CSPA has identified 69 issues that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) must confront in its forthcoming Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the new incarnation of its “Delta Conveyance” project. Delta Conveyance means a proposed tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that would move water from northern California south. CSPA expects to oppose the as yet unbranded Delta Do-Over as vigorously as CSPA opposed its predecessors, the “Bay-Delta Conservation Plan” and the “California WaterFix.”
CSPA made its recommendations in an April 17, 2020 comment letter in response to the Notice of Preparation of the EIR. The Notice of Preparation initiates the “scoping” process of the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. CSPA filed its scoping comments jointly with California Water Impact Network, AquAlliance and California Water Research.
CSPA comments that the new Delta Conveyance Draft EIR must describe changes that new conveyance will cause to the operation of upstream reservoir (Trinity, Shasta, Oroville, Folsom). DWR’s previous EIR for WaterFix said there wouldn’t be any changes, as does DWR’s January 2020 EIR for the long term operation of the State Water Project. CSPA, along with many water users upstream of the Delta, argued during the WaterFix hearings in 2016-2018 that DWR would hold less water in reservoirs when the new tunnels made it easier to ship more water south.
CSPA’s letter states that the Draft EIR must clarify the role of the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency, in the new Conveyance. The Draft EIR must state whether Reclamation as a participant will comply with California law, and how DWR will assure such compliance. Reclamation and California agencies are currently disputing how and when California law applies to Reclamation.
Many of CSPA’s comments are directed at avoiding a repeat of the multi-year game of hide the ball that DWR went through for the previous tunnel project, California WaterFix, and its predecessor, the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. The dynamic of rushing ahead and then trying to correct in mid-process led to two separate EIR’s for different versions of tunnel projects, plus a supplement, over the course of six years. DWR painted undeveloped and changing pictures of its project, and then asked the public to ‘trust us’ on the unclear and incomplete issues.
CSPA’s final recommendation is a plea for a wholly new document:
[T]he DEIR must be a stand-alone document that does not rely on references to previous iterations of CEQA documents for the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan and/or the “California WaterFix.”… Previous EIR’s and supplements for the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan and California WaterFix are 90,000 pages in volume and were already daunting due to the difficulty in understanding which sections which were superseded by subsequent documents. Retention of previous CEQA documents would force even a well-informed reader to conduct a treasure hunt through earlier documents to extract pertinent information.
The Draft EIR is expected in 2021.