SACRAMENTO — A state agency is inviting the public to watch some of its negotiations with water districts over funding for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, including Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tunnels.
The talks will revolve around amendments to the state Department of Water Resources’ water supply contracts with the 29 public agencies that purchase State Water Project supplies to define the rights and obligations of those who would benefit from the BDCP once it is implemented, agency director Mark Cowin said.
“These will be negotiations to help with funding the proposed BDCP, so we’re starting these negotiations to develop terms to amend the existing water supply contracts just to develop a funding mechanism,” said Cathy Crothers, the DWR’s chief counsel.
“We don’t know what the terms are going to be yet because we’re just starting this process,” she told the Capital Press.
Water districts have already played a key role in the massive bay-delta project, spending more than $140 million on tasks such as preliminary engineering and design, environmental documentation and hundreds of meetings.
The BDCP is a $24.7 billion conservation plan aimed at restoring the beleaguered bay-delta ecosystem at the heart of the Golden State. As the Delta’s ecosystem improves, water operations would become more reliable and more secure for 25 million Californians and an agriculture industry that feeds millions, the project’s website asserts.
About 11,000 comments were sent in during more than 200 days of public review of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s environmental documents earlier this year.
At the heart of the 50-year plan is Brown’s two proposed 30-mile underground tunnels to bypass the Delta, which has already drawn vocal opposition from environmentalists and some farmers in the region who fear the project would ruin their land.
Cowin cautions the contract talks won’t involve the merits of the tunnels or other BDCP projects. Carothers said she doesn’t know how long the negotiations will take, but “eventually we’re going to need this amendment ... You need to start sometime,” she said.
The first session will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 10 in Room 1131 of the California Natural Resources Building, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento. Seating is limited, but the public can listen to the negotiations by calling 1-719-359-9722, passcode 138000#.
For information about future meetings, visit http://www.water.ca.gov/swpao/swpcontractamendmentforbdcp/.
Bay Delta Conservation Plan: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Home.aspx