Western Water Excerpt Sue McClurgRita Schmidt Sudman

CALFED Today: A Roundtable Discussion
Sept/Oct 2002


The Bay-Delta comprises just 1 percent of California’s total area, yet is at the heart of the state’s water supply system and controversies. The CALFED Bay-Delta Program was formed in an effort to replace conflict and controversy with a common vision and a plan to “fix” the Delta. For the past two years, CALFED agencies and stakeholders have begun to initiate many studies and implement many projects and programs called for in the 2000 Record of Decision and Framework Agreement.

How to finance the many components within the plan and ensure the plan is implemented over the next 30 years is a major issue.

On July 30, Foundation Chief Writer Sue McClurg met with CALFED Director Patrick Wright and representatives of three organizations for a roundtable discussion about practical and political issues surrounding CALFED implementation. While it is difficult to narrow the list of stakeholder representatives in such a comprehensive program, the participants were chosen to represent these broad stakeholder communities: agricultural water interests, environmentalists, and urban water interests. They also were selected based on their personal involvement and knowledge of CALFED implementation: all are members of the Bay-Delta Public Advisory Committee. That 90-minute roundtable discussion was tape-recorded and edited for this publication.

David Guy is executive director of the Northern California Water Association (NCWA), a position he has held since 1999. NCWA is a membership organization that represents Sacramento Valley water purveyors in Congress and the state Legislature, and before state and federal agencies on issues related to water rights and water supplies. Prior to joining NCWA, David served as an attorney at the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Tim Quinn is vice president of State Water Project resources for the Metropolitan Water district of Southern California (MWD), a position he has held since 1994. He has represented MWD in a variety of negotiations on statewide water issues, including the Bay-Delta Accord. Prior to joining MWD in 1985, Tim worked for the Rand Corp. He serves on the board of the Water Education Foundation.

Frances Spivy-Weber has served as the executive director of policy for the Mono Lake Committee since 1997. She has 25 years of experience in environmental public policy work, serving on a wide variety of statewide and regional water committees including co-chair of Café’s Water Use Efficiency Committee; the Southern California Water Dialogue; the California Urban Water Conservation Council, and the board of the Water Education Foundation.

Patrick Wright is director of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program, a consortium of more than 20 state and federal agencies. He previously served as deputy secretary of the California Resources Agency and a senior policy advisor to the regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region IX. He played a key role in developing the historic Bay-Delta Accord.

McCLURGTwo years ago you released a Record of Decision – ROD – and a 6,500-page programmatic EIR, the preferred plan for the first seven years of what is to be a 30-year program. Where are we today in terms of implementation?

WRIGHT:  Broadly speaking we are making good progress in areas where we have money, and we’re making less progress in areas where we don’t. Prop. 204 and Prop. 13, gave us a head start in our ecosystem, groundwater, and several other programs. But areas that are more dependent upon federal funding and state general fund dollars aren’t doing as well. The water use efficiency, the water quality and, in certain cases, the levee programs are probably the three that are doing least well at least in comparison. Probably the biggest accomplishment of CALFED in the last two years has been the Environmental Water Account – the only two years out of the last decade where we haven’t had a major crisis over the [state and federal] water projects’ operation.

QUINN:  I’d like to answer the question from a little different perspective; what kind of change in policy direction does CALFED represent statewide? Maybe the best way to make the point is to think about where we were 10 years ago. Ten years ago, Metropolitan had a 35 percent allocation of state project water. Rationing was being declared in every major urban area. Economic impacts were widespread. The environment was going downhill fast. Last year, we had a very similar problem. Our planning was for a 30 to 35 percent allocation. We wound up at 39 percent. But reclamation and conservation were implemented and our demands were down. We pulled water out of Diamond Valley Lake. We pulled water out of our groundwater partnerships. We went to a very smoothly operated dry-year water transfer program. All of these are elements of the CALFED approach to water management, and the ultimate consumer didn’t even know we were having water supply problems. Meanwhile, the fisheries are coming back. We’re able to tell a much better story today for both the state’s economy and environment because we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a new direction in water management of which CALFED is the epitome.

SPIVY-WEBER:  I agree there have been improvements. Fish are coming back; they’re not anywhere close to where they need to be – we’re sort of like the stock market today, a little blip up. But there’s a lot of demand for funding. Using conservation as an example, there were about three times as many proposals for Prop. 13 funds as there were dollars available. The demand is there. The potential is there. The problem we’re heading toward in conservation is a lack of balance, and balance was one of the cornerstone statements made at the beginning of the CALFED program.

McCLURGDo you mean a lack of balance in funding?

SPIVY-WEBER:  While dollars don’t tell the whole story, in order to make projections as to what you can get from the various program areas of CALFED – conservation, water quality, conjunctive use – you need to have invested and studied and analyzed what’s coming out in order to make wise decisions about what to do in the future. And right now, without funding in key areas, we will find it hard to make those projections.

McCLURGDavid, how is it going from your group’s perspective?

