September 6, 2007 Commission Meeting Minutes
Approved Minutes of September 6, 2007 Commission Meeting
- Call to Order. The meeting was called to order by Chair Randolph at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, California at 1:08 p.m.
Roll Call. Present were Chair Randolph, Vice Chair Halsted, Commissioners Baird (represented by Alternate Potter), Bates, Fernekes, Finn, Goldzband, Gordon, Jordan-Hallinan, Carruthers, Kondylis, Lai-Bitker, Lundstrom, Moy, Nelson, Peskin (represented by Alternate Owen), Thayer (represented by Alternate Kato), and Wagenknecht. Also in attendance Legislative member Charles Taylor.
Not Present were: Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (Bourgart), Sonoma County (Brown), Speaker of the Assembly (Gibbs), Contra Costa County (Gioia), U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers (Hicks), Marin County (McGlashan), Association of Bay Area Governments (Mossar) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Schwinn) and Regional Water Quality Control Board (Waldeck).
Public Comment Period. Lesley Emmington Jones said her family has been involved in the Suisun Marsh and has had ownership of the waterfront at Collinsville since before the turn of the last century. She does not feel that things are going well in the Suisun Marsh and proposed development to go upstream, Division 1 Development. The Suisun Marsh, the Potrero Hill Dump Development should necessitate clean water samples to be made public. She proposed that the Emmington Road, which is in the Suisun Marsh, should become tidal wetlands, however there is movement to prevent this.
She said there is an invasion of port-a-potties, which aren’t being monitored. She challenged Solano County and this Commission to approve the Montezuma Wetlands. She reported she has been out there and is concerned that the top soil is in place. The drudge that was supposed to be kept wet at all times is not wet, it is dry. It is a landfill as far as she can see and said there is a neutral admiration society in the BCDC that are not looking at this site.
She said upstream from Collinsville, Solano County is proposing a development called Vision I, which is to bring in new barges, make an adverse impact on the shoreline that has not been altered. She also commented that there are no birds in the area. She believes that the windmills should be seriously evaluated.
Commissioner Kondylis requested an update from staff regarding the Montezuma Wetlands.
Approval of Minutes of August 16, 2007 Meeting. Chair Randolph entertained a motion to adopt the minutes.
MOTION: Commissioner Wagenknecht moved, seconded by Commissioner Gordon to approve the August 16, 2007 minutes. The motion passed with three abstentions.
Report of the Chair. Chair Randolph provided the following update:
Jonathan Smith. Jonathan Smith retired last week from his position as BCDC’s Chief Counsel. To officially acknowledge his contributions to the Commission, the staff has prepared a draft resolution of appreciation for Jon. Chair Randolph welcomed a motion and a second to adopt this resolution.
MOTION: Commissioner Lundstrom moved, seconded by Commissioner Nelson. The motion passed unanimously.
Next BCDC Meeting. The next meeting will be in two weeks on September 20, 2007 in Oakland at the MetroCenter. At that meeting the following matters will be taken up:
A public hearing and vote on an application to build a residential development along the shoreline and renovate the Loch Lomond Marina in Marin County.
A public hearing and possible vote to revise the regionwide permit that authorizes small dredging projects.
A public hearing on proposed revisions to BCDC’s regulations that specify the information needed to complete a BCDC permit application.
As per the strategic plan, there will be an update on the first phase of the Regional Airport System Planning Analysis.
There may be a need to hold a closed hearing to discuss an enforcement related to Paradise Cay in Marin County.
There will be a briefing from Steve Heminger, the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, in regards to the work of the MTC and opportunities for further collaboration between BCDC and MTC.
Ex-Parte Communications. If any commissioners have inadvertently forgotten to provide the staff with a report on any written or oral ex-parte communications they were invited to report them at this time. There were no ex-parte communications to report.
Report of the Executive Director. Mr. Travis provided the following report:
Coro Fellow. In the 1940’s John Reber came up with a plan promising to bring a wonderful future to the Bay Area. His plan called for building two dams across the Bay, one parallel to the Bay Bridge and the other one about where the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is currently. Under Reber’s plan, the north and south bays would become giant fresh water reservoirs and much of the central bay would be filled for military bases and industry.
The Reber Plan was studied for a couple of years, Congress held hearings on it and the Army Corps of Engineers built the Bay Model in Sausalito to see if the plan would work. Ultimately, the Corps concluded more water would evaporate out of the south bay reservoir than would flow into it from creeks and streams so Reber’s grand plan was never carried out.
Given the current concern about the impact of sea level rise on communities around the Bay and the fascination with using tides to generate electricity, the thought is that it is only a matter of time before someone else like John Reber comes up with a proposal to dam the Golden Gate and put generators powered by the tide in the dam.
Rather than take years and spend millions to look at the feasibility of such a scheme, it was decided to invest $500 to pay a Coro Foundation fellow to spend a month inventorying the basic pros and cons of such an idea and identifying the key issues that would have to be studied to determine the ultimate feasibility of such a proposal.
