California coalition tells feds: Peripheral canal is an enormous mistake
Restore the Delta today released a powerfully-worded letter from 38 environmental, fishing, consumer, Native American and other groups alerting U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of the enormous environmental and economic perils posed by the Obama administration’s support of the peripheral canal or tunnel.
The groups said the administration is “poised to make an enormous mistake…and potentially drag the American people along with it,” by backing “construction of a world-record-size tunnel or pipes capable of diverting 15,000 cubic feet per second from the Sacramento River – nearly all of its average freshwater flow.”
The broad coalition sounded the alarm after the Brown Administration informed them that the State intends to proceed with construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel that the groups say “would have devastating ecological impacts.”
In an interview with Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning” May 18, Governor Jerry Brown called for tax hikes to bring down a budget deficit of nearly $16 billion – while promoting the construction of a budget-busting peripheral canal or tunnel. Brown’s estimated the cost of the canal at $14 billion, up from the “over $10 billion” estimate he made in January, but well below the actual costs of the canal cited by Delta advocates.
“The $20 to $50 billion dollar, highly controversial project will primarily serve to deliver Sacramento River water, through State and Federal pumps, to provide subsidized irrigation water to corporate agricultural operations of the western San Joaquin Valley,” according to a statement from Restore the Delta.
The letter is noteworthy in placing on record a powerful, diverse coalition that could delay or defeat the proposed water-export project. The Sierra Club California, Environmental Water Caucus, Friends of the River, California Water Impact Network, Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Food and Water Watch, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Planning and Conservation League, the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and twenty-nine other organizations signed the letter.
“The Department of the Interior has a duty to protect the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the Americas,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “Diverting its largest fresh water source through a pipe or tunnel will destroy this amazing tapestry of fisheries and family farms.”
Barrigan-Parrilla emphasized, “Supporting the State of California in its aim of building a $51 billion canal or tunnel and then figuring out how to operate it later simply cannot be defended in the eyes of the public. Restore the Delta calls on Secretary Salazar to do the right thing and to ensure that the public trust is protected.”
In the letter, the groups urged, “We urge you to reject these unsustainable water demands and their high public costs, and instead invest in more efficient use of our scarce water resources through cost-effective water conservation and recycling. This will not only protect the pocket books of millions of California ratepayers and U.S. taxpayers, but will help ensure that legally-required salmon doubling goals, estuary restoration, and public trust values are honored for future generations.”
“The planning for California’s water future must return to a lawful, science-based, inclusive, and transparent process. The San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary must not be stripped of the freshwater flows upon which so many vital public trust resources and West Coast communities depend. From its inception, this plan has been crafted by, and for, South-of-Delta exporters. They have used their economic power to influence and rush this half-baked, multi-billion dollar water tunnel,” the groups stated.
It is no surprise that Brown is pushing so hard for the construction of the canal, since one of Brown’s biggest campaign contributors is Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaire agribusiness tycoon who owns Paramount Farms in Kern County. Resnicks contributed $99,000 to Jerry Brown’s campaign
Resnick is a big advocate of the canal and increased water exports from the Delta – and has waged a relentless campaign to exterminate striped bass and to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and other species. Resnick is notorious for selling subsidized water back to the public at a tidy profit.
“It’s ironic that the Resnicks, among California’s wealthiest 1 percent, contributed $99,000, since it’s the 99 percent that will pay for the peripheral canal,” said Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director at Food & Water Watch.
Winnemem Wintu Tribe: canal will cause environmental destruction
“The peripheral canal will only cause more destruction,” said Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “Our efforts should be instead focused on cleaning up the water to the point where we can drink the water in our rivers and streams.”
“The common people will pay for the canal and a few people will make millions,” Sisk told me during the Tribe’s recent War Dance on the McCloud River. “It will turn a once pristine water way into a sewer pipe. It will be all bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California.”
The Tribe is currently fighting to stop a federal plan to raise Shasta Dam – a project designed in conjunction with the peripheral canal to export more Delta water to corporate agribusiness and Southern California. They are also engaged in a struggle to pressure the U.S. Forest Service to close a 400 yard section of the McLoud River so they can hold a Coming of Age Ceremony at the end of the month.
In addition, the Tribe is working to re-introduce winter Chinook salmon, now thriving in the Rakaira River in New Zealand, to the McCloud River above Shasta Dam.
Delta advocates believe the construction of the canal or tunnel will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail and other fish species, based on the current science.
“The idea that you’re going to commit to building a $50 billion tunnel around the Delta that current science demonstrates won’t protect the estuary, and only later revise the science, develop assurances and decide how to operate it simply doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Board Member of the California Water Impact Network. “You can bathe this pig in perfume and apply lipstick, but it still won’t fly.”
The complete letter is posted at the Restore the Delta website.
Restore the Delta is a 7000-member grassroots organization committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. http://www.restorethedelta.org.
For more information, contact:
- Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546 steve [at] hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft;
- Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 barbara [at] restorethedelta.org; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta
- Winnemem Wintu Tribe