Has California’s peripheral canal been downsized? Not so much.
Restore the Delta slammed the administration for issuing a revised plan to construct a peripheral canal or tunnel without a cost-benefit analysis and without completing scientific studies in order to provide unsustainable water exports for the benefit of a few huge corporate agribusiness interests.
“The chunnel has not been downsized,” challenged Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta (RTD) executive director. “While three intake pumps may only pump 9,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of Sacramento River flows, the chunnel pipe itself – according to Resource Agency claims – will be sized to carry 15,000 cfs, nearly the entire flow of the Sacramento River.”
“What is to stop project operators from simply adding a few more intake pumps, especially after they ‘configure’ the science to justify taking more water away from the Delta?” she asked.
In a Bay Delta Conservation Plan public meeting held in Sacramento on Wednesday, Jerry Meral, Deputy Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, said the state and Department of Interior were “hoping to release” the revised conveyance plan by the end of July. Meral also said the draft EIR/EIS will be available “this fall.”
“I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder, but certainly in terms of cost savings and local impacts, it’s going to be quite an improvement,” said Jerry Meral, in reference to the revised plan.
“Two-thirds of exports from the Delta serve corporate irrigators on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, which accounts for less than half a percent of California’s economy and population. Less than a third of the water goes to urban areas that make up half of the state’s population and economy,” Barrigan-Parrilla stated.
RTD said the administration has “repeatedly refused to consider reasonable alternatives that don’t involve massive infrastructure. The water demands that would be served by this conveyance are unrealistic and the flows exporters want are out of line with reliable supplies. The operation would worsen water quality for fisheries and agriculture. It will devastate the economy of the Delta itself and northern fisheries that depend on adequate flows through the Delta.”
Administration refuses to do cost-benefit analysis
Jane Wagner-Tyack, research director for Restore the Delta, criticized the plan for “defying common sense.”
“We still have no public trust analysis for this plan, and supporters of the plan have strongly resisted a cost-benefit analysis,” stated Wagner-Tyack. “But a report published last week by University of the Pacific’s Business Forecasting Center shows that for every $2.50 spent on this project, the state can expect to see $1 in benefits.”
“And if costs are allocated on a per capita basis, Metropolitan Water District ratepayers will be responsible for 75% of the project costs, not the 25% that would be proportional to the amount of water they get,” she stated.
The BDCP public meeting included an update on the BDCP planning process, proposed changes to conveyance facilities, and an update on the economic analysis being prepared by Dr. David Sunding.
Dick Pool, President of the Water for Fish and Secretary-Treasurer of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, blasted the “economic analysis” prepared by Sunding that considered only the benefits to the water contractors.
“If you were the ones that funded this study, you should be ashamed of yourselves for accepting only one side of the equation,” Pool told Meral and Dale Hoffman, Deputy Director of DWR. “You represent the state and I don’t know how you can accept such a one sided argument. Jerry and Dale, you need to get some economists and consultants to do a complete analysis.”
The first comprehensive economic benefit-cost analysis of the water conveyance tunnels at the center of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), released on June 14 by the University of Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business, Business Forecasting Center, reveals that peripheral canal doesn’t make any economic or financial sense.
The UOP report states, “We find the tunnel is not economically justified, because the costs of the tunnel are 2.5 times larger than its benefits. Benefit-cost analysis is an essential and normal part of assessment and planning of large infrastructure projects such as the $13 billion water conveyance tunnel proposal, but has not been part of the BDCP.”
Restore the Delta last week 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.
Brown and Laird support ocean greenwashing, massive Delta fish kills
Brown has forged ahead with Schwarzenegger’s privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in California waters. These “marine protected areas,” created under the oversight of a big oil lobbyist, real estate developer, marina operator and other corporate hacks, fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, military and seismic testing, corporate aquaculture and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
Brown also presided over a record fish kill and water exports at the Delta pumps in 2011. The DFG recently released a report documenting the “salvage” of tens of millions of fish including 42 species in the state and federal water export pumping facilities in the South Delta in 2011.
A total of 11,817,051 fish of all species were “salvaged” in the state and federal pumps in 2011, a record year for water exports, according to the report that appeared in the Interagency Ecological Program for the San Francisco Estuary Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2012 edition (here and here).
The splittail salvage was 7,660,024 in the federal facilities and 1,326,065 in the state facilities, a total of 8,986,089 fish, nearly 9 million splittail and a new salvage record for the species. The fish, a native member of the minnow family found only in the Central Valley, was formerly listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but is no longer listed. The total chinook salmon salvage in the state facilities was 18,830 and the federal facilities was 18,135, a total of 36,965 fish.
However, salvage numbers are only the “tip of the iceberg” of the total fish lost in the pumping facilities.
“Salvage numbers drastically underestimate the actual impact,” according to a Bay Institute report, “Collateral Damage,” documenting decades of fish kills at the pumping facilities. “Although the exact numbers are uncertain, it is clear that tens of millions of fish are killed each year, and only a small fraction of this is reflected in the salvage numbers that are reported.”
One study of “pre-screen loss” estimated that as many as 19 of every 20 fish perished before being counted (Castillo, 2010). Other studies estimate that the actual loss of fish in the pumping facilities is 5 to 10 times the “salvage” numbers.
It appears that Governor Jerry Brown, his Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Deputy Secretary Jerry Meral are engaged now in a fierce competition with Schwarzenegger and his former lackeys to earn the “coveted prize” of “worst administration for fish and the environment in California history.” Brown, Laird and Meral have made it clear in their support of the peripheral canal, MLPA Initiative and massive Delta fish kills that they don’t serve the people of California, but only corporate agribusiness, ocean industrialists and the Wall Street 1 percent.