Getting to Know Gerald Meral
After Craig Wilson finished with the Committee, Senator Pavley next introduced Jerry Meral who was there to discuss the Bay Delta Conservation Plan representing the California Natural Resources Agency. Meral was deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources under Governor Jerry Brown in the early 1980s when the Peripheral Canal was a hot topic in California politics.
The co-equal goals, he said, are intertwined, and seek to relieve pressure on the pumps. He noted further that the projects that are built under BDCP will be intended to last 200 years, adding that some water projects that are operating just fine right now have been around since the late 19th century.
Senator Wolk stated to Meral that "people in the Delta are scouring your every word and nuance."
Meral laughed, perhaps nervously.
How will you involve Delta interests? asked Wolk.
Meral responded that he has already been meeting with Delta county supervisors to get their input on what the most important program elements are. He stated too that planning agreement participation is no longer required for entry into BDCP discussions.
This may provide an opening for new voices to participate in that process.
Meral stated that there would be "no predetermined outcome for alternatives" as long as they were consistent with NCCP (CESA), CEQA, and NEPA, and that he'd been studying that very question over the past weekend.
"We're going to be as immaculate as we can," Meral stated, adding that "every alternative will be considered seriously." Perhaps get the Environmental Water Caucus alternative into the mix over at BDCP?
Wolk turned to the issue of cost, asking whether willingness to pay in this budget climate would be a problem. She expanded on this saying that tunnel options are looking more attractive and likely, but "is southern California willing to pay?"
She added that water retailers in southern California are getting turned off to MWD's commitment to isolated conveyance and unhappy with water rate increase projections. Don't leave the "willingness to pay" issue to the end of the process, Senator Wolk advised Meral.
Meral agreed, it's important and it would not be left to the last minute, he said.
Senator La Malfa requested a snapshot of the Delta levee conditions. Meral replied that Delta reclamation districts have done many improvements.
With sea level rise, Meral said, Delta engineers seem confident that levees can be retrofitted to maintain flood control. He added that seismic risk has increased with discovery of a couple of new faults in the area. He nonetheless stated that "the Delta's current configuration will continue for a while," and that the Delta Stewardship Council would be addressing this issue.
Fifty-five inches by 2100, replied Meral. He acknowledged that there is some science showing that California's part of North America is still rising after the end of the last ice age, which could offset some of the sea level rise because the land is lighter without an ice cap on it.