The Coro fellow who will be joining the meeting is Kirstin Conti. She has a B.S. in earth systems from Stanford. She’s been an intern at the U.S. State Department and has conducted research in South Africa. She will start her fellowship on September 11, 2007 which will end October 5, 2007. The results will be shared with the Commission at that time.
Commissioner Kondylis added that she would like BCDC pay an additional $500 to have Ms. Conti look at the Carquinez Straits. Mr. Travis said he will try to add this to Ms. Conti’s research.
AB 1066. On August 2, 2007, the Commission voted to support the passage of Assemblyman Laird’s AB 1066, which would give the Commission the explicit authority to address the impacts of global warming, including sea level rise, in the commissions planning activities. The Senate Appropriations Committee failed to pass the bill, which means that for at least the next year, everything the BCDC does to address climate change will have to be accomplished because it needs to be done, not because the BCDC is authorized or required to do so.
Paradise Cay. It was discussed at the last meeting that BCDC staff expected that the construction of the Paradise Cay Marina in Marin County would not be completed by the end of last month, even though the permit as well as a cease and desist order required completion by August 31, 2007. The work was not completed so this matter was referred to the Attorney General’s Office for enforcement of the cease and desist order. To facilitate the Attorney General’s efforts to reach a suitable resolution of this case, Mr. Travis has issued a non-material amendment of the permit to extend the completion deadline one month to allow construction to continue and keep all the other permit conditions in place.
Personnel. There are two personnel matters to be considered.
First, when Lindy Lowe returns from her maternity leave later this month, she will be serving in a new capacity. She has been promoted to a Senior Planner position and will have the lead role in the BCDC’s most important and complex planning studies.
Second, when Michelle Levenson’s maternity leave ended, she decided to resign from her position at BCDC to continue to be a full-time mom. Therefore, the need exists to fill her permit analyst position as soon as possible.
Commission Consideration of Administrative Matters. There were no questions in regards to the listing of administrative matters.
Public Hearing on Proposed Bay Plan Amendment No. 1-07 Concerning Update of the San Francisco Bay Plan Managed Wetland Findings, Policies and Map Designations; and Proposed Marsh Plan Amendment No. 1-07 Concerning Update of the Suisun Marsh Protection Plan Findings and Policies Regarding Managed Wetlands. Chair Randolph explained that Item #8, relates to the public hearing on the proposed revisions of sections of the Bay Plan and the Suisun Marsh Plan dealing managed wetlands. Caitlin Sweeney will provide the staff report.
Caitlin Sweeney presented the staff’s report and preliminary recommendation as follows:
The following presentation provides a summary of the major conclusions from the background report and will the major preliminary policy recommendations. Ms. Sweeney reported the following:
Managed Wetlands are areas of historical tidal marsh that have been diked off from the Bay and are managed for wildlife, primarily water fowl. In the San Francisco Bay, approximately 53,000 acres of managed wetlands are currently maintained as private waterfowl hunting clubs and on publicly owned wildlife management areas and refuges. Less than 2,000 acres currently exist outside of the Suisun Marsh. These remaining managed wetlands are all in the North Bay in the area of the Napa Sonoma Marshes Wildlife area.
The managed wetlands in the North Bay are a combination of public and private lands including some areas that were historically used for salt production. About 650 acres are privately owned and currently operated as waterfowl hunting clubs scattered among large areas of public land.
In the Suisun Marsh little has changed in the past 30 years. Currently 90% of the wetlands in the Suisun Marsh are diked and managed for wildlife totaling almost 51,000 acres. About 35,300 acres are privately owned and are currently managed as 158 separate waterfowl hunting clubs. Approximately 15,400 acres of managed wetlands are publicly owned with the Department of Fish and Game being the largest landowner.
The Commission has the authority to require permits for the placement of fill, the extraction of materials and substantial changes of use of managed wetlands. It is important to note that the Commission’s managed wetland jurisdiction is defined in such a way that the jurisdiction is retained even if the area is no longer used as a duck hunting preserve or a game refuge.
In 1974 the Suisun Marsh Act was enacted to require the Commission and the California Department of Fish and Game to prepare a plan to preserve the integrity and to assure continued wildlife use of the Suisun Marsh. The Suisun Marsh Protection Plan was developed and in 1977 the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act was enacted to incorporate the findings and policies in the Marsh Protection Plan into state law and to empower the Commission to implement the plan through its regulatory authority. The Marsh Act divides the marsh into a primary management area, and a secondary management area.
Within the primary management area, the Commission has the authority to require permits within managed wetlands for various activities including the placement of any solid material or structure, and grading, removing, dredging, mining or extraction of any materials. The Marsh Act specifically excludes some activities from any permit requirement from the Commission including removal or harvesting of vegetation to maintain or improve wildfowl habitat and any development specified in the component of the Suisun Resource Conservation District’s local protection program.
The Marsh Act required Solano County to prepare a local protection plan for the Suisun Marsh that would contain a more specific set of policies and procedures for the Marsh. The resulting Suisun Marsh Local Protection Program is composed of 5 components administered by; Solano County, the Solano County Mosquito Abatement District, the City of Fairfield, the City of Suisun City, and the Suisun Resource Conservation District which guide the management of land uses and activities in the portion of the marsh within their jurisdictions.
