Lately here at the Foundation, we’ve remarked that the staff has never experienced a year in which we’ve worked harder yet been more interested and involved in the issues. It’s been quite a year — our 20th! 1997 came in with the great flood on New year’s day and is ending with preparations for El Nino. In between, Western Water updated you on the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, the Lake Tahoe presidential forum, Colorado River Compact issues and, with this magazine, the thoughts of EPA Administrator Carol Browner.
It was a high profile year for water issues as the Clinton administration became more involved in, among others, the Bay-Delta issue and Lake Tahoe. For us, one highlight occurred in March when Vice President Al Gore visited our annual Executive Briefing. Another highlight came in May when we convened a symposium of the seven Colorado River states and other interests to mark the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Colorado River Compact.
Beginning this year, we became more involved in the issues of the other states that share the Colorado River. And as with many of our programs, the Colorado River symposium emphasized how, in the future, these interests could better work together. It is the same theme with our new public television documentary, Healing the Water, which details a fascinating and often heartbreaking story of winners and losers vying for Nevada’s Truckee River. While there is progress on water long disputed among farmers, conservationists and the Paiute Indians, all groups involved are not happy with the negotiation results.
I’ve been spending more of my time on public television documentaries because they are such a great way to reach out to a larger audience. we’re now filming a public television documentary about the Bay-Delta. The program will air in 1998 and include the CALFED preferred alternative, sure to be a featured article in Western Water.
One of the best ways to really understand these water issues is to see them firsthand. The foundation’s water tours offer participants that opportunity. I enjoy going on the tours, developed by Valerie Holcomb, because it’s the most useful and interesting way to keep up with Western water issues. In addition to our popular three-day Delta tour, we now have a one-day Delta tour, which we can conduct for your group.
In October, we led a new watershed tour through northern Nevada and California’s Eastern Sierra. For 1998, the Foundation will offer five three-day tours covering parts of Arizona, California and Nevada. Call us for a 1998 schedule and to reserve your place.
We got back from the watershed tour just in time to celebrate Chief Writer Sue McClurg’s marriage to Curtis Leipold. A graphic artist, Curtis designs Western Water magazine and other Foundation materials. We think, in this case, it’s a picture-perfect match between words and design! Congratulations to them both.
In the News
All eyes remain fixed on CALFED as the state-federal coalition continues working to meet a January release date of its preferred alternative to “fix” the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta). CALFED’s goal is to improve and restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem while, at the same time, increasing water supply reliability for the agricultural and urban customers who rely on the Delta for their drinking and irrigation supplies.
There are three basic options: alternative 1, which would leave the existing conveyance system much as it is today; alternative 2, which would widen and deepen key through-Delta channels and increase water storage; and alternative 3, which would include through-Delta improvements with an isolated conveyance facility around the Delta. These options include 12 different characteristics, which will be “scored” by CALFED staff, stakeholders and the Bay-Delta Advisory Council (BDAC) as the list is narrowed. BDAC was scheduled to hear details of the scoring at a November 4-5 meeting in Sacramento.
The preferred alternative will be the focus of a programmatic EIR/EIS (environmental impact report/environmental impact statement) to be released for public review and comment in early 1998. Officials aim to adopt a final EIR/EIS by December 1998 with site specific analysis and an implementation schedule staged over a 20- to 30-year period.
In other CALFED news:
President Clinton approved in October a bill that includes $85 million for CALFED’s Ecosystem Restoration Program Plan. Up to $430 million ($143 annually for three years) originally was authorized by the Clinton administration. Included in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, the $85 million was a compromise figure reached between the House and the Senate. The House had approved a measure allocating $50 million to CALFED; the Senate, $120 million.
Part of the money will provide the federal match for state and water user funds of the so-called Category III projects. Included in the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord, the Category III program requires an estimated $60 million annual commitment over the life of the three-year accord to address non-flow fishery improvements such as fish screens. The program has been so popular, CALFED received requests for $471 million in projects for the 1997 round, nearly eight times the amount of money available.
The Ecosystem Restoration Program Plan, the CALFED component that addresses water use, land use and conflicts over environmental concerns, received positive reviews and a series of recommendations by noted scientists from all over the country. Their input was sought on the basic approach in the plan. The three-day “peer-review” conference conducted by CALFED in October featured scientists who work in the Everglades, Chesapeake Bay and Yellowstone, and experts on northwest salmon and wetlands issues.
The CALFED agencies that were signatory to the 1994 Bay-Delta Accord are working to extend the accord for one year. They set a goal of November for having an extension — with no changes – approved by the participating state and federal agencies, and stakeholder groups.
A Conversation with Carol Browner
Carol Browner was appointed chief administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1993 by President Clinton. Prior to her appointment, Browner, 41, served as secretary of the Department of Environmental Regulation for the state of Florida where she was known for her efforts to develop wetlands protection, hazardous waste disposal and Everglades restoration programs. She has another link to the Clinton-Gore Administration by way of her stint as legislative director for then-Sen. Al Gore.
Browner grew up in south Florida near the Everglades. She earned bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida. She and her husband, Michael Podhorzer, have a 10-year-old son, Zach, and make their home in Maryland.
EPA was established in 1970. As administrator, Browner has oversight over many key programs and laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Clean Water Act (CWA), wetlands permit processes, air quality regulations and pesticide regulations. EPA’s mission is to promote public health by protecting the nation’s air, water and soil. It is charged with protecting the nation’s air and water from pollution, overseeing the disposal of garbage and hazardous waste, cleaning up contaminated sites under Superfund, and establishing rules for pesticide use and food safety.
In California, EPA is one of four federal agencies with major roles in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary (Bay-Delta). After years of state-federal conflict over Bay-Delta water quality standards, EPA, under Browner’s direction, helped forge the stakeholder-government agreement on water quality standards that led to the historic 1994 Bay-Delta Accord. EPA is a member of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program which is seeking a long-term Bay-Delta solution that will allow for water supply reliability and enhanced environmental protection and restoration.
Other areas in which EPA is a powerful influence over water in the West is the SDWA, which requires drinking water to meet certain standards; oversight of the wetlands Section 404 permit process; and Superfund sites. EPA also was a major participant in Clinton’s Presidential Forum on Lake Tahoe held in July.
On October 2 Foundation Executive Director Rita Schmidt Sudman interviewed Browner about drinking water issues, reauthorization of the CWA, the importance of pollution prevention and the need for public education on water quality issues.
The interview took place in Browner’s Washington, D.C., office, a converted apartment building with aging water pipes. In fact, concern over water contamination from those pipes has led some EPA employees to bring bottled water to work.