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The BDCP Is Here!! (Sort Of)

The NRDC's 'portfolio' approach "will rob 750,000 acres of the world's best farmland of its water supply."

Mar 15, 2013

The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is about a lot of things, but there's one thing where the debate will focus, the size of the tunnels bringing water to the Central Valley and Southern California. Originally, the BDCP proposed twin tunnels conveying 15,000 cubic feet per seconds (cfs). Last year the 15,000 cfs was dropped to 9,000 cfs. According to a story in the River News-Herald last December "a question was then brought up if the change from 15,000 cfs to 9,000 cfs would affect the tunnel’s size of construction. Downsizing the tunnels was suggested, but Meral (Jerry Meral of the California Natural Resources Agency) noted that doing this would prevent the water from flowing by gravity – and would in turn cost more to be pumped with power. You could downsize the tunnels and pump a lot of energy behind them,” said Meral. “But that’s not the environmentally preferred alternative.” Nevertheless, the project was downsized to 9,000 cfs, a 40% reduction. 

Fast-forward to this month and we have a new effort, headed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to downsize another 6,000 cfs to a project with a total of 3,000 cfs, another 66% decrease, or an 80% decrease from the original 15,000 cfs. Hope we're not going too fast with the numbers, but you get the idea. There's no way to get back to the 15,000 cfs, but we're beginning to wonder how solid the 9,000 cfs number is, actually we're not wondering at all because we don't think it's written in anything more solid than Delta mud.

One thing we know we can count on in the coming debate is that the NRDC will put on the full-court press for the smaller tunnels with what they call their 'portfolio' approach. Mike Wade, with the California Farm Water Coalition, says the NRDC's 'portfolio' approach "will rob 750,000 acres of the world's best farmland of its water supply." Wade, like many others in California's water world, have been involved in the BDCP process from the beginning and have discussed and debated alternatives like the suggestions of the NRDC. It looks to us like the NRDC is coming in at the last minute to sabotage the deal. No surprise there.


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