All projects within the Commission’s managed wetlands jurisdiction must be consistent with the McAteer-Petris Act and the policies in the San Francisco Bay Plan. It is important to note that the Suisun Marsh Preservation Act states that the appropriate policies of both the Bay Plan and the Marsh Plan shall apply within the area that is in the Commission’s jurisdiction and also in the Marsh. However, if the Bay Plan and the Marsh Plan conflict, the policies of the Marsh Plan shall control.
In 1963 local landowners in the Suisun Marsh formed the Suisun Resource Conservation District to protect the marsh. SRCD performs both administrative and technical functions that include representing the interest of the landowners of the Marsh. Pursuant to the requirements of the SRCD component of the local protection program, each of the waterfowl hunting clubs was studied and an individual club management plan was created for each club, reviewed by Fish and Game, and certified by the Commission.
The management plan includes a description of the management system and vegetation condition of the club, a water management schedule, and a discussion of the facilities and improvements needed to accomplish the schedule. The plan allows club owners to conduct ongoing maintenance, repairs and improvements, as described in the plans and approved by the Commission, without having to apply for separate permits for each activity.
Most clubs are operating under management plans that were approved in the early 1980s. SRCD and landowners are currently working to revise the plans.
Traditionally, land managers of managed wetlands have focused on supporting plants that are desired food sources for waterfowl. Vegetation management may include planting, discing, mowing, herbicide application and burning.
Managed wetlands present several management challenges, including reducing salinity in soils and overcoming circulation and drainage issues, avoiding fish entrainment, controlling mosquitoes, repair and maintenance of levees, and responding to evolving regulatory requirements including requirements for protecting threatened and endangered species.
Managed wetlands provide cover and foraging opportunities for migratory waterfowl, resident waterfowl, other waterbirds and shorebirds and habitat for various mammal species. Several listed species are associated with the managed wetlands of the Suisun Marsh, including the federally endangered salt marsh harvest mouse.
Managed wetlands provide for a diversity of recreations that include hunting, fishing, dog training, wildlife viewing and hiking.
Managed wetlands support a long heritage of waterfowl hunting. Particularly in the Suisun Marsh, generations of waterfowl hunting club owners and members have worked to maintain the area’s habitat value and protect the natural resources of the Marsh. As stewards of the Marsh, hunters have actively preserved tens of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, have gathered a wealth of information regarding sustaining wildlife populations, and have contributed substantial financial and political support for resource protection.
Like tidal marshes and tidal flats, managed wetlands serve an important role in adapting to sea level rise. They can protect upland areas by retaining floodwaters, provide an opportunity for needed space for adjacent wetlands to migrate landward as sea levels rise, and play an important role in the global carbon cycle by sequestering carbon.
Managed wetlands also provide an opportunity, if no longer used for waterfowl hunting purposes, for habitat restoration or enhancement.
Determining whether managed wetlands should be restored to tidal action, or retained and enhanced and managed as habitat for specific wildlife species is a critical aspect of restoration planning. The composition of the habitats restored and enhanced will directly affect the diversity, abundance and distribution of fish, other aquatic organisms and wildlife, and requires analysis on a regional scale.
Additional issues should also be considered, such as water quality, control of non-native species, and flood protection.
Restoration and enhancement projects provide an opportunity to engage the hunting community and acknowledge the stewardship role hunters have played in protecting the Bay’s natural resources.
Ms. Sweeney suggested that rather than going through all of the proposed revisions to the Bay Plan and Marsh Plan in detail, she will discuss the major proposed changes and refer the Commission to the preliminary staff recommendation for the exact proposed wording changes.
The proposed revisions to the Bay Plan findings and policies are consistent with the original intent of the 1969 findings and policies that is:
To support maintaining the managed wetlands for waterfowl hunting;
Support restoration of managed wetlands to title action;
If managed wetlands are proposed for alternate uses such as development, to require retention of ecological and open space benefits.
The findings in the Bay Plan are proposed to be revised and expanded to more accurately describe the current uses and distribution of managed wetlands, the various values of managed wetlands, and to recognize the opportunity for managed wetlands to be restored to tidal action or retained and managed for multiple species of wildlife if no longer viable as waterfowl hunting areas.
Proposed revisions to Bay Plan policies largely consist of updates to reflect current knowledge, conditions and practices and to bring the Bay Plan policy language into consistency with the language of the McAteer-Petris Act. Language regarding maintaining managed wetlands for waterfowl hunting, as long as it is “economically feasible”, is proposed for deletion. The vast majority of privately owned managed wetlands are in the Suisun Marsh and are not at risk for being sold for various development scenarios. An economic feasibility test for managed wetlands no longer seems relevant.
Also noted is the duplicate language regarding salt ponds that was deleted as part of the 2005 salt pond policy revision.
