It now appears that there is almost no chance that Delta tunnels will be approved and begin construction before Governor Brown leaves office in January 2019. The roadblock emerged on November 15, 2018 in a proceeding before a state agency that most people don’t know about and even fewer understand: the Delta Stewardship Council.
Following a day-long workshop on November 15, the Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council recommended that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) further define its Delta tunnels (“WaterFix”) project before asking the Council to approve the project. Chair Randy Fiorini’s comments were supported by comments by Council member Frank Damrell. (See details in Maven’s Notebook at https://mavensnotebook.com/2018/11/15/this-just-in-cal-water-fix-workshop-at-the-delta-stewardship-council-ends-with-chair-fiorini-suggesting-the-department-of-water-resources-withdraw-consistency-determination/).
The Delta Stewardship Council must find that WaterFix is consistent with the Delta Plan before DWR can begin construction of WaterFix facilities. Nine “appellant groups” appealed DWR’s July 27, 2018 Certification that WaterFix is consistent with the Delta Plan. CSPA is part of Appellant Group 3, whose appeal was filed by Bob Wright with Friends of the River. (For the Certification, the appeals, and the voluminous 30,000+ document record for the proceeding, see https://coveredactions.deltacouncil.ca.gov/profile_summary.aspx?c=1790396c-5419-4ccb-b0d3-10cc4e985105).
The Delta Stewardship Council held a hearing on the appeals on October 24-26, 2018. At hearing, CSPA’s Chris Shutes summarized the portion of Group 3’s appeal dealing with flow requirements and the incompleteness of DWR’s proposed project, and rebutted some of DWR’s assertions.
Following the hearing in October, Council staff produced a Staff Draft Determination (http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/docs/staff-draft-determination-regarding-appeals-certification-consistency-california-department) that recommended findings of inconsistency with five policies in the Delta Plan. At the Council’s workshop on November 15, Staff presented its Draft Determination, and DWR followed with a presentation of its own. After questions from the Council, Appellant Groups made presentations. On behalf of Group 3, CSPA made a presentation in support of staff’s findings of inconsistency and in opposition to issues on which staff recommended denying appeals.
The proceeding before the Stewardship Council is squarely in the critical path of DWR’s efforts to construct the Delta tunnels. Nine groups of appellants showed up with well-researched and cogent arguments, and complemented one another well. They have made a difference. Not surprisingly, the nine groups represent most of the entities that have also been in the forefront of opposition in the three-year proceeding on the Delta tunnels before the State Water Resources Control Board.