Environmental Water Caucus: “Just say no” to Cali’s water-stealing Delta Tunnels

  • Published on January 31st, 2017

As Governor Jerry Brown continues to push for the construction of two massive water tunnels under The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the Environmental Water Caucus on January 27 submitted their comments on the Final Delta Tunnels EIR/EIS. Read the comments here.

By Dan Bacher

In summary, EWC, a coalition of conservation groups, Tribes, fishing organizations and environmental justice groups, continues to object Sacramento River by Dan Bacherto and reject approval of the California WaterFix project and its predecessor, Conservation Measure 1 in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Here are a few excerpts from the EWC comments.

On compliance with the Delta Reform Act of 2009, EWC says: “…lead agencies for BDCP/California WaterFix have cherry-picked their preferred provisions of the 2009 Delta Reform Act, and have excluded analysis of and compliance with California Water Code Section 85021, which states in part that it is the policy of the State of California to reduce reliance on the Delta for California’s future water needs.”

On the veracity of testimony by state agencies, EWC says: “These are pleadings of state agencies whose leadership and upper management are essentially captured by regulated interests—the most powerful and influential of those 600 or so local water agencies…”

On the proposed costs of the proposed Delta Tunnels, EWC says: “No one knows forsure, since after 10 years of planning, there is still no financing plan for various sources of funds for California WaterFix.”

On environmental justice impacts of the Delta Tunnels, EWC says: “…we are deeply concerned that the Lead Agencies have failed to demonstrate that the Tunnels project would not cause direct significant economic impacts on the environmental justice communities of the Delta region…”

On claims of environmental benefits from the Delta Tunnels, EWC says: “One of the purposes of the Tunnels Project…is to California's $15+ billion waterstealing "WaterFix" boondogglemaintain Delta exports while increasing water supply reliability of the state and federal water projects that export from the Delta. This purpose is, on its face, contrary to Water Code Section 85021 of the Delta Reform Act, which commands that reliance on the Delta for California’s future water needs be reduced.

On claims that the project requires only a water right “change”not a new permit, EWC says:  “…the nature of the diversion points for California WaterFix would take water out of Delta channels and isolate it from through-Delta flow, resulting in depletions in a different part of the Delta than now occurs. This too is a distinct difference in the nature of the diversion originally included in the state water right permits and therefore requires a new application to appropriate.”

EWC concludes
“If surface water management may be analogous to use of a checking account, and groundwater supplies a savings account, then EWC suggests that the Tunnels project is analogous to a line of credit orsub-prime loan that would encourage greater transfers of surface water through cross-Delta (north-to-south) water transfers at the expense of groundwater without the reliable prospect of surface recharge to the Sacramento Valley aquifers in the future. The Tunnels would encourage consumptive uses of imported water south-of-Delta that would not be sustainable.”

Environmental Water Caucus Members
AquAlliance, Butte Environmental Council, California Coastkeeper Alliance, California Save Our Streams Council, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Striped Bass Association, California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), California Water Research Associates, Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens Water Watch, Clean Water Action, Desal Response Group, Earth Law Center, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Environmental Protection Information Center, Environmental Working Group, Food & Water Watch, Foothill Conservancy, Friends of the River, Karuk Tribe, Klamath Riverkeeper, North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Planning and Conservation League, Restore the Delta, Sacramento River Preservation Trust, San Mateo County Democracy for America, Save the American River Association, Save the Bay Association, Sierra Club, California, Sierra Nevada Alliance, Southern California Watershed Alliance, The Bay Institute, Winnemem Wintu Tribe.


Conner Everts, Environmental Water Caucus, Los Angeles, 310-804-6615 Tim Stroshane, Restore the Delta, Stockton, 510-847-7556 

Jerry Brown praises Trump’s plan for new tunnels and other infrastructure

The Environmental Water Caucus submitted its comments on the California WaterFix EIR at a time when Governor Jerry Brown appears to be looking to make a deal with President Donald Trump on the Delta Tunnels and new dams.

On January 24, Governor Jerry Brown delivered his State of the State Address, portraying his administration as the “Resistance” to the policies of Donald Trump while at the same time praising the President for his plan to spend $1 trillion in infrastructure funding.

He quoted Trump from his inaugural address, “We will build new roads, and highways, and bridged and airport, and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.”

Brown proclaimed, “And in this, we can all work together – here in Sacramento and in Washington as well. We have roads and tunnels and railroads and even a dam that the President could help us with. And that will create good-paying American jobs.”

Departing from his prepared remarks, Brown then stated, “I say, ‘Amen to that, Brother!’” in reference to Trump’s focus on new infrastructure.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta (RTD),  responded to Brown’s address in a statement, questioning whether Brown sees “an ally in President Trump.”

“After declaring that California will lead the resistance against the Trump administration, he went on to praise Trump’s proposed infrastructure spending plan. Does Governor Brown see an ally in President Trump? Is he waiting for Federal approval of permits for this destructive project?” she asked.

“It seems that Governor Brown plans to compromise the health and safety of Delta residents for a project that will leave the Delta with water that will fail to meet Clean Water Act standards,” she stated.

She then outlined the damage that the Delta Tunnels would cause to West Coat fisheries, environmental justice communities, family farms and the people of California.

“The proposed Delta Tunnels received low marks once again from the EPA in October of 2015,” she said. “It will leave hundreds of thousands of people in the Delta, who are part of the California environmental justice communities, with degraded water quality, and will decimate California’s fisheries, and historic Delta farms. The project fails to meet the economic, social, and environmental justice standards that the Brown Administration claims to champion.  Plus, before construction overruns, the project will cost with interest and operation fees around $60 billion. Brown is counting on Southern California ratepayers and property taxpayers to foot the bill.”

“Governor Brown wants to use Northern California water to create even more wealth for richer urban areas and the top 1% of growers on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley, at the expense of economically distressed Delta cities like Stockton. He wants President Trump to help him. This isn’t resistance,” concluded Barrigan-Parrilla.

Besides giving his loud and extemporaneous “Amen” to the Trump Administration trillion-dollar infrastructure rhetoric, Brown in his state of the state speech also congratulated Californians for passing the water bond (no reason given), according to Ron Stork, senior policy advocate for Friends of the River.

“Governor Brown even told the assembled legislators that he would like to spend some of the Trump Infrastructure largess on ‘a dam,’ probably Sites Reservoir near his retirement ranch,” Stork pointed out. “That dam needs a lot of free money to be built. Ordinarily it would be too expensive to build and operate. So its backers hope to get $2.2 billion in state taxpayer money from the water bond that Brown boosted. Another couple or more of billions as a gift from Uncle Sam might be a sufficient subsidy.”

“Sunch frank rhetoric is a bit of a departure from some of the Brown Administration and Democratic leadership rhetoric proffered during the one-sided campaign for Proposition 1 that the bond was for ‘storage,’ privately attempting to sooth us with the notion that it would end up being spent on groundwater storage, not on dams. Well, it appears the Governor and the Republican Congress have dams (or ‘a’ dam) on their minds after all,” he concluded.

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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.