Only more water will help the Bay Delta
Emily Green's story, "Tunneling under California's water wars," reads as if it were written by Governor Jerry Brown's office (HCN, 8/20/12). Those who extract water from the Bay Delta want a reliable supply. Unfortunately, that is not possible. We must adapt to a future with less water, not continue to demand more.
Merely moving the intakes upstream will not save endangered species if more water is not allowed to flow through the Delta. Although some groups have accepted Delta preservation and water supply as equal goals, the Delta needs to be preserved first or everyone loses.
Emily Green writes that the National Marine Fisheries Service supports Gov. Brown's proposed export tunnels, which "might actually help Delta smelt, salmon and steelhead." They might not, as well. The controlling variable is the amount of water left to flow through the Delta. The Contra Costa County Water District says that the proposed tunnels are twice the capacity needed. Even at the reduced capacity of 9,000 cubic feet per second, they could allow too much water to be exported for the survival of the Delta and all the life that depends upon it.
I was relieved that Green acknowledged that three environmental organizations "wonder whether other existing commitments to habitat restoration and increased water conservation will be kept." Many of us who live in the Delta region share these concerns.
The subtitle of this article -- "A pilloried Bay Delta water plan may actually be good for fish" -- does not reflect well upon the HCN that I have come to know, admire and promote to others.
The story's subtitle reflected a new position from the National Marine Fisheries Service, not from HCN or myself. Leonard Lloyd's point about Contra Costa County's objections deserves some clarification. Contra Costa is one of the leading Delta water users worried about rising salinity. Their assessment of the flow needed to sustain the Delta and address salinity is interesting, though it wasn't the point of the story. NOAA scientists pushed the recommended flow from 15,000 cubic feet per second down to 9,000 -- a level that their models showed could work for fish. The story addressed the fact that there are no guarantees of new water.