Omnibus Spending Bill Includes Funds For Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels
By Dan Bacher
The Brown and Obama administrations are not the only ones pushing for the construction of the Delta Tunnels under the California Water Fix, as evidenced by the inclusion by Congress of a provision to fund the widely-contested project at taxpayer expense revealed today by Restore the Delta (RTD).
“Deep within the 2009 page Omnibus Spending Bill, up for a vote in Congress on Friday, is a provision called the CALIFORNIA BAY-DELTA RESTORATION starting on page 401 and referenced again on page 409. This would once again allow some $37 million in federal tax dollars to help plan and build massive export tunnels that would take essential freshwater and export it to irrigators south of the Delta,” reported Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. (http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151214/CPRT-114-HPRT-RU00-SAHR2029-AMNT1final.pdf)
“Funding for the tunnels export project was to be paid for by water users, (i.e. the water districts that support industrial-scale crops for foreign export and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California,” she said.
She noted that over $257 million has been spent so far on the delta water export tunnels. “More than $73 million has been funded by the federal taxpayers, with the most recent federal grant of $17 million received under false presences—for a habitat conservation plan that was dropped months before and now is a tunnels only project,” she explained. “Archaic, outdated projects that will not serve ratepayers and taxpayers shrouded in ‘restoration’ language is meant to deceive, not to fund real solutions,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The President and Congress need to invest in sustainable, strategic and cost effective water strategies to effectively deal with the drought instead of continuing to invest in outdated projects that produce little water and lubricate water exports to a few rich industrial irrigators on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley.”
She said riders that will have the U.S. taxpayers foot the bill to fund the water export tunnels, contained deep within federal omnibus spending bills, flaunt California state law Water Code Section 85089, which requires beneficiaries to pay for the project, not taxpayers.
Among the beneficiaries of this taxpayer-funded boondoggle are Beverly Hills agribusiness billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the owners of The Wonderful Company. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/06/03/influential-ag-firm-changes-name-corporation-to-the-wonderful-company-gov-brown-wants-to-change-tunnels-to-pipes)
Resnick and his wife, Lynda, have been instrumental in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels. They have become known as the “Koch Brothers of California Water” for the many thousands of dollars they contribute to candidates and propositions in California every year.
For example, Stewart Resnick contributed $150,000 to Jerry Brown’s Proposition 1 water grab in the 2014 election (www.dailykos.com/…)
“The Resnicks are already looking to secure additional water sources,” she said. “The couple could score big if a $15 billion water tunnels export project championed by Governor Jerry Brown is officially approved in the next few years.”
Tunnels opponents, including family farmers, Tribal leaders, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Delta residents and Southern California ratepayers, say the project would grab more than half of the flow of the Sacramento River watershed, one of the last remaining sources of freshwater essential to the health of SF Bay-Delta Estuary.
The tunnels, a boondoggle that would cost Californians up to $67 billion to build a “monument” to Jerry Brown’s “legacy,” would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species. The project would also imperil struggling populations of salmon and steelhead on the Trinity and Klamath rivers, fish populations that are an integral part of the culture of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley and Karuk tribes.
“Much of the freshwater is taken for export by industrial irrigators and delivered south to the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. About 70 percent of Delta estuary water is exported to these irrigating giants, some of the largest in the Nation where the water is, used to grow water intensive almonds and pistachios on unsustainable desert soils for lucrative overseas exports,” she concluded.
In addition to delivering subsidized water to corporate agribusiness interests on the San Joaquin Valley’s west side, the tunnels would also provide water for fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in Kern County.
The exposing of the ominous provision in the Omnibus Spending Bill takes place the day after the California State Water Resources Control Board failed to protect the flows and management of the Sacramento River and Bay-Delta Estuary.
“They have the legal authority to do so, but they are Governor Brown appointees and lack courage to do the right thing,” commented Barrigan-Parrilla. “They continue to give the Bureau of Reclamation and DWR leeway on how to manage the system during this extreme drought for the benefit of water takers like Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms.”
Meanwhile, negotiations continue in Congress to pass a dangerous drought bill, HR 2898, that could result in the pumping of more water from the Delta. For more information, go to: restorethedelta.org/…