Large-scale habitat conservation plans often are under development for many years then mired in the regulatory process for many more. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is not exceptional because it has hit a number of bumps in the road. But it is exceptional because the plan development and regulatory processes are transparent and being scrutinized by a multitude of interests at every step, including some that will challenge the BDCP in court irrespective of the merits of the Plan for both society and the at-risk species it is designed to protect. For the past several months, the California Natural Resources Agency has held fast to a plan to release the public draft BDCP along with a public Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement in June 2012. This past week in a letter to the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency indicated his agency will not release the documents in this time frame. The letter does not indicate when the Agency hopes to do so.
In the letter, the Natural Resources Agency indicates it is making "significant adjustments in the overall program." It goes on to state that these adjustments "should not interfere in any way with our preparations for a public announcement of the key elements of a framework for the proposed project with the Governor and Secretary Salazar in mid-to-late July." The letter was sent less than 10 days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Department of Fish and Game (a component of the Natural Resources Agency) issued comments highly critical of the current draft BDCP.
Matt Weiser reports that the May 4 letter to the Deputy Secretary was sent as a result of the wildlife agency concerns. He goes on to describe the planning process, which was designed to avoid the kind of roadblock that the BDCP now faces.
The wildlife agencies have been at the planning table with the water agencies for years as the conservation project unfolded, a level of involvement expected to streamline the process.
But in April, the wildlife agencies prepared so-called "red flag memos" to detail their concerns. The memos were a clear sign that they are not willing to endorse a project that may harm some species.
(Sacramento Bee, May 5, 2012, by Matt Weiser.)