ACTION: Interior Secretary should reject California’s water-stealing Delta Tunnels

  • Published on September 26th, 2015

By Dan Bacher

The Environmental Water Caucus, a coalition including the California Sportfishing Protection Aliance (CSPA) and other fishing delta-pipline-routegroups, environmental organizations, businesses and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, recently submitted a letter to Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, urging her to reject the Delta Water Tunnels.

“By the end of 2015, state and federal officials plan to have the Delta Water Tunnels project record of decision on your desk for approval,” the groups wrote on September 16. “This may be one of the most important decisions you make as Interior Secretary and we, along with our representative citizen members, strongly urge you to make this decision your highest priority, give it thoughtful consideration, and reject the Delta Water Tunnels project.”

The letter explains in detail many of the terminal flaws of the California Water Fix, formerly called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), that would lead to the destruction of the Bay-Delta Estuary, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. The Brown and Obama administrations are now trying to rush the construction of the tunnels, in spite of the fact that it would violate numerous state and federal laws and lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

The project would also imperil the salmon and steelhead runs on the Trinity River, since massive amounts of Trinity water are diverted every year through a tunnel through the Trinity Mountains to supply corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

“The State of California and USBR have now unilaterally proposed that the new tunnels would take much of the freshwater flow of the Sacramento River before it reaches the Bay-Delta and divert it underneath the estuary through two massive tunnels to CVP pumps near Tracy,” the groups wrote.  “An engineering undertaking of this magnitude has never been attempted.”

The letter said the project would have “devastating impacts” on the Delta ecosystem, and inhibit the ability of Jewel’s agency to comply with the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act and to meet their trust obligations to Native Americans, especially those on the North Coast that depend on waters from the Trinity River Division.

“The resulting federal confusion will lead to decades of legal and political conflict, not a good legacy for the Department of Interior. All of this can be avoided if you show bold leadership and foresight by rejecting this project” the groups wrote.

The groups also pointed out that numerous agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, National Academy of Sciences, National Marine Fisheries Service, and US Environmental Protection Agency, have identified “serious and potentially catastrophic issues with the proposed project.”

“In advance of the Secretary’s decision, the US Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources have already petitioned  the State Water Board to modify their water rights to allow the Tunnels to proceed, and have requested permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to allow tunnel related construction,” the letter noted.

The letter concluded with a request for a meeting with the Interior Secretary.

“Prior to any decision on this contentious, expensive and risky project, please meet with us. Such a meeting is essential to understanding the impacts from the proposed tunnels project as it proposes to pick one region of the state over another, creating needless dissension and destruction of the one of the United States’ most vibrant estuaries,” the groups wrote.

To read the 3-page letter, go to:…

A reminder: The last round of public comments on the California Water Fix ends on October 30. That’s why it is essential that you submit a public comment to go on record opposing the Delta tunnels/CA WaterFix/BDCP. This will be your last chance to submit a public comment — federal agencies may attempt to permit this plan as early as 2016!

Go to the Restore the Delta website to submit a public comment, sign their petition to send an automatic letter or create your own using their letter template:…



About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.