The existing Bay Plan policy language regarding restoration of managed wetlands is specific to the process of using public funds to purchase managed wetlands that are withdrawn from waterfowl hunting uses for restoration purposes. If, under that scenario, managed wetlands are opened to tidal action, the Commission does have existing Bay Plan policies regarding the restoration of tidal habitat. However, there are unique challenges associated with the restoration of managed wetlands that are not fully addressed in the tidal marsh and tidal flat policies. There are no existing Bay Plan policies regarding the retention, enhancement, and management of managed wetlands for multiple species. Therefore, staff proposes the addition of a policy that specifically addresses the unique issues associated with restoration, enhancement or conversion of managed wetlands, including: analyzing trade-offs between retaining managed wetlands as diked pond habitat and restoring managed wetlands to tidal action; flood management; the use of fill to assist restoration objectives; mosquito abatement; controlled non- native invasive species; opportunities for a diversity of public access and recreational activities; and water quality protection.
Both the McAteer-Petris Act and the Bay Plan contain existing language regarding potential development of managed wetlands if they are no longer needed for waterfowl hunting uses and are not purchased by the public for restoration. The existing language requires, if the development of a managed wetland is proposed, that some amount of water surface area must be retained and dedicated as well as public access. Proposed revisions to the existing policy include bringing the language into consistency with the McAteer-Petris Act, in particular regarding terminology applied to the amount of water surface area retained and the public access provided.
The proposed revisions include expanding the definition of water surface area to include the various types of aquatic and wetland habitats that may be desirable for a particular area. Language regarding avoiding significant adverse effects on wildlife from public access has been added consistent with the public access section of the Bay Plan.
Like the proposed revisions to the Bay Plan findings and policies, proposed revisions to the Marsh Plan are consistent with the original intent of both the Bay Plan and the Marsh Plan. In general, the existing Marsh Plan findings and policies from 1976 regarding managed wetlands recognize the value of managed wetlands for wildlife and for recreational uses and support maintaining managed wetlands for these purposes.
The Marsh Plan also recognizes the opportunity for managed wetlands to be restored to tidal action. Unlike the Bay Plan, the Marsh Plan does not contain a policy basis for allowing major development of managed wetlands. As per the Marsh Act, in the Marsh, if the Bay Plan and Marsh Plan conflict, the Marsh Plan shall control. Proposed revisions to the Marsh Plan findings and policies regarding managed wetlands are scattered throughout the Plan under various sections, including: environment; water supply and quality; utilities, facilities and transportation; recreation and access; and land use and marsh management. Proposed revisions update the terminology and revise and expand the language in the Marsh Plan in response to current knowledge and practices.
Proposed revisions to the findings in the Marsh Plan would revise language to more concisely and accurately describe the amount and the resource values of managed wetlands, to more fully describe the history and current use of private waterfowl hunting clubs, and to reflect current management objectives and current recreational uses of public lands. The current language in the Marsh Plan encourages the acquisition of additional public land for recreational use. Proposed additional language also supports existing recreational uses of privately owned managed wetlands.
Similar to proposed revisions to the Bay Plan, revisions to the Marsh Plan are proposed to reflect the various options for managed wetlands purchased by the public, including the flexibility to consider the variety of aquatic and wetland habitat types that may be proposed as part of the managed wetland restoration or enhancement project. Finally, identical to the proposed revisions to the Bay Plan, a policy that addresses the pertinent issues that should be addressed as part of a managed wetland restoration or enhancement project is proposed.
Ms. Sweeney suggested that there may be some confusion on how the policies apply to private landowners particularly in the Suisun Marsh. As described earlier, each of the waterfowl hunting clubs has a management plan certified by the Commission. Assuming all of the landowners’ expected maintenance and enhancement activities are described in the management plan, the landowner would not need any additional permits from the Commission.
The staff background report underwent technical review by experts on various aspects of managed wetlands and was revised in response to the reviewer’s comments. In addition, the background report and preliminary recommendation was reviewed by the Citizens Advisory Committee and was revised in response to comments from committee members. It was recommended that the Commission hold the period for public written comment open for two additional weeks in an effort to allow people more time to review and comment on the preliminary recommendation with a deadline of September 20, 2007.
Steve Chappell, Executive Director of SRCD, said he supported all the provisions with the exception of one, which he will address in detail. He provided the following:
oSuisun Marsh is an area that is valued by the stakeholders of the Marsh and the people who express a legacy of preservation and conservation, yet there has been increasing regulatory constraints on the operations.
Mr. Chappell stated that overall the BCDC has been a strong partner in supporting and protecting the Marsh. Specific to policy 14, which has significant requirements on managed wetlands enhancement, and tidal restoration, his greatest concern is that the Commission is adding another step of regulatory oversight when implementing management strategies or enhancement strategies. He requested that the Commission consider applying condition 14 to tidal restoration only, or adding language to address this in the update of the individual habitat management plans, to streamline regulatory requirements.
Scott Bohannon, Secretary of Reclamation District 2139 in the Suisun Marsh and also representing an ownership within the Marsh, said he looked at a letter that was circulated by Brian Geary, and commented that he believes that Mr. Geary’s comments deserve serious consideration. He also looked at Steve Chappelle’s letter and further endorses Mr. Chappelle’s comments in regards to 14.
