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The single most important man in California

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Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 12:00 am

As the Galt District Chamber of Commerce's new executive director, I try to do my best to protect and serve the Galt business and surrounding farming community.

The Delta is in serious trouble, but I am not qualified to fix it.

I grew up on a vineyard in Lodi that benefits from the cool evening Delta breeze. My background is 20 years in law enforcement.

I do not have a Ph.D. in civil engineering, with a major in geotechnical engineering, along with minors in rock mechanics and environmental planning. I was never a staff engineer engaged in design and construction of a major earth-and-rock fill dam and trunk water supply pipelines. I never did a Ph.D. thesis on settlement and liquefaction of sands during earthquakes. Nor was I ever a senior engineer on a variety of projects including nuclear power plants, earth dams, pipelines, harbor facilities and offshore platforms. I have never been responsible for analyzing the behavior of foundations and earth structures subjected to wave and earthquake loadings.

I am not an expert in addressing geotechnical, earthquake and water resource engineering problems with over 40 years of globally recognized experience. Problem is, neither is Gov. Jerry Brown.

Last Sunday morning, I drove to Walnut Creek to meet with someone who is, Dr. Robert Pyke.

Dr. Pyke, who prefers to be called "Bob," humbly refers to himself as someone who "fixes stuff." Over brunch, Bob told me that the best way to become an expert is to study a bunch of things that do not work.

Bob was born and raised in the Murray-Darling basin in Australia. He referred to his homeland as the "poster child for poor water management." According to Bob, in his gentle Aussie accent, "California can either learn from Australia's mistakes, or be doomed to repeat them."

Bob's Western Delta Intakes Concept includes both water storage and improving the integrity of the levees. No need to pay for massive underground tunnels from the town of Hood to near Antioch, as Bob's plan allows the water to just flow there naturally instead.

Bob blames increased water diversions from the Delta as being the major cause of invasive species overtaking native species. He said only plans that ensure that natural flows will be restored to the maximum practical extent should be considered.

Like Australia, California's precipitation is extremely variable. Bob suggests that more water should be extracted at periods of high flows and much less or zero water should be extracted at periods of low flows.

The WDIC is self-regulating. Future attempts to take more water than would be safe would result in the "contractors" receiving salt water.

Adhering to these principles, coupled with appropriate pumping and temporary storage facilities, will allow for the simultaneous recovery of the Delta ecosystem and provide our neighbors to the south reliable water exports at existing levels of consumption.

According to Bob, none of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's 15 different "conveyance alternatives" address the fundamental principles required.

"I think BDCP should have both the word 'conservation' and 'plan' removed from its name," said one angry Delta farmer who preferred to remain anonymous.

Assemblyman and local farmer Bill Berryhill recently authored AB 2422, which would have made sure that the Western Delta Intakes Concept be given the serious consideration that it deserves. Mr. Berryhill's bill failed, as opponents complained studying it would "delay progress."

Highly unfortunate, since the WDIC would double the benefits obtained at around half the cost of the BDCP, which means the WDIC offers a four times greater benefit to cost ratio, while at the same time saving the Delta. Unfortunately Bob is only an engineer that "fixes stuff," rather than being a polished orator or salesman.

Bob shared with me two letters he sent to Gov. Brown in July that outline the benefits of the WDIC. Bob is not sure if the governor received or read them.

I therefore invite Jerry and Bob to the Velvet Grill in Galt. We can chat over real California ice cream and freshly made Delta organic pear pie. Bob said he would prefer an hour with the governor, but can explain the WDIC in 10 minutes if necessary.

The governor really needs to carefully consider Dr. Robert "Bob" Pyke's proposal. Failure to do so will be a serious delay in progress.

Frank Gayaldo can be reached at or 209-327-0759.

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