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Delta Stewardship Council Begins Scoping Process for Environmental Review of Proposed Delta Plan Amendments

On March 16, 2017, the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) issued a Notice of Preparation (NOP) regarding its development of a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) for proposed amendments to the Delta Plan. The Notice of Preparation indicates that the PEIR will analyze proposed amendments to the Delta Plan in three areas: 1) Delta Levee Investment and Risk Reduction Strategy; 2) Delta Conveyance, Storage, and Operations; and 3) Performance Measures. The DSC will proceed in preparing the PEIR at the same time it proceeds in finalizing the proposed Delta Plan amendments.

Proposed Amendments to the Delta Plan

The DSC is currently considering three categories of amendments to the Delta Plan. Although the trial court’s decision in the Delta Stewardship Council Cases directed the DSC to amend the Delta Plan, the DSC has not indicated that the proposed amendments are intended to address the court’s decision.

The first set of amendments is to the Delta Levee Investment and Risk Reduction Strategy are intended to implement the Delta Levee Investment Strategy. The proposed revisions include an amendment to interim Delta Plan policy RR P1 (Prioritization of State Investments in Delta Levees and Risk Reduction) that would be more specific in terms of prioritization of levee investments and types of levee improvements. At the DSC’s March 23, 2017 meeting, the DSC accepted the proposed amendments. No final approval action will be taken by the DSC until environmental review is complete.

Second, the DSC is considering amendments to the Delta Plan’s Delta Conveyance, Storage, and Operations. The amendments will build off of “19 Principles for Water Conveyance in the Delta, Storage Systems, and for the Operation of Both to Achieve the Coequal Goals” that were adopted in November 2015, and will promote recommended options for design, implementation, and operation of water conveyance infrastructure and storage. DSC staff are anticipated to present a revised draft of the amendment to the Delta Independent Science Board in May for its input and review, and to develop another discussion draft of the amendment based on input from the DSC and from the public.

Third, the DSC is considering amendments to the Delta Plan’s Performance Measures. The DSC proposes to amend Appendix E of the Delta Plan to refine thirty-four performance measures in five categories: 1) providing a more reliable water supply for California; 2) protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem; 3) protecting and enhancing the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource and agricultural values of the California Delta as an evolving place; 4) improving water quality to protect human health and the environment; and 5) reducing risk to people, property and state interests in the Delta. DSC staff are currently completing public and expert comments, and will further revise the amendments in future months.

The NOP describes the DSC’s process for reviewing the Proposed Amendments and preparing the PEIR pursuant to CEQA. The first stage of the process is scoping. The DSC hosted a public scoping meeting on March 24, 2017 to receive oral and written comments for the DSC’s preparation of a PEIR. In the scoping meeting, individuals representing in-Delta interests made comments expressing their concerns that a position was being taken in the Proposed Amendments regarding conveyance that is part of the California WaterFix project. The DSC accepted additional written comments regarding the scope and content of the PEIR that were submitted by April 17, 2017.

The DSC expects to publish a draft PEIR in summer 2017, and will provide a forty-five day comment period following its publication. A final PEIR is expected in fall or winter of 2017, and the DSC anticipates making a decision regarding the PEIR during the DSC’s winter 2017 meeting.

Conclusion and Implications

The DSC anticipates adopting amendments to the Delta Plan and concluding its environmental review of the same later this year. The public will have opportunities to weigh in on further revisions to the Proposed Amendments and to the Draft PEIR. For information about the scoping process for the PEIR and the proposed amendments to the Delta Plan, see: http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/

(Rebecca Akroyd, Dan O’Hanlon)

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