Saturday, July 26, 2008

Report: Peripheral canal offers best solution for Sacramento-San Joaquin delta

Elizabeth Larson in the Capital Press (“The West’s Ag Website) reports on a proposed solutions for a troubled delta in California: A new report says building a peripheral canal offers the best - and least expensive - strategy in solving both ecosystem and water supply issues in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a conclusion being greeted by enthusiasm by some policy makers and sharp criticisms by delta-based groups.

The new report, "Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta," is a sequel to the Public Policy Institute of California's February 2007 study, "Envisioning Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta," said Ellen Hanak, the institute's associate director, who worked on both studies. The 2007 study looked at various scenarios and concluded that settling on a new strategy was urgent.

The latest report's suggestions include allowing 23 delta islands to flood permanently, transitioning to a new delta management system and developing a new governance framework. Hanak asserted there are two options for the delta - stop pumping water or build an isolated facility, or peripheral canal. The report concludes it's cheaper to build the canal, which it suggests could benefit fish, and address myriad other factors - from sea rise and climate change to seismicity, salinity and water quality, said Hanak…

…There's also been sharp criticism for PPIC's report. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director for the Stockton-based Restore the Delta coalition, said the peripheral canal can't fix the state's annual water deficit of 5 million acre feet, nor does it account for increased pressure on urban levees if the 23 delta islands are abandoned. It also doesn't properly analyze salinity and water quality impacts and is heavily biased toward Central Valley agriculture. She also questions why it doesn't include delta-based interests in managing the delta, where farming contributes $2 billion per year to the local economy, and recreation, like boating and fishing, add another $750 million.

Hanak said the report suggests moving away from the extremely fragmented management of the delta now, where at least 60 different agencies are involved. Rather, she said, more centralized management is needed. …Hanak said, ultimately, the report tries to find solutions. "If we wait until there's a catastrophe, it's going to be a lot harder to pick up the pieces."

The Suisun Marsh Salinity Control Gates (foreground) span the Montezuma Slough at the Roaring River intake. Like a heart valve, they allow water to flow in only one direction. In this picture, the three gates are open to allow the freshwater ebb tide from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to push the more saline Grizzly Bay water out of the slough. Photo by US Army Corps of Engineers, Wikimedia Commons

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