An opinion piece that ran recently on this page contained misstatements regarding the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
While this article did correctly characterize the Bay Delta Conservation Plan as a Habitat Conservation Plan, it incorrectly identified the plan's goals and requirements.
The plan is required to meet two coequal goals established by the Legislature in 2009. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan must help to enhance and protect the ecological health of the Delta and also improve the reliability of the water supply for the 25 million people and thousands of farms that depend upon Delta water.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan in technical terms is a Habitat Conservation Plan and a Natural Community Conservation Plan. This reflects a significant departure from the single-species approach already in use in the Delta to mitigate human impacts that pose a threat of extinction.
The HCP and NCCP approach of the BDCP integrates 22 individual conservation measures with habitat restoration to promote recovery of 56 species in the Delta region.
The HCP/NCCP approach creates a regulatory framework that allows for fundamental and systematic improvements in the Delta. The regulatory requirements set by the HCP/NCCP also set standards that provide public assurances that the long-term government permits necessary to carry out the Delta restoration and water conveyance work planned for the Delta meet ecological needs.
The BDCP would result in a level of annual water deliveries that is in line with the annual average of the past 20 years. Also, it would not divert any more water than would be authorized under the permits to operate the proposed 9,000 cubic-feet per second water delivery facilities.
Importantly, the BDCP would vastly improve the reliability of the Delta's current water system, helping to responsibly protect it from potentially catastrophic disruptions and shutdowns resulting from efforts to protect endangered fish species, rising sea levels caused by climate change, and predicted floods and earthquakes.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 63 percent chance of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area by 2036. The Delta's modern levee network has not been tested against such strong seismic activity and the stability of Delta levees is of concern because of the proximity of fault lines, loose and weak soils, and the potential for the "liquefaction" of levees.
Lastly, we agree that increased water needs should be addressed through conservation, desalination, water recycling and conjunctive use. However, those measures alone are not enough to solve the state's water problems.
Many honest, thoughtful conversations have allowed us to improve upon the BDCP. We anticipate making still more improvements following the release of the public draft of the BDCP and a robust period of statewide public meetings and comment-gathering later this fall.
We encourage the public to learn more about this historic restoration effort by visiting www.baydeltaconservationpan.com and following us on Twitter @BDCP_CA.
Gerald Meral is deputy secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency.