NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – The unveiling of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan resulted in several groups and California members of Congress expressing their opposition to the plan.
On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that they intend to move forward with construction of a massive tunnel system underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, ultimately shipping water south and economically and environmentally devastating the region.
The members of Congress rejected the proposal by criticizing the void of scientific support as well as the utter lack of regard for current and future water rights for Northern California, and the likelihood that the plan will likely cause economic and environmental harm to the Bay-Delta and Northern California.
“A plan this reckless will not succeed,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo).
The coalition of representatives have called on the U.S. Department of the Interior to include the input of the Bay-Delta communities, demanding a seat at the table as the BDCP has moved forward.
Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), who represents Lake County in the House of Representatives, said the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan missed a golden opportunity to develop sound water policy, instead choosing politics over science.
“It will cost jobs, harm our environment and is a bad deal for Northern California,” he said. “All that we’ve insisted on is that any BDCP be based on sound science. Given the announced preferred alternative, this was apparently too much to ask. Before making irreversible decisions, we need a transparent, comprehensive and impartial discussion, with all stakeholders at the table, on how this would impact the farmers, fishers and businesses that depend on the Delta for their livelihoods. Today’s announcement ignores the needs of Northern California and will devastate our economy.”
“I am troubled by the tone of today’s announcement,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez). “If ‘getting it done’ means cutting corners, leaving out details, and getting ahead of the science, we’re not actually getting anything done – we’re just getting into a trap.”
Miller said there are parts of this proposal that are encouraging and are a step forward from previous efforts, but there’s a lot of work left to be done before any final decisions can be made. “Keep in mind what is at stake here – a badly designed plan can harm drinking water supplies, further endanger California’s salmon runs, and ruin the economic livelihood of tens of thousands in the fishing and related industries up and down our coast.”
“To solve California’s water issues, northern California must be part of the decision making process. Unfortunately we were not,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento). “Imagine if San Francisco decided to build the Golden Gate Bridge without consulting Marin County? The 9,000 cfs facility being proposed is simply not acceptable. It will cause massive impacts in the Sacramento area and suck our river dry. There are still a lot of unaddressed issues, and it is my sincere hope they will be addressed before any BDCP moves forward. This proposal will also put at risk Senior Water rights that Sacramento County and the Delta region hold.”
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Fairfield) said the proposed conveyance facility “could wreak havoc on the Delta and the jobs it sustains and put existing water rights in the Delta and Northern California at risk.”
He said it’s possible for California to solve its water problems, “but the Delta and Northern California counties must be at the table, and it will take a comprehensive, multifaceted approach, not just a piece of plumbing in the Delta. We must address the needs of all Californians by prioritizing storage, conservation, recycling, levee improvements, and habitat restoration. A BDCP without these elements is incomplete at best.”
At the same time, Restore the Delta, Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, the Planning and Conservation League, the Environmental Water Caucus, Friend of the River, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and a dozen other groups on Wednesday launched their campaign against the “Peripheral Tunnels” with a rally at the State Capitol.
Opponents pointed out “fatal flaws” of the tunnels they said would damage water, the environment, fish, and farming and impose billions of dollars of increases on water ratepayers.
“We oppose the rush to build a project that would exterminate salmon runs, destroy sustainable family farms and saddle taxpayers with tens of billions in debt, mainly to benefit a small number of huge corporate agribusinesses on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “This proposal is fatally-flawed.”
The opponents assailed the failure to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the proposal, and said the costs would fall on water ratepayers.
Kristin Lynch, Pacific Region Director for Food & Water Watch, said, “This project would cost billions upon billions of dollars to give ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer and ratepayer subsidized water to corporate agriculture and real estate developers to make millions upon millions in profits. It is the ultimate fleecing of ratepayers and taxpayers.”
Lynch said it’s a fallacy that the plan is the only way to secure reliable water for southern California. “There are no guarantees that southern California residents will receive more water. As an indication to the contrary, LA Dept. of Water and Power is already projecting increased rates for decreased water consumption. How much will rates need to increase if this project moves forward?”
Zeke Grader, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and the Golden Gate Salmon Association, said, “History clearly shows those who covet salmon water in California will take as much of it as they can get away with. They’ve done it time and again. They’ve been reined in a bit since pumping restrictions designed to keep salmon and other fish from going extinct went into effect starting in late 2008.”
Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, said the tunnels represent a massive transfer of wealth from north to south, with two-thirds of Delta water exports going to support 0.3 to 0.4 percent of the California population and economy on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley, while less than a third goes to areas representing two-thirds of the state’s population and economy.
“Why would anyone choose to sacrifice family farms on prime farmland in the Delta in order to send subsidized water to grow subsidized crops on the impaired soils of Westside plantations, whose owners live in Pacific Heights and Beverly Hills?” he asked. “Why would we use two and a half times the water to grow an almond in the Westside of the Valley than is required to grow an almond in Butte County?”
Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said, “The common people will pay for the tunnels and a few people will make millions. It will turn a once pristine Delta waterway into a sewer pipe. It will be bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California.”