George Tillotson, a property owner in Suisun Marsh, said he is in agreement with Steve Chappelle’s and Brian Geary’s letters. He asked for a minimization of regulatory agencies to streamline the processes and assist landowners in preserving the Marsh.
MOTION: Commissioner Nelson moved to close the public comment period; seconded by Commissioner Goldzband. The motion passed.
Chair Randolph asked for clarification on the difference between restoration and enhancement. Ms. Sweeney said that restoration applies to restoring managed wetlands to tidal action, while enhancement is the retention of managed wetlands as diked managed ponds with enhanced habitat value for multiple species. She said the term “conversion” is included to ensure the entire suite of various wetland and subtidal habitats are included.
Commissioner Lundstrom asked Ms. Sweeney, in regards to policy 14 and the comments from SRCD, the issue is that any project would have to go through this analysis and the argument is that this is too broad and that this should refer to restoration and conversion, which are broader issues and require more scrutiny, but not refer to enhancement which might be digging a new ditch.
She suggested that the Commission and staff look very carefully at this language. She proposed that careful consideration be given to the language to not have a disincentive for partnerships with the landowners.
Commissioner Nelson suggested that a brighter line be drawn to differentiate the salt pond policies and policy 14 as suggested by the landowners. Ms. Sweeney said that policy 14 and the salt pond policies are very similar when applied to the same situation.
Commissioner Carruthers stated that when restoration is being used, if it really means restoring to tidal action, the Commission makes sure to say that, at risk of redundancy, so as to not leave a confused public.
Commissioner Lai-Bitker asked about the issue of levy integrity. Ms. Sweeney said levy system integrity is a critical issue in protecting the Suisun Marsh. She stated that BCDC doesn’t specifically preclude any activities that would help in maintaining or upgrading levees. In fact, if a particular activity or site where material may come from is described in SRDC component of the local protection program, it would not require a permit from BCDC. She stated that if a particular site or activity was not covered within that component, then they would require permit from BCDC.
Commission Carruthers said that the explanation of Ms. Sweeney was quite clear, but suggested that if the text that BCDC would be adopting is not clearly articulated, that a language revision to accomplish that should be done. Ms. Sweeney agreed and said staff can expand on the importance of levy system integrity.
Commissioner Kondylis asked staff look at policy 14 and address any changes that are made.
Briefing on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Jessica Hamburger provided an overview and briefing on the current issues and initiatives to address management of water diversions in the Delta. She said staff will be bringing representatives of the various programs and initiatives underway to provide more details this fall. She reported the following:
There has been a dramatic decline in Delta fisheries; there is levee instability; and increasing urbanization in the Delta. There are risks posed by climate change and earthquakes.
The Bay-Delta is part of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Watershed which drains nearly half of California’s runoff and includes California’s two largest rivers, the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River. It provides important habitat to more than 750 plants and animals, including endangered species such as the Delta melt, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. There is also important infrastructure in the Delta, including major highways, railways, high voltage transmission lines, deep-water ship channels and natural gas lines.
The Delta started out as a huge freshwater tidal marsh; it was diked and drained for agriculture between 1850 and 1920. The Delta consists of canals surrounding 57 man-made leveed islands and tracts that are at constant risk of flooding and only 2% of the original marsh habitat remains.
The Delta Protection Commission was established in 1992 to protect the existing land uses in the primary zone which are primarily agriculture, wildlife habitat and recreation. The secondary zone includes the incorporated cities.
Water diversions have been steadily increasing from the Delta, which now supplies drinking water for 24 million Californians and water for 3 million acres of agriculture.
In the 1950’s the Central Valley Project operated by the Bureau of Reclamation began delivering water. In the 1960’s, the State Water Project operated by the Department of Water Resources began exporting water.
There is a long history of water wars in California. The Delta smelt was listed as threatened in 1993 and portions of the Delta were designated as critical habitat for the smelt in 1994. As more and more water has been exported from the Delta, this has affected salinity in Suisun Bay and the Marsh. A greater percentage of the flow is exported in dry years than wet years, which makes the salinity issues more extreme.
Currently, in California there is discussion of building a Peripheral Canal, now referred to as an isolated facility. It was rejected by the voters in 1982, but a scaled down version was proposed in the 1999 Water Policy Plan. It would divert water from the Sacramento River, up around Hood and take it down to the pumps in the South Delta.
The water wars experienced a truce in 1994 with the Bay-Delta Accord, which brought together state and federal agencies, as well as stakeholders representing agricultural, environmental and urban interests. The Accord included water quality standards for the Bay- Delta and one of the main focuses of that was the X2 water quality standard X2 refers to 2 parts
per 1000 of salinity, which represents where fresh water and salt water meet in a mixing zone. The Bay-Delta Accord led to the creation of CALFED in 2000 which represented the idea of “everybody getting better together” through an integrated program which would address water supply reliability, levee system integrity, ecosystem restoration and water quality.
