California Delta Stewardship executive Joe Grindstaff speaking at Central Basin Municipal Water District event
What will the California Bay Delta look like at the end of this century? 88 years is a long telescope to look through, but that was the topic of discussion this week in Southern California.
“The Delta is like Yosemite. It is a vital and beautiful California natural resource. By the year 2100, the Delta will be the crown jewel of California,” Joe Grindstaff, Executive Officer of the Delta Stewardship Council told Newshawks Review this week.
Grindstaff was in Los Angeles to speak to the Central MWD Caucus at the Central Basin Municipal Water District in Commerce, California. The Central MWD Caucus is a monthly meeting that attracts local water officials and representatives of local, state and federal elected officials. The topics of water supply, water conservation and water management are areas of keen interest for the Caucus, which drew a large attendance for Grindstaff’s presentation.
The Delta Stewardship Council was established to ensure a balanced future for the Delta between its role as a vital supply of water and the protection of the critical eco systems that permeate the area. The Council is in the midst of creating a long-term Delta Plan that will guide state and local water agencies and other economic interests in the management of the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas throughout the 21st Century. The Plan, which is in its fourth draft right now, will be revised again by the end of July. By the time it is finalized in November of this year, it will have gone through seven iterations. When it’s done, expect that it will create a lot more discussion in California.
Grindstaff says the price tag for the investment in the eco-system restoration, the strengthening of the Delta’s levee systems and the conveyance system that moves water from Northern California to Southern California, will be large, in the billions of dollars.
“The Plan will address estimated costs and some ways of financing the necessary infrastructure that we need in order to protect this vital resource. It’s work that will have to be done for years to come,” Grindstaff said.
The short-term sources of money are going to be difficult to find. Federal spending has virtually dried up and a much talked about $12 billion State Water Bond is not favorably viewed by most Californians at this point. The bond was pulled in 2010 and supporters have to decide whether they believe the economic climate of 2012 will be better. Right now, polling indicates the bond would be defeated.
Grindstaff pointed out that the unimpaired flows of both the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River are under analysis. “Unimpaired flow” is an expert but imprecise measurement of the total volume of water that would past a point if no diversions were taking place. Increasing those flows appears to be an inevitable recommendation. The impact of the recommendations in the Delta Plan, plus other stakeholder studies, promise to be controversial given that the rivers are important sources for drinking water, irrigation in the agricultural heartland of California and hydroelectric power production.
He pointed, for instance, that the levee systems in the rivers are in need of repair, according to both FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers. What the state will do, who is going to pay for it and how and when it is going to occur are debates that the state is going to have.
“The issue of water supply in California is a constant and as a state we will have to invest in the Bay Delta,” said Grindstaff.
But he knows this is a long process. When asked what he expected the reaction of Californians to be to the Delta Plan, Grindstaff was circumspect.
“I expect that people will agree with the vision to protect the Bay Delta. I also expect that many people will be nervous about some of the conservation, environmental and economic requirements. Not everyone will love it, but they’ll see the vision,” concluded Grindstaff.