Wednesday, 18 July 2012

BDCP moves from unpermittable to unfinanceable

The first page of the new draft BDCP document has a refreshingly honest statement.

it has been clear that previous preliminary proposals were not likely to satisfy the statutory requirements necessary for securing permits.
So the BDCP has finally gotten “real” about the science.  But is the new process also going to "get real" about basic issues of economics and finance?  It doesn’t seem like it from this new framework.   

From everything I am told, the alternative that is likely to be “permittable” will not deliver any additional water compared to the status quo, possibly even less.

Even under the original dreams of 6.5 maf of exports, the tunnels/canal were a pretty marginal investment.  At 5.5 maf, it is a bad investment for ratepayers and probably unfinanceable.  At the supposedly permittable 4.5 maf (less water than the 4.7 maf no action alternative), the tunnels are a financial joke. 

But the framework offers a glimmer of hope for the agencies (and water plan consultants).  It has a multi-year science based decision tree process whereby there is a chance that the public’s multi-billion dollar investment in habitat will allow the water supply project to be upgraded from a financial joke to a bad investment in 15 years or so. 

The water agencies seem to be reacting with a mixture of denial and anger.  At their June 26 meeting, Metropolitan Water District staff was inexplicably still presenting their 2010 water supply fantasies to their board of directors.  Jason Peltier was far more honest when he recently declared 4.3 maf an insult, and that the BDCP was on a crappy path for Westlands. 

The new water buzzword that I have been hearing in 2012 is the need for “leadership."  In my opinion, real leadership would pull the plug on the BDCP before any more money and time is wasted that could be used on less expensive, more realistic solutions.  The project simply doesn’t work. 

I have been wondering if we wouldn’t all be better off if the state could move the agencies further along the path to acceptance by reimbursing them for a significant share of their BDCP planning costs.  In return for the public dollars, the agencies would release all the BDCP data and studies for public use and improvement of our knowledge of the Delta.

It’s time to move on.

About the Author

Ethan Jacob

Author & Editor

I am Ethan Jacob Executive Director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific, where I have a joint faculty appointment in the Eberhardt School of Business and the Public Policy Program in the McGeorge School of Law..

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