Governor Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar yesterday made a joint announcement about the preferred direction of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and California’s water future.

Major organizations across the state, including business and labor, joined together in praising the announcement, which represents a significant milestone in this multi-year process that will bring California closer to implementing the infrastructure upgrades and environmental improvements needed to achieve the state’s co-equal goals of restored water reliability and restored ecosystem.

As California Chamber of Commerce president Allan Zaremberg said, “This announcement outlines how we will reach the finish line on one of California’s most challenging public policy issues. Securing the long-term reliability of our water supply is a signal to businesses that operate in the state and those who desire to locate here that California intends to invest in the infrastructure that will allow businesses to grow and jobs to be created.”

The BDCP represents a comprehensive and detailed process that will provide a regulatory vehicle to implement habitat restoration measures, Delta stressor reduction activities, and water operations criteria in return for regulatory agency approval of the necessary long-term permits for the various water infrastructure projects and operations.

The BDCP has been underway since 2006 at a cost of more than $150 million. By the time the final Environmental Impact Report/ Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) is released in mid-2013, the federal and state water contractors will have spent $240 million on the planning process alone. While some groups call for more delay and more studies and more consultants, the business and labor communities argue that enough time and money has been spent in the evaluation phase and it’s time now to move forward with action.

More than 95 percent of all Californians get some or all of their water supply from the greater Delta watershed. Improved reliability of this critical resource will sustain communities across the state, and is necessary to meet the demands of population growth and much-needed economic development.

The activities outlined in the BDCP will be paid for by the users that will benefit most directly. It is not an expense to the state’s general fund.

During their news conference, Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar acknowledged the key components needed for completion of the BDCP: a governance structure, decision tree, and dispute resolution process. Together these elements emerged by collaboration and compromise to create the framework for concluding the lengthy process in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.