2011-08-03 "Plan to restore Delta released to public" by Matt Weiser from "Sacramento Bee" newspaper
Rules on river flows, fees on utilities and more water conservation on farms are among the policies proposed in a draft plan to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The first full public draft of the "Delta Plan" was released today by the Delta Stewardship Council, a state agency established by 2009 water legislation.
The plan arises from years of concern about the Delta amid rising water demand and habitat degradation. It must balance these competing interests as "co-equal goals," a phrase in the law that aims to put habitat on an equal footing with water consumption.
To that end, the plan seeks to reduce reliance on Delta water supplies by making far-flung regions of the state more self-sufficient. Today, 25 million Californians from Napa to San Diego depend on Delta water.
In a series of 12 policies and 61 recommendations, the plan aims to encourage farms and cities to do more conservation and become more self-sufficient, particularly in the event of a disaster in the Delta. It calls for agricultural water agencies to change pricing to encourage conservation. It also urges the State Water Resources Control Board to set enforceable flow objectives for the Delta and its tributaries that take into account wildlife and habitat needs.
The plan proposes fees on utility systems that depend on Delta levees, and a "public goods" charge on water used in the state. The money would pay for flood protection and habitat restoration.
In the future, government projects in the Delta must prove they are "consistent" with the plan. But the council itself has limited powers. For instance, the plan calls on the Public Utility Commission and the Legislature to impose the recommended fees.
The plan will be the focus of an environmental impact study starting later this month. The two must be completed by December.
For a copy of the plan, known as the "Fifth Draft", visit . For information call (916) 445-5511.
Photograph showing the Sacramento Delta