GUY:  It was said that this was one of the most ambitious programs ever undertaken. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Overall, tremendous progress has been made. We’re adding 600,000 people a year to this state. We’ve been blessed in that we really haven’t had a prolonged drought since CALFED came into existence in ‘94 so we really haven’t even tested the mechanism yet. But I do think the mechanism in place is much more positive. And the real exciting aspect is all the partnerships and regional solutions. All these things require money. They are going to require some regulatory streamlining. But CALFED provides an excellent mechanism for us to manage the system when we go into that next drought or the next flood, whichever comes first.

McCLURGThe goal of the program was to have a broad consensus in the stakeholder communities, agricultural, urban and environmental. But when you came out with the ROD, three groups sued: the Farm Bureau and a couple of others. Today, is there a feeling in the stakeholder community of supporting CALFED? Or is there retrenchment?

WRIGHT:  I would say that the goal from the beginning has not been consensus. In fact, I abolished that word after becoming director! We recognize we need broad-based support. There is a big difference between broad-based support and having a consensus. If the test is “do we have broad-based support?” one only has to look at the support among the stakeholders for funding in the Legislature and in Congress – particularly compared to other natural resources issues.

That doesn’t mean everybody’s on board. A lot of the skepticism when the ROD was adopted was based on the fear that folks didn’t think we could actually manage it. Every interest group in California has a horror story about broken promises so one of our top priorities has been to meet the milestones and commitments in the CALFED plan. Combined with an emphasis, as David said, on investing more responsibility in regional communities’ plans and our stakeholder subcommittee so it’s not the expectation that the agencies are going to fix every problem, but that we’re going to invest in local communities who often know better how to fix their own problems with agency support. With that shift of emphasis, I think since the ROD came out, we’ve actually gained quite a bit of support.

SPIVY-WEBER:  I agree. There is a broad base of stakeholder support. Within the environmental community there are some, however, who remain very skeptical that CALFED will be able to restore the fisheries. One of the fears they have is that southern California will want to take more water. Like I say, that’s a minority view, but it’s certainly there. So for the environmental community as a whole, it’s going to take some more time to enlarge the group that is trusting of the system. I count myself as one of those who is trusting of the system, particularly because of the strong emphasis on water use efficiency in Phase 1.

McCLURGIs some of the difference because some groups or individuals are more involved in actually implementing the plan, going to the meetings and sitting on the subcommittees while others are just hanging out in the wings?

SPIVY-WEBER:  Those that are involved are definitely more trusting. Those that look at the funding situation and speculate that there will never be enough funding to make this program work, and some who would say there shouldn’t be taxpayer subsidies to make the program work, are skeptical. I’d say those are the two groups that are most skeptical.

McCLURGTim, what’s the view from southern California? Fran said some environmentalists are afraid you’re going to come back and take the water.

QUINN:  I mentioned the change in policy direction. There’s also a change in decision-making processes. It’s different than how we used to try to get 50 percent plus 1 to roll the opposition politically. Mary Nichols once described CALFED as being a consensus outcome but not the outcome of consensus. When the plan was introduced in June 2000, Gov. Davis and Sen. Feinstein both said none of the stakeholders was going to like everything in this program, but they need to accept and support the whole, because the whole will advance the state’s interest and all collective interests of the parties. That was pretty gutsy. That takes discipline. And we’re not entirely there yet. There are those in the environmental community that are very open, “I’m going to try and kill the stuff I don’t like and promote the stuff I do like.” We, dare I say, have some cells in the water supply community in which the same sentiment prevails. And we need the Governor and the Secretary of the Interior cracking a whip over the rest of us, reminding us that the ground rules have changed. Cherry picking is not allowed. You accept the program as a whole.

To get a program that looks like the outcome of consensus, you have to have a very open process and you have to have leaders and decision-makers who are listening to a lot of different people and a lot of different perspectives. We’re looking at a different set of rules here, and not everybody has adjusted.

McCLURGDavid, what is the feeling in the Sacramento Valley? I have heard rumblings about CALFED taking too much land out of farming for habitat restoration.

GUY:  The confidence level in the agricultural community needs to improve, no question about it. Patrick has made some strides, and I think quite honestly, CALFED needs to make a lot more strides. On the water supply front, things are advancing generally well for the agricultural community throughout the Sacramento Valley. Land acquisition is a major problem and “no redirected impacts” was a fundamental tenet of CALFED from day one. There is still a belief out in the country that these agencies coming in and acquiring agricultural land and converting it to other purposes is an unacceptable redirected impact to agriculture and rural communities. To me, it’s never been that CALFED is out there acquiring the land. It’s that the CALFED agencies are out there acquiring land whether the CALFED program is functioning or not. That is an opportunity for Patrick and CALFED to coordinate the issue; we need to address the land acquisition problem because if we do not succeed in this area it’s going to undermine the other successes we could have on the water supply side.

NOTE: Other issues addressed during the roundtable discussion included CALFED governance, CALFED funding, CALFED’s increasing focus on regional solutions, and the pending water bond, Proposition 50. A complete copy of the 20-page magazine is available from the Foundation for $3. Visit our Products Page and add the September/October 2002 issue of Western Water to your shopping cart.

