Delta Stewardship Council ignores public, sides with Big Ag over Delta Tunnels

  • Published on June 22nd, 2017

In spite of massive opposition by fishermen, family farmers, environmentalists and Delta residents who packed a room in the Holiday Inn in Sacramento today, the Delta Stewardship Council endorsed controversial conveyance and storage amendments to the Delta Plan that that project opponents say will hasten the approval of Jerry Brown’s water-stealing WaterFix this September.

By Dan Bachersave-the-sacramento-delta-stop-the-delta-tunnels-waterfix

Only one member of the Council, Skip Thomsom, voted against the amendment that promotes “dual conveyance,” a euphemism for the Delta Tunnels Plan, as the preferred option.

He cited voting for the amendments, in the face of broad opposition, as an example of the “Abilene Paradox,” when a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of many (or all) of the individuals in the group. A common phrase relating to the Abilene Paradox is a desire not to “rock the boat.”

Before the decision, Thomsom, commented, “The amendment is too narrowly focusing on Delta Conveyance. What happens if the conveyance doesn’t work? I’ll be voting no on the amendment,” he stated.

After the decision, Mike Brodsky, lawyer for the Save the Delta Alliance (STDA), responded, “The Delta Stewardship Council is headed for self-destruction. The previous Delta Plan was struck down by the courts. These amendments to the plan will also also be struck down by the courts and will lead to the abolition of the Delta Stewardship Council.”

Restore the Delta (RTD) noted that their organization, environmental groups and Delta residents have requested the Delta Stewardship Council to follow Delta Reform Act mandates to:

  • reduce reliance on the Delta
  • invest in existing levees
  • protect fish
  • and stop the damage from operation of the state and federal water pumps near Tracy.

”Instead, the DSC chose to promote ‘dual conveyance’ systems in order to aid the Brown Administration and special interest water districts attempting to fast-track the Delta Tunnels (also known as ‘California WaterFix’) proposal,” RTD said

Responding to the decision, Executive Director of Restore the Delta Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, said, “The Council continues to tinker around the edges within their planning process instead of fully complying with all state laws and policies regarding environmental justice, protecting the Delta as an evolving place, creating measurable criteria for improving Delta flows, and promoting logical water supply reliability planning. Clearly, the Council picks and chooses what portions of their mandate they are willing to execute. For instance, the DSC claims other state civil rights and environmental justice policies don’t apply to them; this kind of thinking has already gotten the Council in trouble with the courts on the Delta Plan,”

She added, “I’m not surprised. While the Council improved their amendment some by requiring new conveyance and storage projects to address the state’s required human right to water policy analysis in their language, the edited amendment ignore the full breadth of laws and policies that should be evaluated for Delta environmental justice communities, and only considers impacts to environmental justice communities outside of the Delta.”

Osha Meserve, Attorney for Local Agencies of the North Delta (LAND), stated, “The Council has confused the public about the implications of its decision. While the Council has characterized the amendments as necessary to keep the Delta Plan up to date, the amendments appear designed to placate the mega-water agencies gunning for the Delta Tunnels project. These agencies have demanded that the Council take actions to endorse the Delta Tunnels project, and that’s what the amendments do.”

“If the DSC decides eventually to integrate these conveyance and storage amendments as currently drafted into the Delta Plan as proposed, progress on protecting the San Francisco-Bay Delta will be set back decades. Under no scenario, could an isolated diversion project like the Delta Tunnels be built and operated in a manner that would leave the Delta environment and communities intact,” she concluded.

RTD noted that the Council has failed to complete a basic assessment justifying dual conveyance projects, such as a water supply analysis to show the water is available, or a cost-benefit analysis showing the project could pencil out for ratepayers. The group also said that “the Council has failed to meaningfully address state environmental justice policies.”

Note: Stay tuned for a more complete report on the Delta Stewardship Council later.

MORE: California’s water-stealing Delta Tunnels could be approved in September

Why is the Delta Independent Science Board defending the flawed California WaterFix EIR/EIS?

(Photo by Dan Bacher)

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.