Saturday, November 05, 2011

Tug of War for water-Delta Region Members of Congress submit public comment

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According to a joint press release from the Offices of several Congressional represetatives, dated Nov. 4, 2011
Last week, the Department of the Interior announced a brief window for public comment on a controversial Memorandum of Agreement relating to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  This period for public comment followed the ongoing efforts of five Northern California Members of Congress who have repeatedly called on the Interior Department to rescind the document, noting that it was developed behind closed doors and that it gives water export agencies south of the Delta and in Southern California unprecedented influence over an important public process concerning California’s precious fresh water supplies.
U.S. Reps. George Miller (CA-7), Mike Thompson (CA-1), Doris Matsui (CA-5), Jerry McNerney (CA-11) and John Garamendi (CA-10) submitted comment to the Department of the Interior today, noting their disappointment in the limited nature of the comment period. The Members reiterated that Interior must retract its support for the document and allow a minimum of 45 days for public comment, and that the process be opened up to include other key stakeholders left out of the discussions, including Bay Area, Delta and coastal communities, farmers, businesses, and fishermen. The lawmakers recently held a series of meetings with Interior Department and California officials to express their concerns about the Memorandum of Agreement that the Department signed with water export agencies, an agreement that was developed and signed without input from Bay-Delta stakeholders.   They followed those meetings with a letter to Secretary Ken Salazar to express their objections to the current BDCP.  The period of public comment came as a result of the Members’ advocacy.  However, the white paper issued by Interior and limited period for public comment did not satisfy the Members’ concerns.
An excerpt from the letter to Secretary Ken Salazar states,  “Our concerns remain largely unaddressed.  Despite the contention that Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are typically applicant-driven processes and that significant involvement of the export contractors is “appropriate and fully consistent” with existing practices, it is clear that state and federal agencies are failing to consider the specific circumstances surrounding the BDCP.”


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