Poor grades on Delta progress

Delta Vision Foundation, the non-profit formed to continue the work of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Delta Vision Task Force, has released its second annual report card on Delta progress. (Legal Planeteer Rick Frank is a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.)

If you had to bring this one home to your parents, you’d likely be grounded for quite some time. The overall record is dismal. In the few spots where the grades look decent, they appear  inflated. The Foundation seems to have given Delta managers the benefit of every doubt, which makes the low grades even more striking.

Progress on action items Delta Vision had identified as near-term priorities gets a D. Governance progress gets a B+, but that’s a generous mark. The Foundation gave the legislature a lot of credit for the 2009 water reform legislation, and didn’t take enough points off for failure to address funding issues. Ecosystem restoration gets a C-, as does Delta vitality and security. Water supply reliability does even worse, a miserable D+.

Interestingly, the Foundation isn’t anxious to pin the blame for these bad grades on any of the institutional actors. It gives grades of B or better to the legislature, Governor’s office, federal authorities, and most of the state agencies with Delta responsibilities. The conspicuous exceptions are the Department of Water Resources (B-) and Department of Fish and Game (C+). “Stakeholder cooperation” also comes in for some criticism, with a B-. In light of the current state of disarray, wrangling, and litigation, that’s a decidedly generous assessment.

Finally, on the Delta’s two co-equal goals, now enshrined in law, the Foundation describes both the Delta ecosystem and the state’s water supply as at critical risk of failure. A year and a half after the much-touted reform bill and more than 15 years after the previous much-touted “solution,” the Bay-Delta accord, real progress remains excruciatingly elusive.

(Hat tip: Aquafornia.)

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