Jerry Brown’s water-stealing Delta Tunnels plan is collapsing

  • Published on March 29th, 2016

By Dan Bacher

Governor Jerry Brown’s California WaterFix to Build the Delta Tunnels, a $60-billion plan to divert California's $15+ billion waterstealing "WaterFix" boondoggleSacramento River water to corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting fracking and extreme oil extraction methods, is “broken” and in “chaos.”

That’s the assessment of a coalition of fishing, environmental and farming groups, including Restore the Delta, the Planning and Conservation League, the Local Agencies of the North Delta and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA.)

On Monday, the petitioners for a “Change in the Point of Diversion” permit before the California State Water Resources Control Board have requested a second delay in the process, this time for an additional 60 days.

“The petitioners, the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation were to present, on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 evidence that the Delta Tunnels plan would impose no significant harms to Delta water users or to protected fish and wildlife,”  according to a statement from the four groups.

“After previously receiving a 30-day extension, the petitioners can’t produce the evidence that the project won’t cause serious harm,” the groups said. “Besides pushing endangered fish species into extinction, harming Bay-Delta communities and agricultural water users, the Delta Tunnels do not comply with the Delta Reform Act of 2009. The California State Legislature mandated “coequal goals” of providing a more reliable water supply for California AND protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. However, the tunnels cannot produce the amount of water that the exporters want, especially with climate change.”

The California Water Fix is based on the untenable concept that diverting more water from the Sacramento River before it reaches the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta will “restore” the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.

“The California WaterFix cannot be fixed,” said Bill Jennings, executive director of California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “The idea that you can divert millions of acre feet of water under an estuary that is already suffering from lack of flow without grievously harming existing water users, communities and already degraded fisheries and water quality is fundamentally absurd.”

“We’ve been saying for a long time that there is not a workable project,” said Jonas Minton of the Planning and Conservation League. “The petitioners have spent 10 years, a quarter of a billion dollars, and still cannot produce a plan that meets environmental or economic muster, or comply with tax law. They should admit the project is not defensible and get on with plan B.”

“They have tried every way possible to get permits before a long-overdue water quality control plan update for the Delta is finished. The Delta Tunnels are in complete disarray today,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.

“The Delta Tunnels proponents already got a 30-day extension, now they want another 60-day extension,” said Osha Meserve, an attorney with Local Agencies of the North Delta. “The Petition was incomplete when they submitted it last August and they are no closer to having a complete Petition today.  That is because the Tunnels are unpermittable under existing laws that protect the Delta, the environment and endangered species.  After the federal contractors failed to disqualify the hearing officers last week, their only option was to request yet another delay.”

The collapsing Delta Tunnels scheme faces another major hurdle when the terminally flawed “science” of the California Water Fix will face independent review by a scientific panel convened at the request of NOAA Fisheries on April 5-6.

“At the request of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), select staff from the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Science Program will convene an independent scientific peer review for the joint Biological Opinion and 208 1(b) Incidental Take Permit analyses of the California WaterFix aquatic science,” the notice from the Delta Stewardship Council states.

It is very likely that the independent review panel will giving a failing grade to the “science” concocted to justify the Delta Tunnels Plan, just like US EPA scientists did last year — and just as every panel of state, federal and independent scientists has done previously. For more information, go to:deltastewardshipcouncil.cmail20.com/

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.