Despite all that CALFED has accomplished, the Delta is experiencing a Pelagic Organism Decline (POD) and there have been extremely low numbers of Delta smelt. This year there were so few in the surveys that the State Water Project pumps had to be shut down for 10 days. There is also a decline of the native copepod population. The POD is thought to be caused by three main problems: toxins, invasive species, and water exports.
The Bay Plan calls for adequate fresh water inflows to the Bay to allow flushing of pollutants, maintain oxygen content, and support wildlife. The Marsh Plan also calls for adequate flows to preserve water quality in the Marsh. The Commission participated in the State Water Board hearings in the 1980’s advocating for adequate fresh water flows at that time and also participated in the comprehensive conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) that was developed for the Bay-Delta.
There are quite a lot of Delta planning processes going on at this time which include: Delta Vision, CALFED, the Delta Risk Management Strategy and the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan.
The Delta Vision initiative was promoted by Hurricane Katrina bringing attention to the importance of levee integrity. It involves a blue ribbon task force stakeholder group and agency committee. The Delta Vision groups are looking at the ecological impacts of water exports. Flood control is being looked at closely. Keeping the Delta as an agricultural, habitat, and recreation area is preferable to urbanizing the Delta and increasing the risk associated with flooding.
Meanwhile, CALFED is continuing its programs, specifically in the Delta, where they are developing a Conservation Strategy for CALFED’s second Phase. CALFED is developing DRERIP, which is the Delta Regional Ecosystem Restoration Implementation Plan, and involves a variety of models which will be used to test different restoration scenarios and their feasibility. It will be used in adaptive management.
Another important study is the Delta Risk Management Strategy, which looks at a variety of risk factors for the levees including floods, earthquakes, unexpected failures, subsidence and climate change. Some of the key findings of this study are a potential for 12-15 simultaneous island failures in a major flood event. There is a 28% chance that more than 30 islands could fail simultaneously in a major earthquake in the next 25 years. The sea level rise alone could push the salt line about 3 miles to the east. The next phase of this study will look at strategies to reduce risk.
There is a Bay-Delta Conservation Plan being developed that is designed to meet the Endangered Species Act requirements. The Conservation Plan, like other habitat conservation plans, is designed to restore and enhance the ecosystem to protect many species of concern. ESA “take” authorization are urgently needed due to recent court rulings. On May 25, 2007, the US Fish and Wildlife Service biological opinion was ruled to be unlawful and inadequate. Recently, Judge Oliver Wanger ruled that the state and federal water projects must maintain sufficient flow to prevent smelt from being sucked into the pumps.
With all of these planning efforts underway it is clear that there are going to be important implications for the Bay. As in the past, fresh water inflows are going to continue to be an important issue. The Peripheral Canal Proposal is back, and, if built, likely will have major impacts on the Bay. Levee failures both in Suisun Marsh and the Delta have important implications.
Sediment management is important because the success of wetland restoration projects depends on sediment coming down through the Delta to the Bay. Land use planning and climate change are huge issues in the Delta, and there may be opportunity for estuary-wide planning.
Commissioner Kondylis stated when the Accord was first signed, and CALFED came into being, the one thing that was assured was that it was not about more water being exported, yet the amount of CALFED money on water reliability is far ahead of any of the other goals. She asked if water exports have increased since CALFED came into existence, or have they remained the same. Ms. Hamburger said that the amount of water being exported has increased.
Commissioner Nelson disclosed that in addition to serving on the Commission he is co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Western Water Project and is a stakeholder in the Delta Vision process. He commented that the CALFED program did not predict a dramatic increase in diversions but that is what has happened. He said the landscape of the Delta has changed significantly over time. The awareness of the risks of the Delta has never been greater, nor have the efforts to address it.
There are some new ideas emerging such as an eco-crescent that is designed to change the way the South Delta is managed. He said that the Governor and Senator Feinstein held a Delta Summit a few weeks prior to this meeting to address these issues.
Commissioner Carruthers asked what the role of the Delta Protection Commission is. He also asked what is going to be the role of the Conservation Plan. Ms. Hamburger said in regards to the Delta Protection Commission, they did develop a land use plan which was adopted into the general plans of the five counties. She said one of the concerns is that when the primary zone and secondary zone were created the designations did not take into consideration where the floodplains were.
In regards to the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, this is the first aquatic habitat conservation plan. She said it is a very ambitious undertaking with no one really knowing how it is going to work.
Commissioner Nelson said that the State Reclamation Board has enormous flood management authority that it has not exercised. He suggested that that agency has not considered climate change. He said that in regards to the Bay-Delta Conservation Planning Process, the NRDC is not really involved in that process.
Mr. Travis said that it appears that Senate Bill 5 will pass. The bill would prohibit new development in flood-prone areas of the Central Valley lacking adequate protection, starting in 2015.
Mr. Bates said he is interested in the issues of climate change and how they are being addressed.
