Water, Politics & Science

An excellent article from Fox & Hounds about the all-too-often obtuse mix.

An excerpt.

The California State Water Resources Board (SWRCB) was taken to the woodshed this week by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), when Mark Holderman, the principal engineer at DWR’s South Delta Branch offered expert testimony that the Bay-Delta water plan was written “without evidence, incomplete scientific information, ill-suited for real-time operations, and unverified assumptions.”

On January 3, 2017, the SWRCB held its fourth and final public hearing on the Bay-Delta Plan’s Draft Substitute Environmental Document (SED), in Sacramento.

As SWRCB vice-chair, Frances Spivey-Webber held the gavel, her opening remarks suggested that a greater purpose lay behind increasing the flows of the San Joaquin River and its tributaries 40 percent than their previously announced objectives of restoring the rivers and helping endangered fish populations recover.

“The plan is necessary to ensure the health of the Delta,” Spiver-Webber said, then invited comments limited to suggestions only, as though the passage of the SED was a foregone conclusion.

Holderman responded instead with an eviscerating list of defects DWR scientists found in the SED plan’s foundation. He said the SED:

  • Assigns responsibility for environmental harms without evidence
  • Contains out-of-date and incomplete scientific information
  • Uses Unimpaired Flow Standards ill-suited for real-time operations
  • Makes inappropriate use of a “Flow-Only” approach
  • Contains erroneous information on water quality within the South Delta
  • Identifies incorrectly the State Water Project pumping operations as causing degradation of water quality in the Delta that actually result from net flows, not water levels or net flux
  • Makes unverified assumptions about its effects on groundwater sustainability
  • Relies on dated groundwater data prior to 2010 and does not include impacts of data collected during the 2012-2017 drought, and
  • Passes the buck to the Groundwater Sustainability agencies for preventing damage to the state’s aquifers

The significance of these criticisms is that they come from the agency responsible for assessing, measuring and operating California’s complex water collection and delivery system of dams, aqueducts and other major infrastructure.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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