Editor’s Desk

The Water Education Foundation lost a very good friend July 3 when Dr. Robert M. “Bob” Hagan passed away. He was 85.

Bob was one of the founding members of the Foundation. He served on the Board of Directors for 24 years, including a stint as President from 1989 to 1994. Through the years, he selflessly worked to advance the Foundation’s goals of public education on water issues in the West. Even when he stepped down from the Board in December 2001 he pledged to remain as active as ever.

At the Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration in May, Bob noted that, “In the beginning, we had no money, but we had an idea.” The idea was that Californians and other Westerners would benefit from an organization that reported the facts about water issues. In the early days when he was president, the Foundation came under attack from special interests and Bob was outspoken about supporting the impartial and unbiased reporting in Western Water.

Bob’s support for water education was nothing new. As a professor at the University of California, Davis, he taught a popular class for non-science majors called “Water and Society” that explored the interplay between politics and water policy. Even though Bob was busy with research and traveling abroad as an expert in agricultural water use efficiency, he considered this undergraduate class an important activity and continued teaching it for many years. I have met many leading scientists, government officials and farmers from arid countries all over the world who were Bob’s students. Early in his 50-year career with the University, he chose teaching and public outreach over publishing. He worked with local water agencies and state and federal agencies to develop sound water policies.

Bob retired from the University in 1987 as a professor of water science in the department of Land, Air and Water Resources, but the University did not find a professor to fill his position. After waiting several years to see this important position filled, Bob came up with $175,000 of his own money toward endowing a faculty chair at UC Davis in water management and policy aimed at helping find solutions to today’s water problems.

Now it is up to those of us who worked with him to carry on his work. Bob’s legacy is half the amount of money needed to endow this chair. Our work is to raise the other half and achieve the $350,000 minimum goal necessary to endow faculty positions in the University of California system. Joining the Foundation in this effort are the Association of California Water Agencies and the San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Water Committee. The proposed position at UC Davis would be a Cooperative Extension specialist position, much like the position Bob occupied when he provided his well-recognized leadership on California water issues. Please contact me if you would like more information on this fund-raising campaign.

- Rita Schmidt Sudman

In the News

A Year After Sept. 11, Attention Remains Focused on Water Security

Federal, state and local water officials have remained vigilant in the year since Sept. 11, spending millions of dollars to upgrade security systems against the threat of further terrorist attacks. It has been known all along that the chances of terrorists being able to cause wholesale poisoning of public drinking water systems is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, attention has been paid to ensuring the highest degree of protection possible, particularly in light of documents found in Afghanistan showing al-Qaeda terrorists looking for ways to disrupt the U.S. water supply system on a massive scale.

Federal lawmakers responded to Sept. 11 by providing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with more than $120 million to protect drinking water systems and enhance security at U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) facilities. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act, signed by President Bush in June, requires large water systems to conduct vulnerability assessments (VAs), prepare response plans and file them with EPA. Systems serving 100,000 or more people must complete their VAs by March 31, 2003; those with 50,000 to 100,000 Dec. 31; and 3,300 to 50,000, June 30, 2004.

Water groups are eyeing the progress of federal water security legislation to ensure they are not saddled with what are viewed as unnecessary new costs and requirements. One measure, the Chemical Security Act, requires some water treatment sites to conduct VAs, consider alternative chemicals or technologies and prepare prevention and response plans. Agency officials worry the bill could be redundant and inordinately expensive.

Meanwhile, the Bureau has altered some policies regarding public access to its dams and reservoirs. All tours are now guided and are prohibited from entering the interior of dams and power plants. Vehicle and foot traffic has been restricted, as well as aquatic access to dams, fore and aft. The Bureau is in the process of studying the vulnerability of nine southern California dams to terrorist attack. The study, requested by Los Angeles County officials, is expected in early 2003.

In California, the state Highway Patrol continues to patrol key water infrastructure sites, such as the State Water Project (SWP), while the Department of Water Resources (DWR) maintains communication with local water agencies regarding increased security and emergency operation plans. “Since September of 2001, DWR has taken action to increase security, regulate access and closely monitor activities at SWP facilities, DWR offices and work stations,” said Sonny Fong, DWR’s emergency preparedness manager. “In addition to upgrades in facility security, special training on security and emergencies has been given to DWR’s key managers, first-responders and security staff.”

A law signed by Gov. Davis allows the California Highway Patrol to close off portions of state highways to hazardous waste transportation if, among other things, a highway runs within 500 feet of a drinking water reservoir.

Meanwhile, water security costs continue, whether in the form of surveillance, added infrastructure or monitoring. Water suppliers serving the largest populations have spent in excess of $1 million each, and expect to spend about the same amount in 2003, according to data collected by the Association of California Water Agencies. Nearly 25 percent of the agencies surveyed said they expect to recoup their expenses through increased water rates. Some funding relief could arrive if voters approve Proposition 50, a November bond measure that dedicates $50 million for the protection of drinking water systems.

- by Gary Pitzer

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