Commissioner Nelson said that NRDC recently released a report on climate and water issues looking at the connection between global warming and water issues. He said that people have been focused on: (1) the declining snow pack as an obvious source of concern which means not just more runoff in the winter, but less runoff in the summer; (2) in the Delta, people are obviously looking at the sea level rise; and (3) in California global warming means there is likely to be less water in the rivers in the future due to increased evaporation. He recommended that BCDC look at the Bay-Delta and recognize no matter what investments are made in that system, whether it is a canal or new storage, it is likely that there will be less water available out of that system than there is today.
Mr. Goldbeck said CASCADE is being funded by CALFED and USGS and other researchers are doing scenario modeling of the impacts of climate change on the Delta and Bay-Delta system addressing the changes in snow pack, and the water flowing through the system and the levees.
Mr. Travis said science is not keeping up with the change that is taking place in the atmosphere and assessing future implications and the political process is very slow in reacting to this and in putting mechanisms in place to respond to the needs in the future.
Commissioner Owen asked for clarification on the impacts of water exports on the Delta smelt. Ms. Hamburger clarified that water exports impact the smelt by sucking them into the pumps, but also that taking all of that water out of the system is affecting circulation patterns, (for example, the rivers run the wrong way for part of the year) as well as the salinity.
Commissioner Kondylis expressed concern about the water reuse issue because of the emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals. The CCMP noted that these pollutants cannot be treated or removed from the waste water and they are continually re-circulated and concentrated and put back into the environment. She stated her displeasure with the CALFED process.
Commissioner Carruthers referred to the two papers that Commissioner Nelson stated are available, and requested a copy. He would like a status report of the desalinization in Marin County.
Mr. Travis said there is a prototype that is being tested to determine if it is an idea to be pursued permanently.
Commissioner Lundstrom reinforced Mr. Bates comments on the information in regards to global warming. She suggested that the long-term studies have not taken into account that information. She said BCDC wanted to include global warming in the work program. She suggested that the Commission keep track of climate change issues that affect its management of the Bay.
Chair Randolph asked about the 1)decline of CALFED, 2) what exactly is the floodplain of the Delta, considering that much of the land is below sea level, and 3) who are the principal actors in the Delta and where does BCDC have the opportunity to have input.
Mr. Travis said that some have characterized the failure of the CALFED Bay-Delta process as being simply that it has evolved into the Cal Delta process with the Bay being left out.
Ms. Hamburger said there had been a variety of factors that have affected CALFED. She stated that CALFED is still an integral part of what is going on in the Delta and there is still funding flowing through it through the planning processes put in place over the past seven years. Fundamentally, CALFED was based on the idea of everyone getting better together and there is now more recognition of the need for trade-offs. The floodplain refers not just to the parts of the Delta that are below sea level but also areas that are periodically flooded by high flows along the major rivers. Just the Sacramento River has the Yolo Bypass, there is potential for creating a bypass on the San Joaquin River, and residential development there would close of the option. Ms. Hamburger said that staff will bring speakers and draft documents to the Commission to help determine whom the major players are and identify opportunities to provide input.
Mr. Travis said there is a lot of movement taking place that is contrary to good land use planning and rationality.
Briefing on Bay Wetland Restoration Financial Strategy. David Lewis, Executive Director of Save the Bay, provided an overview of the report as follows:
The Commission is well aware that there has been a dramatic change in the Bay’s fortunes over the last several decades. Since the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals blueprint was published in 1999, tens of thousands of acres of shoreline sites have been protected, mostly under public ownership, for the expressed purpose of being restored to productive wetland habitat. The most significant constraint is money. There is not enough to do everything. Save the Bay wanted to tackle this head on by having a more coordinated approach to getting funding to complete the work. Only 5% of the Bay’s original wetlands remain, which is critical to a healthy ecosystem. The Bay has 90% of California’s remaining tidal wetlands which are important to the wildlife habitat for fish and species. Flood and erosion control is also a benefit of wetlands, clean water benefits, recreation benefits as well as curbing global warming. Every acre of restored, healthy salt marsh captures and converts 870 kilograms of carbon dioxide into plant material annually, which is the same amount of global warming that is generated from driving 2,280 miles each year. The United Nations and White House agree that wetland restoration is a strategy to fight global warming.
Our goal is to restore 40,000 acres of wetlands. Since 1999, about 4,238 acres has been returned to tidal influence, mostly at Tolay Creek and American Canyon. We looked at 13 of the largest tidal wetland projects around the Bay that are waiting to be restored. All 13 are larger than 300 acres and total more than 36,000 acres. $370 million dollars has already been spent on these 13 sites. The cost to complete these sites over 50 years and to convert them to tidal marsh is $1.43 billion dollars, which includes ten years of monitoring. This cost does not include 22,000 more acres that would take to get to 100,000.
Some key challenges to making this happen are:
$1.43 billion dollars is a lot of money, but it is an achievable expense over 50 years and would produce such large benefits. It is equivalent to about $4.00 a year for each Bay Area resident.
Most of this property is owned by the state and federal government and they are not spending enough money to restore them, let alone to manage them.
There are very few, if any, funding mechanisms for restoration. Some local funding that may be available is Oakland’s Measure DD that was passed a few years ago. The funding would not go to the 13 large projects, but is an example of some funding sources for other projects.
