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Public Responses

BDCP Portfolio Debate

Sep 17, 2013

Greg Gartrell — Sep 16 2013 04:54 PM

There are in fact two preposterous arguments being made by the Secretary and Dr. Meral (who has even had the Governor repeat them) on the flooded island scenario. The first is the absurd notion that a megastorm will flood many delta islands filling them with seawater. Dr. Meral should know better; he was around in 1983, the wettest year in the 20th century. The entire San Francisco Bay was full of fresh water. Any island flooding in such circumstances will fill the islands with fresh, not sea, water. The megastorm in the 1860's resulted in a 400 mile freshwater lake in the Central Valley. Sacramento, Ventura and parts of San Diego were abandoned because of flooding ( such storms will hit the entire state). Why anyone would repeat such nonsense that delta island flooding during massive storms would result in the south delta pumps being shut down because of seawater intrusion (that somehow occurs when the flood is putting freshwater out to the Farralons) is baffling.

The second bit of nonsense is that once flooded the south delta will stay salty for up to ten years. Why? Will the earthquake stop the rivers from flowing?

In July 2010 the BDCP presented to the Steering Committee (remember that?) the results of their study on a massive levee failure under an earthquake scenario. They modeled the delta salinity conditions following sudden levee failures on the 15 most vulnerable islands under extreme dry hydrological conditions (October 1990, a critically dry period that extended into 1991 and beyond). One would expect a long period of high salinity in the south delta (the BDCP folks sure did). What they found was that a small storm that occurred in December 1990 was sufficient to freshen the channels: instead of a shutdown lasting 2 years, the south delta channels were fresh again in 4 months. That has never stopped the nonsense unfortunately: never let facts get in the way of a good tall tale.

Numerous studies by DWR, CCWD, and the BDCP have shown that leaving islands flooded in the interior of the delta (i.e. not repairing levees) will reduce salinity intrusion (moving X2 westward), not I crease it. So where exactly does this nonsensical argument that water will be cut off for ten years (or even 2 years) come from? Where are the studies that back up this 10 year claim made by the Secretary and Dr. Meral? If they have them, let's see them. The probability of the earthquake scenario occurring any year is about 2 or 3%. If it occurs in a wet year the delta fills with freshwater or is quickly freshened. To occur under circumstances that result in a year or more outage further reduces the probability. Sunding's analysis shows the cost is overall quite small. Time to end the silly claims and focus on real issues.

Paris, 16 septembre 2013

Robert PykeSep 16 2013 05:50 PM

Dr Gartrell is absolutely correct except for one thing. The probability of the kind of event that was reported to the old BDCP Steering Committee and has since then continued to be studied by the DWR, a 50 levee breaches, 20 flooded islands scenario, does not have an annual probability of occurrence of 2 or 3 percent. The probability of such an event resulting from an earthquake is so small that it cannot be calculated with any accuracy but I estimate that it lies somewhere between 0.1 and 0.01 percent. But, it really does not matter because even using 2 percent, Dave Sunding has shown that the earthquake bogey does not compute as a justification for the twin tunnels. So, even though I would love to fight a duel with Dr Gartrell, using croissants of course, over this minor point, I think we should just join Kate in dunking Laird and Meral in our lattes.

Walnut Creek, 16 September 2013

Jerry CadaganSep 16 2013 06:22 PM

Someone once tried to tell me that engineers tend to have little or no sense of humor. Bob Pyke disproves that theory quite emphatically. To stay engaged in California water issues as long as some of us have it is essential to have a sense of humor.

The real point here from the perspective of this non-technically oriented observer is that the BDCP proponents appear to becoming more and more desperate in their efforts to sell this turkey. Documents like Laird's analysis that Kate Poole so well skewered here and documents like Dr. Sunding's recent 200 + page economic study reek of a sense of desperation. Add to that the immature and arrogant missteps like confiscating signs and refusing to talk in front of a camera in one of the In Delta Office hours sessions and you have a sense that the Titanic is about to hit the iceberg. Maybe that's why they've proposed rearranging some of the deck chairs over to Staten Island. Someone told them that cranes don't talk back like the likes of Pyke, Gartrell, Poole and others.

Maybe fairly soon we can turn to real solutions: 1. some land retirement with related reduced Delta exports; 2. decent fish screening at the Tracy pumps; 3. levee fattening; and 4. extensive investment in conservation and my favorite, recycling.

Rogene ReynoldsSep 16 2013 07:26 PM

While I agree it seems BDCP proponents are clutching at scientific straws, we must not discount their extensive effort at promoting this fantasy to Southern California water users. The "Southern California Water Commitee" website has an "Outreach Snapshot" describing the huge PR effort under way. They are pushing the earthquake/salt mantra to thousands who do not understand the Delta. Tell a lie often enough and loud enough...
Thank you, Dr. Pike, Ms. Poole and Mr. Gartrell, for adding your voices to those who speak some sort of sanity.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
Rogene Reynolds, South Delta

Greg GartrellSep 17 2013 04:19 AM

Bob Pyke is correct on the probability. 2 or 3% is the probability of a sufficiently large earthquake in the Bay Area. That must be multiplied by the probability of an occurrence in a dry period and that again by the probability of levees failing. The result is a once in a lifetime or less frequency of occurrence for the earthquake scenario.

Far more likely is the 30% likelihood in any year of dry conditions (once every 3 years or so and think of that when you think how things will be next year). Lacking storage, the BDCP does not help in dry conditions.

But while supplies will be less under the BDCP in dry years the mortgage on the tunnels must still be paid. Sunding did not do a cash flow analysis to see how things get paid for in a six year drought. Benefit/Cost over 50 years is theoretical and interesting. Cash flow analysis showing if you might go broke before the mortgage is paid is much more interesting to bond holders.

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