Delta Plan Takes it Head On: Flow Standards, Water Budgets and Fees

Last week, the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) released their fifth draft of the Delta Plan. The DSC has been tasked with crafting a Delta Plan that ensuresCalifornia’s water supply reliability while restoring our fragile Bay-Delta ecosystem’s health. This translates to reduced reliance on the Delta and increased regional self-sufficiency.

With that in mind, the draft has three very practical, yet very provocative, provisions:

  • Require water agencies to implement pricing structures to encourage conservation
  • Recommend fees on utility systems that depend on Delta levees, and a surcharge on water used in the state, to pay for levee and habitat projects.
  • Recommend the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) set enforceable flow objectives for the Delta and its tributaries to accommodate wildlife.

Specifically on this last point, DSC recommends that if SWRCB does not develop flow standards by the dates provided, then DSC will consider and may amend the Delta Plan to achieve progress on the coequal goals in place of the updated flow objectives.

“For example, the Delta Stewardship Council could:

Determine that a covered action that would increase the capacity of any water system to store, divert, move, or export water from or through the Delta would not be consistent with the Delta Plan until the revised flow objectives are implemented.

Recommend that the State Water Resources Control Board cease issuing water rights permits in the Delta and the Delta watershed (or, if the absence of flow criteria is specific to one or more of the major tributaries, then the recommendation could be focused on the impacted areas).”

These points are consistent with what PCL and other environmental groups have long advocated as vital fixes that will yield significant results in the Delta. The next DSC meeting will be held, Aug. 25 and 26 (location to be determined), and the public comment deadline on the fifth draft is September 30th.