They approved a letter to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board. In a previous meeting, it was disclosed that the Water Quality Control Board refused to inspect possible water quality violations when marijuana cultivation is the suspected cause, because of the possible danger to inspectors.
The Board strongly urges that the Clean Water Act must be applied fairly to everyone. Moreover, some marijuana farms have cleared significant amounts of land, diverted creeks, and put pesticide and fertilizer into the water system. The Water Quality Board has already indicated an interest in being responsive to the Board’s concerns.
The Board also requested that staff gather marijuana ordinances from several counties, with the intention of considering in the near future whether the Shasta County marijuana ordinance is adequate.
The Board heard a presentation from Paul Helliker, Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources, on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). This is, of course, most often referred to as the plan that includes tunnels around the Delta to move water south. The BDCP is a part of the dual responsibility for California water management: the federal Central Valley Project and the state Water Project.
As Helliker says, the two projects together store water in various places and direct it to other places. The main focus of the BDCP is to address two problems. The Delta is a landscape massively affected by human changes. Channeling of the water and elimination of marshes by use of the land for farmland has resulted in significant subsidence of the land, so that some parts of the Delta are 25 feet below sea level. Salt intrusion into the Delta is a significant problem, for all Delta species including Delta farmers. Drought years or earthquakes or floods affecting levees have the potential of causing catastrophic salt intrusion. In addition, climate change is reducing substantially the amount of water stored as snowpack. Historic levels indicate that the snowpack offers a storage capacity to all of California’s reservoirs. Changes in the climate are expected to reduce this storage, due to increased sea levels and reduced snowpack.
The resulting BDCP is expected to result in a combined federal Economic Impact Statement and California Economic Impact Report by October. There will be 3-4 months of public comment, followed by agency responses, and the potential for a final determination on action by summer 2014.
Helliker summarized the components of the Plan. The Plan will do extensive habitat restoration, including aquatic, riparian and grassland habitats. Approximately 100,000 acres are expected to be taken out of agricultural production, and 45,000 are expected to be protected with agricultural easements. And, the Plan will construct new water intakes to accept water from north state rivers, installation of state of the art fish screens, and two 35-mile long tunnels to assure a reliable and clean delivery of water to areas south of the Delta. Readers interested in information about the BDCP should go to www.baydeltaconservationplan.com.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan analysis asserts that the plan will not change current legal and regulatory requirements that water from north state rivers be used to protect the Delta habitat, during drought years or other difficulties. During the drought years in the 1970’s, for example, full protection of the Delta would have required draining of Shasta Lake. The requirement was waived at the time. The current analysis says that combined climate change and drought could result in similar threats to Lake Shasta and other reservoirs. The BDCP does not change the state’s authority to increase water drawn from Lake Shasta if needed to protect the Delta. In fact, the Plan may provide more flexibility to water managers to deal with problems in the Delta.
Some Board members expressed skepticism about the report. Supervisor Les Baugh indicated that he did not believe a word of the analysis with respect to the amount of water drawn from Shasta Lake and the Sacramento River. Supervisor Bill Schappell indicated that he is skeptical of climate change science, and has a problem believing that there will be a habitat or species benefit from the project. He requested more briefing on the issue. Supervisor Leonard Moty advised that the message that the BDCP will not draw additional water as a result of the Plan has not been made clear, and should be a clearer part of the public information.
This issue will no doubt be the subject of future discussions. One comment from this observer: it was a pleasure to watch strong and conflicting opinions expressed with respect and civility, by Board members and by the members of the public who provided comment.
Catherine Camp is currently retired. She served as a Consultant to the California Senate Budget Committee in 2001-02, reviewing Social Services, Employment Development, Aging, Community Services, Alcohol and Drug Programs, Rehabilitation and Child Support budgets. From 1989-2000, Catherine was Executive Director for the California Mental Health Directors Association. During that period, Catherine staffed the county mental health system’s restructuring of public mental health through Realignment of community and long term care programs from the state to the county, transfer of the management of specialty mental health Medi-Cal services to those counties that agreed to provide them, development of risk mechanisms for consortia of small counties, and advocacy and policy analysis for the operation of public mental health programs throughout the state. Her prior experience includes Executive Director to the California-Nevada Community Action Association, Principal Consultant to the Assembly Human Services Policy Committee, and Director of Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.