists skewered the BDCP's draft environmental documents - and have repeatedly said that the plan's implementation may hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other species. 

McEwan states, "Will the Bay Delta Conservation Plan be the savior of the Delta? That remains to be seen. But I believe it is the most realistic plan yet conceived to right the tremendous injuries we’ve inflicted upon the Delta’s natural environment over the last 150 years." 

However, on July 18, scientists from federal lead agencies for the BDCP EIR/EIS - the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service - exposed the hollowness of Brown administration claims that the BDCP is based on "science" and McEwan's claim that the twin tunnels plan is "the most realistic plan yet conceived to right the tremendous injuries we’ve inflicted upon the Delta’s natural environment over the last 150 years." 

The federal scientists provided the California Department of Water Resources and the environmental consultants with 44 pages of comments highly critical of the Consultant Second Administrative Draft EIR/EISDraft), released on May 10. The agencies found, among other things, that the draft environmental documents were “biased,” “insufficient," "confusing," and "very subjective." (

The National Marine Fisheries Service said the environmental draft is "currently insufficient" and "will need to be revised." The agency also criticized some sections of the document for arriving at "seemingly illogical conclusions." 

The Bureau of Reclamation criticized the language and content of the draft for "advocating for the project." They also said the "identification of adverse and beneficial impacts is very subjective and appears to be based on a misreading of NEPA regulations." 

In addition, "The document is vague about the relationship between the various agency actions that compose or relate to the BDCP, including how these actions will be sequenced and the time/manner of environmental analysis for each," Reclamation stated. 

Based on the scientists' assessment of these draft documents, the BDCP is hardly the "most realistic plan yet conceived" to address the coequal goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability. 

McEwan also claims "These facilities cannot be modernized; the location of the pumps at the end of dead-end channels means that fish collection and trucking will always be necessary. My first three years at Fish and Wildlife were spent overseeing this operation, and I was constantly amazed at the limitations of these facilities." 

Yet McEwan then states that these "new facilities will not completely replace the existing facilities, but will greatly reduce their frequency of use." 

How will the tunnels benefit salmon, steelhead and other species when they are in fact only spreading the fish carnage from the South Delta to the Sacramento River also? The massacre of Central Valley salmon, steelhead, Sacramento splittail, American shad, striped bass and other species will continue when the South Delta pumps are operating - while the new intake facilities on the Sacramento River will imperil migrating salmon, steelhead and other fish in their major migratory corridor. 

How can we possibly trust the state and federal agencies to come up with new "Magic Screens" to protect fish at the new intakes when they never installed new state-of-the-art screens in the existing Delta pumps as they were supposed to do under the CalFed process? 

The problems of fish population crashes and water supply won't be provided by "re-plumbing" the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They can be only solved by reducing water exports from the Delta. 

The Environmental Water Caucus Responsible Exports Plan, not the BDCP, is the "most realistic plan yet conceived" to restore the Delta while providing for the state's water supply needs. 

This plan reduces water exports to no more than 3 million acre feet of water in all years, in keeping with the SWRCB Flows Criteria. The plan employs a number of creative solutions to addressing California's water problems, including retirement of drainage impaired land, increased water recycling and expanded water conservation. 

The updated plan is available at: 


Be the first to post a comment

or create an account to add a comment to this article

Fish Sniffer

The contents of this site are for the general information, convenience and entertainment of the public. Neither Fish Sniffer nor any of its principals, staff or representatives shall be liable for any consequential or incidental damages, or inconvenience incurred or experienced, related to these contents, and do not warrant their accuracy or reliability.