California legislators weigh in on recently proposed water plan

California Gov. Jerry Brown's recent announcement of his proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is being met with skepticism from more than one California legislator. The area in question winters birds from all along the Pacific Flyway so the potential impacts to waterfowl could reach well north of California. California State Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, a lifelong member of Ducks Unlimited, isn't supportive of the plan, saying its conservation focus is too narrow.

"It is imperative that authorities pay attention to preserving habitat for waterfowl, and we cannot focus attention solely on endangered species restoration as we move forward," Berryhill said. "Waterfowl will be affected, and it is one of my main concerns with diverting water from the [Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta]. I am committed to working with groups like Ducks Unlimited to give a voice to our concerns."

At a Sacramento news conference on July 25, Gov. Brown announced his plan to help address California's long-fought water battle, joined by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Most notable in the plan is the proposed construction of two large water tunnels under the Delta meant to pipe water from the Sacramento River to existing pumps supplying water to areas south of the Delta, including agricultural lands and metropolitan areas of Southern California.

Rep. John Garamendi of California's 10th congressional district said this part of Brown's plan "puts plumbing before policy," and is incomplete at best.

"With the 9,000-[cubic-feet-per-second] facility announced as the governor's preferred project, it is absolutely imperative that the governor make a firm commitment to ensure that prime habitat for ducks and other waterfowl in the Delta and Northern California—including rice fields, wildlife refuges and Suisun Marsh—is not at risk," Garamendi said. "The BDCP process must be driven by sound science, and restoration must be carried out in a way that protects and enhances sensitive waterfowl habitat."

From the beginning of the process, DU's Western Region staff has been engaged in dialogue with BDCP planners and stakeholders alike, seeking to ensure that DU's concerns are addressed and the goal of no net loss of waterfowl habitat values is met. According to Mark Biddlecomb, director of operations for the region, the BDCP process can be a win for everyone.

"Sound science must be utilized and all impacts related to the plan must be accounted for," he said. "This means we need to ensure that mitigation efforts related to the project within the Delta don't come at the cost of degrading or draining wetlands and harming the rice industry north of the Delta. It also means we must make the Delta ecosystem functional again for all concerned. While endangered species are an important component of the plan, they are not the only species that must be considered."