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Delta Estuary

July 10, 1993

* Dean E. Murphy's recent story on the frailties of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta painted a poignant portrait of life along the delicate estuary, a major water source for much of California ("Delta Blues: Trouble in Paradise?," June 20).

The Times and Murphy should be commended for putting readers in touch with the state's environmental and economic problems caused by the estuary's condition. The article dramatically highlighted one of California's most fundamental problems--people's needs vs environmental needs. Possible solutions to the estuary quagmire now continue to need assessment.

Certainly, the delta's problems are not new. For nearly three decades, California's leaders and other water interests, including Metropolitan Water District, have considered the estuary and its well-documented inadequacies. Unfortunately, no ultimate resolution has been reached.

Over the past few years, however, efforts addressing delta issues have intensified. Among them has been the three-way negotiations among California's urban, agricultural and environmental water interests aimed at consensus building on delta questions.

Gov. Pete Wilson in his April 1992 water policy address noted his concern that the "delta is broken." Last fall, President Bush signed the Central Valley Improvement Act, which dedicated a substantial amount of federal water to fish an wildlife and called for habitat improvements to help restore delta fisheries and wildlife refuges. And, most recently, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt has stated his commitment to use the Endangered Species Act to help achieve a balanced delta solution.

This activity illustrates that more needs to and can be done to correct the delta's problems. One answer would be an environmentally sound facility that would remove from the sensitive habitat area the influence of the state and federal projects that caused the fishery problems that were at the heart of Murphy's story.

Any solution, though, must include strong environmental guarantees and a stronger commitment to water management activities, including increased water conservation and waste water reclamation efforts throughout the state.


Assistant General Manager

MWD, Los Angeles

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