As residents and local agencies throughout East County continue to grapple with the details of a proposal backed by the state and federal governments to improve water quality and habitat conditions in the Delta, the Discovery Bay CSD Board is preparing to respond to a state agency's request for public input on the Frank's Tract Project.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Federal Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) are proposing the construction of flow-control gates in the Frank's Tract sector of the Delta. The purpose of the project is to improve the salinity of the water while preserving the habitats of the Delta Smelt.
But while some agree that the short-range benefits, particularly to Discovery Bay and surrounding areas, are indisputable in terms of water quality, it is the long-term effect of the project that has some viewing the proposal as little more than a wolf in sheep's clothing and the wolf is a peripheral canal.
Reclamation 800 District Engineer Chris Neudeck is one such person. Speaking before the CSD board at a recent meeting, Neudeck urged the board and the community to see beyond the proposed scope of the Frank's Tract Project.
Your interests in this (project) are substantial and you have much to lose, said Neudeck. Where you live and play could be grossly impacted.
CSD Director Dave Dove agreed that on the surface, the Frank's Tract Project looks promising, but that the reality might be vastly different.
The whole thing (behind the Frank's Tract Project) is to get cleaner water so they don't have to process as much of it when they ship it down south, said Dove in a phone interview. The irony is that it will improve our (Discovery Bay's) water quality, but I am overall not in favor of the project.
Ajal Goyal, DWR project manager, said that the Frank's Tract Project is a necessary step toward the Delta's future health, and is not necessarily part of a bigger plan to build a peripheral canal.
Yes, I have heard some concern from people about that (the peripheral canal), said Goyal. But this project is about the water quality and health of the Delta region, and many local marina owners have said they are pleased with the proposal.
But some local Delta dwellers remain wary, and Neudeck said the CSD's letter to the DWR might address questions and concerns over navigational interests, long-term water quality and how the Frank's Tract Project meshes with the state's other water projects.
Referring to a recently released report by the state called the Delta Vision Project, a committee created to study and evaluate the overall needs of the San Joaquin Delta and how it affects the rest of the state, Neudeck said the motives of the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Delta Vision were clear.
They (Southern California's Metropolitan Water District) have a three-year reserve and they are frantic that they will have to use it, said Neudeck. So where we are is that we have to create some storage and they are looking to export (water from the Delta) in large quantities; and that's where the rubber hits the road. When they run out of water down there, they'll start looking here.
Dove said he believes the peripheral canal is a real possibility and that the time to speak up is now. I think LA (Los Angeles) needs to concentrate on treating their own water and building a new dam to store more water, said Dove. This (CSD letter) is worthwhile and we need to continue to keep our voices in there. We have a lot at stake.
A draft of the public response letter will be brought before the board at the Nov. 19 CSD meeting. If approved, it will be sent by the end of the public comment period on Nov. 21.
For more information on the Frank's Tract Project and other Delta Vision projects, visit www.water.ca.gov/frankstract or www.deltavision.ca.gov.