The coordination of these projects and funding is inadequate. There is no one regional effort to look at these 13 projects as a whole.
Mr. Lewis said there was polling done with 500 likely voters in the Bay Area in April of 2006 which showed a lot of information of people’s perception of the Bay and how much they use the Bay. He highlighted the support that was found for funding wetland restoration. He said that the pollster concluded that the Bay is viewed in a very positive light and people will contribute to conserve it.
Mr. Lewis said the report makes three recommendations which are:
First is to establish a regional special district to oversee Bay wetland restoration funding. One possibility is that the Coastal Conservancy has a Bay program that is closely aligned with what the goal is.
Second is that more state money is needed. The Bay project has received 1% of the propositions that have been passed which not enough is given the importance of the wetland restoration.
Third is to increase federal funding, specifically for the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge complex, with 7 units in this area.
Mr. Lewis said that early reaction to the report has been very positive. He said that they went out and spoke to different constituencies, such as Peter Darbee, Joe D’Alessandro, William Reilly, Don Kennedy as well as Senator Feinstein responding positively. He stated that this report is not intended as an end and he hopes it will be the beginning of conversations. He said this is a major priority of Save the Bay.
Chair Randolph thanked Mr. Lewis and said that while there is not a public hearing scheduled on this, he welcomed public comments.
There were no public comments.
Commissioner Kondylis inquired why a person would invest in this project when the areas will be inundated. Mr. Lewis that it is true that tidal marsh can adapt to changes in sea level rise if it doesn’t happen too quickly. He said there is a benefit of getting this work started and finished in sooner than 50 years because an established tidal marsh can rise to a higher level as the sea level rises. He stated that BCDC is going to be particularly concerned with shoreline protection efforts as the sea level rises in which tidal marsh provides much less expensive and much easier to maintain shoreline protection with much more benefit. He stated the $1.43 billion was the best estimate they could come up with, and said it is safe to assume that it would go up over time.
Commissioner Kondylis asked if there are plans to purchase more upland so that marshes would be able to expand into uplands. Mr. Lewis said the report doesn’t address that specifically, but there certainly are additional areas that could be acquired.
Vice Chair Halsted asked Mr. Lewis’s ideas on what BCDC can do to enhance or support this idea. Mr. Lewis suggested that BCDC, at minimum, will help invoke the Commission as a rationale and funding the restoration agenda also deserves a regional approach and agency.
Mr. Travis said that this was not scheduled for public hearing and no action will be taken today. He suggested it would make BCDC proud to officially endorse this initiative. He said this can be accomplished by either taking the report and perform a staff analysis, bring it back for a public hearing and invoke or generally express that the Commission supports this effort by a motion and it would then allow the Chair and Mr. Travis to offer comments to the press that this is keeping with the overall goals of BCDC.
Commissioner Goldzband asked what has been said about Mr. Lewis’s second recommendation with regard to the Coastal Conservancy portion of that.
Mr. Lewis said the Coastal Conservancy has been part of these conversations and explorations for a long time and is fully supportive of the recommendation.
Commissioner Nelson congratulated Save the Bay for tackling this issue. He said with regard to Commissioner Kondylis question about global warming, that people’s thinking about global warming and wetlands are changing. There are now farmers in the Delta who have been growing corn on islands that are subsiding rapidly and have noticed how they are falling below sea level. Some of those farmers are looking at possibilities of farming carbon to build wetlands instead of corn. He asked Mr. Travis if there is someone on staff that in addition to supporting Mr. Lewis’s report, could be a liaison to stay in touch and keep the Commission informed. Mr. Travis stated he would be very pleased and proud to be the liaison.
MOTION: Commissioner Kondylis moved to direct the endorsement of Mr. Lewis’s report and efforts; seconded by Commissioner Nelson. Motion passed unanimouly.
Commissioner Carruthers asked for clarity on setting up the regional and also the role the Coastal Conservancy would have.
MOTION: Commissioner Kondylis moved to adjourn into Committee; seconded by Commissioner Carruthers. Motion passed unanimously.
Commissioner Kondylis suggested that one of the problems of the Coastal Conservancy doing this is that there is more trust with BCDC than with some of the negative comments that are around the Coastal Conservancy.
Mr. Lewis stated that they looked at whether existing agencies that had regulatory authority would be a good or bad place to put fund raising and grant making programs.
Mr. Travis said the Commission looked at establishing a Bay Trust which was a new entity and what was found is that the Coastal Conservancy administers a subsidiary program called the Bay Area Conservancy Program. He said the conclusion was rather than set up something new, to utilize the existing authority.
- Consideration of Strategic Plan Status Report. Mr. Travis reported that the strategic planning workshop is planned for October 18, 2007.
- New Business. There was no new business.
Old Business. There was no old business.
Adjournment. Upon motion by Commissioner Potter, seconded by Commissioner Kondylis, the meeting adjourned at 3:20 p.m.
Approved, with no corrections, at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Meeting of September 20, 2007
R. Sean Randolph, Chair