Changes to BDCP Conveyance, Findings of Benefits Analysis Outlined at Public Meeting

Proposed changes in conveyance facilities and initial findings of an economic benefits analysis of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan were outlined Wednesday at a public meeting attended by more than 100 in Sacramento.

Jerry Meral, deputy secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, said the BDCP is changing as a result of input from the public. Key changes include a reduction in the number of intakes for proposed conveyance facilities, potential relocation of a proposed forebay, accelerated investments in habitat restoration and the adoption of a decision tree approach to establish operating criteria for new conveyance facilities.

Dale Hoffman-Floerke, deputy director of the Department of Water Resources, said the number of proposed intakes is being reduced from five to three, with a cumulative maximum capacity of 9,000 cubic-feet per second (CFS), to lessen impacts associated with construction and operation of the facility along the Sacramento River. Two side-by-side tunnels are being studied to convey water 35 miles from the intakes to state and federal pumps in the South Delta. The tunnels would operate by gravity flow, resulting in lower electricity demands and fewer emissions than the high-pressure system previously considered.

The intakes and tunnels would be part of a dual-conveyance option under which the state and federal projects would still rely on existing intakes in the South Delta at certain times, Hoffman-Floerke said.

David Sunding, a UC Berkeley professor and economist with the Brattle Group, presented findings of a benefits analysis of BDCP alternatives. The analysis, which is not yet complete, is aimed at assessing whether the benefits of the BDCP are sufficient to justify the costs to public water agencies that would receive water supplies from the project. It is also aimed at assessing whether the public good benefits of Delta restoration are sufficient to justify public expenditures on habitat restoration as part of BDCP.

Sunding emphasized that the study is not a statewide cost-benefit analysis and does not consider impacts on areas such as Delta agriculture.

The study quantifies the present value of economic benefits that would be expected to accrue to the water agencies investing in BDCP through 2050. Values are quantified in the areas of urban and agricultural water supply benefits (associated with avoiding future water shortages), water quality impacts, reduction in seismic risk, and regulatory certainty.

Sunding said the benefits associated with regulatory certainty – meaning reduced risk of incremental shortages resulting from regulatory restrictions to protect endangered species – can be very consequential from an economic point of view.

For example, he said, the value of avoiding a 20% reduction in baseline supplies due to regulatory restrictions is estimated at $9 billion for urban agencies through 2050 and $2.7 billion for agricultural agencies, for a total of $11.6 billion.

“That could be worth as much as all the other benefits combined,” he said. "The consequences of losing 1 million acre-feet are greater than gaining 1 million acre-feet."

Though the analysis is not yet complete, Sunding said it is clear there would be direct benefits to the agencies and their ratepayers that exceed the costs.

“It is beyond serious debate at this point that the benefits to the State Water Project and Central Valley Project users, taken as a whole, exceed the cost,” he said.

The public good benefits of restoration, including both recreational and non-use values, also would very likely exceed the public costs, he said.

Sunding’s presentation and other information from the public meeting can be found here.