Who will run the twin tunnels?

A Sunday story says that some scientists are concerned about the role of independent science in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (twin tunnels).

It’s the structure set up after the tunnels are built that worries them. Read their comments.

Here’s my interpretation of the proposed structure. You can also read the exact language here.

• A body called the Authorized Entity Group – consisting of the director of the Department of Water Resources, the regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and possibly representatives of the state or federal water contractors — oversees implementation of the plan, at the top of the mountain. The AEG hires the…

Program manager. He or she will focus on program implementation “subject to the oversight of the Authorized Entity Group” and will “act in accordance with the group’s direction.” He or she will also lead an Implementation Office that will “function with a significant level of independence” but will also “work closely with the Authorized Entity Group on a range of matters, particularly with respect to actions that affect water operations, and will be responsive to the Authorized Entity Group…”

The program manager will also hire the…

Science manager. This person will chair an adaptive management team and will coordinate with other existing scientific efforts. Reports to program manager, which places the science manager too close to the AEG and the water agencies, according to some critics.

Also in the mix is the…

Permit Oversight Group. This group consists of the state and federal wildlife agencies that must ultimately agree to issue permits for the BDCP. It acts as a watchdog, consulting with the Authorized Entities Group and providing written concurrence on certain decisions. It can yank the permits. It can also approve changes to the plan, acting “jointly” with the Authorized Entities Group. Ultimately, disputes between the AEG and the POG or other bodies could be appealed as high as the governor’s office and the secretaries of Interior and Commerce.

• The Adaptive Management Team, consisting of some government folks and scientists, can recommend changes to project operations as conditions warrant (for example, to protect fish). But the team  must agree unanimously or the issue will be pushed up the chain for consideration by the AEG and the POG. (That’s a point of concern for the scientists, who say that that complex issues rarely lead groups of scientists to the same conclusions.)

• A Stakeholder Council provides interested folks — including Delta residents and local government representatives — a chance to “consider, discuss, and provide input” on BDCP. Its positions will “help inform decisions.” The Stakeholder Council will be organized and convened by the program manager. This is a weak role for Delta interests, critics say.

• Finally, the general public is promised access to information — including any changes in planned water diversions — “in terms that are understandable to the general public.”

Bottom line: The science outlined in this particular portion of the BDCP plan is not far removed from the water agencies themselves, and Delta residents appear to have little role aside from the nonbinding opinions of the Stakeholder Council.

Jerry Meral, deputy director of the state Natural Resources Agency, did say at a meeting last week that he heard it suggested a representative of the Delta counties should serve on the AEG.

“Water contractors are concerned about that, but nevertheless if we could find a way… to give Delta counties a stronger voice it would make a lot of people happy,” Meral said. “The door is not closed in my view.”

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  • Blog Author

    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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