The evidence is clear that the Delta, as we know it, is broken and must be fixed. The debate on how to fix the broken system is intense and pits many interests against each other.
Some might call it a modern day version of the "Great Water War," but now the weapons are sophisticated, political and very expensive. Those of us who live, work or play in a region distinguished by Mount Diablo are not immune to the battles.
In fact, our region includes all of the interests evident in statewide issues of how should the Delta be fixed. It is expected that Gov. Jerry Brown will soon announce a plan, known as the BDCP, to build a new water conveyance facility starting near Freeport and ending at the pumps near Tracy. Details of the plan are unknown, but the plan will be large, expensive and controversial.
We have been engaged in Delta issues ever since a levee on Jones Tract failed in 2004. Our view is that any fix must be systematic and comprehensive within the Delta. Our view is that any fix must include the following five components.
Water conveyance system: Delta waterways provide a conveyance system for water to be extracted for uses in our region and elsewhere in the state. Overuse of the system has caused legally enforceable restrictions on current operations. A new system to move the intake further up into the Delta will reduce imposition of those restrictions.
While we understand the desire to improve the current
Ecosystem: The Delta is the largest estuary on the West Coast that provides a natural setting for numerous species of birds, fish and animals. Fishery populations have declined due to a combination of factors, including low-flow conditions and accumulation of pollutants. Providing for a healthy ecosystem in the Delta is critical for sustainability of this important resource.
A plan must include the framework for habitat restoration, policies and regulations to sustain a healthy aquatic environment.
Flow system: A plan must include enforceable flow criteria to establish seasonally varying flow regimes through the Delta into San Francisco Bay to sustain our natural resources and to provide for flood management.
Levee system: Today's Delta is physically defined by more than 60 islands surrounded by more than 1,300 miles of levees separating land and water. Levees determine how water flows through the Delta from north-to-south and from east-to-west. Most of the levee system needs to be strengthened by improving levee structural integrity to prevent major flooding damage.
A plan must include a priority system that will determine publicly financed improvements to protect far into the future people, property, utilities and infrastructure.
Storage system: A plan must include new storage (above and below ground) to manage flows between wet and dry years and flow diversions in and out of the Delta.
All five components are linked to be an integrated fix. Any plan, including the governor's, that provides for only an incremental "fix" for one of these systematic needs that favors one segment of the state's economy in our view is not supportable.
Linda Best is president of the Contra Costa Council and Bob Whitley is co-chair of the Contra Costa Council Water Task Force and a principal at Whitley Burchett & Associates.