Monday, September 28, 2009

Comments to Water District about environmental recommendations

(CGF sent the following memo to the Water District Board of Directors to encourage environmental improvements related to erosion and habitat issues. -Brian)


Date: September 21, 2009

To: Water District Board of Directors

From: Brian Schmidt, Committee for Green Foothills

Re: Suggestions for Agenda Item #9: EAC recommendations and staff response

The Committee for Green Foothills has the following suggestions for the Board concerning staff responses to the EAC recommendations. The staff responses are at Attachment 3 of Item 9, on page 1 of 5.

1. Joint EAC/Staff recommendation on ends policies: staff now recommends this be incorporated into broader revisions of ends policies in the fall or winter.

CGF response: no objection. In addition, however, we request that the Board direct or authorize staff to release portions of the staff-proposed revisions for the workshop as soon as practicable prior to the workshop, so EAC members can review how the joint recommendations have been revised by staff.

2. EAC suggestion that the Board increase the priority and funding for environmental enhancement related to erosive forces: staff recommends consideration during the forthcoming budget process.

CGF response: we request a decision to take some kind of action on this recommendation. We are concerned that the staff recommendation may lead to no action ever being taken on this recommendation, to either support or reject it. The issues raised by funding are also broader than the budget of any single year. Please see the addendum for more information.

3. EAC recommendation that staff prepare a Stream Restoration Strategy following completion of the Habitat Plans: staff recommends the Board request a proposal for strategy preparations following completion of the two Habitat Plans.

CGF response: we support the staff proposal. In addition, however, we request the Board direct staff to consider the ideas and recommendations of the EAC Erosive Forces Subcommittee report, "Technical Support Document for Recommendations Re: Erosive Forces in Streams and Stream Restoration", dated March 20, 2009.

Addendum: reasons for increased budgeting for environmental enhancement and erosive forces.

There are three reasons for increased budgeting for environmental enhancement in the context of erosive forces. First, the environmental enhancement pillar of the Water District's work has been underfunded compared to the older, better-financed pillars of flood control and water supply. Second, a future reauthorization of the Clean Safe Creeks bond or similar action would need to draw upon a broader base of public support that environmental enhancements can appeal to.

Third, the staff response to earlier and more detailed versions of erosive forces programmatic recommendations is that budgetary limits constrain their adoption, and decisions on those issues fall to the District Board:

• Staff response to recommendation for more data gathering: "The level of data gathering and analysis and other future programmatic activities will be dependent on budgetary capacities."

• Response to recommendation for creating detailed habitat goals: "Future investments [in habitat goals] will be tempered by fiscal capacities and willingness of other partners to help fund…."

• Response to recommendation for new approaches to easement/land acquisition: "to fully implement [easement recommendations] would likely require a large up-front investment….possible when funding is available."

• Response to recommendation for more hydrological monitoring: "….activities will be dependent on budgetary capacities."

The District Board's budgetary constraints on these programmatic suggestions requires Board action. We encourage the Board to support increased funding, even if it is not feasible in the next year or two.

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