Pasadena Water and Power and other agencies tangle with Legislature-appointed Delta Council
|January 14, 2012 - Concerns about the role of the Delta Stewardship Council were expressed by local water agencies at a hearing held at the Pasadena Central Library on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.|
|PASADENA - Local water agencies and cities clashed Thursday night with a panel empowered by the Legislature to solve the state's water problems - disagreeing over who should have the power to set rates, water flows and mandates for consumer conservation.|
Water purveyors testifying at a hearing at the Pasadena Central Library agreed with the dual purpose of the Delta Stewardship Council to restore and protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta while "providing a more reliable water supply for California." Yet, they strongly felt the two-year-old state panel is wielding too much power that threatens to interfere with local water planning efforts.
One of the loudest objectors to the Council and its draft plan was Pasadena Water and Power, the city agency that gets 60 percent of its water from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which gets the bulk of its water from the Northern California delta.
PWP's Angela Kimmey, legislative and regulatory affairs manager, said the Delta Council should not tell cities how much they should conserve nor how much they should charge customers, as proposed in the council's draft Delta Plan.
"We feel these goals would be better served by recommendations as opposed to mandates," Kimmey told the three members of the Council in attendance. She testified that PWP's own voluntary efforts resulted in Pasadena residents in 2011 using 24 percent less water than the previous year.
"The kind of over regulation appearing in this draft will threaten any success. By mandating (conservation goals), it will add more bureaucracy to an already complex process," Kimmey concluded.
The complex plan includes 12 policies that would be adopted as rules of the agency, including evaluating local water plans, rate structures and taking water reliability actions. The plan calls for a 20 percent reduction in statewide urban water use by Dec. 31, 2020.
Many of the other policies center on restoring more than 65,000 acres of inter-tidal area around the Delta, protecting fish and animal species in decline, and ensuring water supplies for the state's $27 billion agricultural industry.
As for urban water agencies, Metropolitan Water District (MWD) has the largest stake in what the Delta Council decides and how it will enforce its plan. Though it supported the creation of the Delta Council in 2009, it had reservations about how the Council will enforce water conservation goals in Southern California.
Stephen Arakawa, who manages MWD's Bay-Delta initiatives, said the plan should not regulate other agencies' water conservation plans.
"In essence, progress in the Delta could be thwarted by the Council second-guessing local water management decisions," he testified.
Kirk Howie, assistant general manager of Three Valleys Municipal Water District based in Claremont, testified that the agency supports the Delta Council's environmental goals to restore an ailing Delta. However, Howie was concerned that the Council would be judging how his agency goes about its business.
"The draft plan puts the Council in a difficult position of reviewing local water strategies - if they pass or they fail," Howie said.
Three Valleys must be careful not to offend the state nor MWD, since it has no wells and must deliver water to 500,000 people in Claremont, La Verne, Walnut, Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights and portions of West Covina using 100 percent imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River.
MWD has proposed a fix that could restore water flows from the Delta to 2005 levels, when pumping was reduced by a federal judge because of the endangered Delta smelt. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which stakeholders hope will become part of the Delta Plan, includes construction of an $11.7 billion system of new levees and concrete channels to more efficiently move fresh water through the Delta. MWD and other large water agencies in Southern, Central and Northern California would pay for the project, Arakawa said.
However, the Delta Council's plan says the Council must still approve the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
That could result in farmers, environmental groups and other stakeholders cherry-picking aspects of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan for the Council to shoot down, or for possible litigation, Arakawa said in an interview.
The Conservation Plan was actually produced through a long process before the Delta Plan, and if the state Department of Fish and Game and other state environmental agencies approve the Conservation Plan, the Council should not interfere, he said.
Kim O'Hara, legislative manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, agreed with MWD's stand. She said the Delta Plan draft does not specifically support those capital improvements and could end up "adding another layer of complexity to the process, resulting in significant delays."
An $11 billion water bond measure that was taken off the 2010 ballot is tentatively scheduled for the ballot this November. It would include money for restoring the Delta and monies for local water recycling and water clean-up efforts.
State Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, Senate minority leader, said on Friday he does not support the measure as currently configured but will work to pare it down or push it onto a later ballot.
The Council is holding additional meetings in Central and Northern California on the draft EIR and Delta Plan. It is set to adopt the Delta Plan in early May, said Keith Coolidge, chief deputy executive officer with the Delta Council. Comments can be submitted through Feb. 2 to www.deltacouncil.ca.gov or by email at email@example.com, or by U.S. mail to EIR Comments, Delta Stewardship Council, 980 Ninth St., Suite 1500, Sacramento, CA 95814.
626-962-8811 ext. 2237