California’s water-stealing Delta Tunnels could be approved in September
In 2007, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger revived a plan that big agriculture loved – to build a peripheral canal or tunnels around or under the Sacramento Delta. Since then, a coalition of fishermen, Tribal leaders, conservationists,
By Dan Bacher
After Jerry Brown became Governor for a third term, he embraced the plan, reincarnated as two 35 mile long tunnels under the Delta, as his “environmental legacy,” along with the completion of the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in California.
In the latest saga in the California water wars, Delta and public trust advocates are gearing up for a “heated battle against the continuation of planning for the Delta tunnels this summer,” according to a statement from Restore the Delta (RTD).
Next week the official official biological opinion necessary for the operation of the tunnels will be released. To date, every federal panel that has examined the tunnels plan has concluded that the tunnels plan will devastate salmon and other fish species.
Most recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released a draft biological opinion documenting the harm the tunnels would cause to salmon, steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, other fish and wildlife species, and water quality. (www.counterpunch.org/…)
Meanwhile, state water agencies are making moves to secure a joint-powers authority with the Brown administration to accelerate the project, as reported by Ellen Knickmeyer and Scott Smith of the Associated Press.
“As the controversial proposal inches toward a crucial vote in September, state water agencies are attempting to drown out the noise made by Delta advocates rejecting dual conveyance with tedious documents and amendments to the Delta Plan,” said Restore the Delta. ”In fact, recently leaked emails reveal that general manager of Metropolitan Water District, Jeffrey Kightlinger, asked member agencies to lobby the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) with pro-tunnels support during the public comments section of their next meeting on June 22 to combat the anticipated outpouring of opposition to the proposed amendments.”
Commenting on the emails, RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said, “The Delta is now being set up to function as a colony of Southern California water interests. MWD is pressuring the Delta Stewardship Council to pass the Delta Plan amendment so MWD can secure its portion of the $17 billion in bonds to pay for the tunnels, costs that will be passed back to their ratepayers in their water bills and property taxes.”
Then on June 13, Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee reported on how state water supply, environmental conservation, and taxpayers could be impacted if the tunnels proposal is approved:
“What Metropolitan and water agencies in Silicon Valley, Fresno, Bakersfield and beyond decide is going to have sweeping ramifications across California. Ratepayers in Southern California and Silicon Valley could see a hit in their monthly water bills. In the San Joaquin Valley, farmers who’ve seen their water supplies decline sharply over the decades to protect endangered Delta fish will decide whether Brown’s promise of more reliable deliveries is worth cutting into their profits.
In greater Sacramento and throughout the Delta, farmers, environmental groups and elected officials remain deeply mistrustful of the proposal. They call it a ‘water grab’ by moneyed and politically powerful interests bent on siphoning more of Northern California’s water. By routing some of the Sacramento River’s flow directly to massive government pumping stations in the south Delta, they say the tunnels will cut into north state water supplies and do greater harm to native fish species on the brink of extinction.”
The Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) must consider the findings of the official biological opinion during its June 22 meeting, in addition to hearing public outcry from Delta environmental justice communities, farmers, fishermen, and environmental groups, RTD noted.
The group is encouraging everybody who cares about the future of the Delta and our imperiled salmon and other fish populations to attend this meeting and help pack the room! Get the details.
Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, exposed the folly of the Delta Tunnels project at her speech at the “March for Science” on Earth Day 2017 before a crowd of 15,000 people at the State Capitol in Sacramento. She pointed out how the tunnels, rather than achieving the co-equal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration, would instead devastate salmon and other fish populations while doing nothing to supply clean drinking water for people in impoverished rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley.
“The California Water Fix is the biggest water problem, the most devastating project, that Californians have ever faced,” said Chief Sisk. “Just ask the people in the farmworker communities of Seville and Alpaugh, where they can’t drink clean water from the tap.” Read the article here: www.dailykos.com/…
Unfortunately, media reports, including the recent articles by the Associated Press and the Sacramento Bee, have completely failed to discuss one of the most important aspects of the California WaterFix project – the deep relationship between the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and the Delta Tunnels plan.
At first glance, the privately-funded MLPA Initiative and the California WaterFix may appear to be entirely different processes.
The MLPA Initiative, a process begun in 2004 under the Schwarzenegger administration, purported to create a network of “marine protected areas” along the California coast. The network was supposedly completed on December 19, 2012 with the imposition of contested “marine protected areas” along the North Coast under the Jerry Brown administration.
On the other hand, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process began under the Bush and Schwarzenegger administrations to achieve the so-called “co-equal goals” of water supply reliability and Delta ecosystem restoration. In 2015, the state and federal governments divided the BDCP into two projects, the California WaterFix, the conveyance component and the California EcoRestore, the habitat “restoration” component.
But in spite of some superficial differences, the two processes have been united by their (1) leadership, (2) funding, (3) conflicts of interest, (4) greenwashing goals, (5) racism and denial of tribal rights and (6) junk science. When people educate themselves on the undeniable links between the two processes, I believe they can more effectively wage a successful campaign against the Delta Tunnels and to restore our imperiled salmon and San Francisco Bay-Delta fisheries.
To read my latest investigative piece on the deep links between these two controversial neoliberal “environmental processes,” go to: www.alternet.org/…
Take Action: If you haven’t done so already, voice your opposition against the tunnels by signing the RTD petition by June 19.
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