The BDCP was designed to address two problems: a failing Delta ecosystem and the unreliability of water supply for the whole state.
Part of the BDCP calls for the construction of two water pipes to take water from the Sacramento River and send it directly to the pumps outside Tracy, because of the risk of levee failure throughout the Delta — failure which could disrupt water deliveries to the Bay Area and communities to the south.
The designers and supporters of the BDCP, including Gov. Jerry Brown, say the web of levees and canals that provide water to millions of Californians beyond the five Delta counties is not reliable in the long term.
The plan further calls for an expansion of the ecosystem for fish, fauna and some migratory birds by turning about 140,000 acres of the land around Delta waterways into wetlands habitat.
If any of this seems at all inapplicable to local residents, county Supervisor Bob Elliott wants to convince you otherwise.
“There are literally millions of dollars of economic activity that will be lost if you take 140,000 acres of farmland out of production,” Elliott, chairman of the board of supervisors, said. “Two-thirds of the Delta is within the boundaries of San Joaquin County. With an agricultural industry that accounts for about $2.9 billion worth of economic activity just in San Joaquin County, you’re looking at a major loss.”
Almost 80 percent of Delta farmland is classified by the state Department of Conservation as Prime Farmland — meaning the land’s drainage, soil and
irrigation make it better than average.
The BDCP addresses farmland loss in its Environmental Impact Report, writing that farmers would get increased “flood protection” and encouraging them to make “economic choices to manage land in a way that contributes to maintaining and improving the ecological health of the Bay-Delta system.”
If the BDCP diverts the planned 9,000 cubic feet of water per second out of the Delta, that could leave the door open for salt water from the San Francisco Bay to move farther upstream because of less fresh water flowing downstream.
“That’s going to be felt everywhere,” Elliott said. “That means that that salt remains here. That will eventually affect our groundwater supplies, as well as the surface water supplies. So what little agriculture is left will be affected. The drinking water supplies of our residents here may be affected as well.”
Our largest concern with the BDCP is that it does not create more storage or capture more water. It is at best a water transportation plan.
Even if it does ensure that other communities have water in the event of a catastrophe, it does not address the problem of supply we face now. We are in the grips of a water shortage emergency. Local irrigation districts are considering severe, possibly permanent, cutbacks to customers. The Mountain House Community Services District just declared a Stage 3 emergency and will force residents to cut their water use by at least 20 percent. The city of Tracy may have to turn on wells that draw from water in the ground beneath us — a supply that is not infinite.
The BDCP in its current form is not the solution we need now. It does not solve the state’s water needs and is potentially harmful to our communities that are in the heart of the Delta.
— Press Editorial Board