Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, California’s water-stealing Delta Tunnel plan forges ahead

  • Published on May 13th, 2020

On April 30 during the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the negotiators for the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Contractors finalized an Agreement In Principle (AIP) for the State  Contract Amendment for Delta Conveyance, according to a notice sent out yesterday by the Kearns and West Facilitation Team.

Annelia HIllman, Yurok Tribal Member, speaks at a rally before the last Delta Tunnel scoping meeting in Redding on March 2 where over 200 members of Northern California tribes and their allies stood up against the tunnel project.
Annelia HIllman, Yurok Tribal Member, speaks at a rally before the last Delta Tunnel scoping meeting in Redding on March 2 where over 200 members of Northern California tribes and their allies stood up against the tunnel project.

By Dan Bacher

This is a significant step in the process to push forward the Newsom Administration’s Single Delta Tunnel. Of course, this negotiation of this agreement took place despite strong opposition by the majority of Californians, including recreation anglers, commercial fishermen, conservationists, Tribal leaders, family farmers, Delta business owners, elected officials and the public.

The vast majority of the public opposed the project when it was the environmentally destructive and enormously costly Peripheral Canal in November 1982, when Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Brown transformed it into the twin Delta Tunnels and again when it became Governor Newsom’s Delta Tunnel in February 2019.

But since the voters decisively defeated the project back in 1982, no Governor or Legislature since then has supported a public vote on the project. They greatly fear a vote on the project because it would defeated again.

“On April 30, 2020, The AIP and accompanying White Paper (Attachment 1) are complete except for the table of Public Water Agency Delta Conveyance Facility Allocation Factors,” the Kearns and West Team announced. “ The negotiators plan to reconvene for one additional meeting to complete this table. We will send a notification email once the next meeting date is confirmed.”

“The edited versions of the AIP and White Paper from Negotiation Meeting #15 that occurred in the meeting on April 29th and continued on April 30th, the edited versions by Kearns & West, the facilitation team, and the Final AIP version (Document #141) and Final Attachment 1: White Paper (Document #142) pertaining to the SWP Contract Amendment for Delta Conveyance meetings are posted on the DWR Box site, here: https://cadwr.box.com/s/irusyewojv4nwzmxfznghzmgli9sswcw.

As I receive comments and analyses of the Agreement in Principle, I will post them here.

In other Delta Tunnel news in a parallel process, Scott Anderson reports for the Sacramento News and Review blog:

“Members of a committee designed to ensure Delta communities and tribal groups have their say in a proposed, life-changing tunnel project have been told to work through the coronavirus pandemic—or be left out of the process. Some committee members also claim that state officials misrepresented that fact to one of the most important commissions monitoring their efforts.”

“The dust-up has caused Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli to challenge one state official about transparency, while the Delta Protection Commission has officially asked California planners to halt their work on the tunnel during the virus outbreak. So far, that hasn’t happened,” said Anderson.

“The rift between members of the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority’s Stakeholder Engagement Committee, or SEC, and state officials came into glaring focus at an April 9 virtual meeting of the Delta Protection Commission,” Anderson continued.

For more information read: Delta tunnel advisory committee compelled to work through the pandemic https: sacblog.newsreview.com/…

In her California Water Resource blog, Deirdre Des Jardins also writes about how in its desperation to keep Delta tunnel engineering design schedule, the Delta Conveyance Authority pressured the Stakeholder Engagement Committee members to continue meeting: cah2oresearch.com/…

It is very clear that the Department of Water Resources and water contractors don’t really care what the public and the people most impacted by the Delta Tunnel think, based on their obsession with pushing the tunnel project through at this time. The only thing they appear to care about is taking advantage of an unprecedented pandemic to push through a project that will serve the interests of wealthy agribusiness interests like Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the owners of the Wonderful Company, and the water brokers at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

It is very telling that in the hundreds of hours I’ve spent in project hearings under three governors since 2007, not one of the project promoters has been able to answer my one simple question: Can you give me a single example in world or U.S. history where a project designed to divert more water from an estuary or river has resulted in the restoration of that estuary or river?

That’s because the project promoters know that a project that will take more water from a river, the Sacramento, before it reaches the estuary will destroy that estuary — and not restore it as they contend. They know that the project has no scientific, economic or financial basis and will result in the extinction of already imperiled fish species including the Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Central Valley steelhead, winter run Chinook salmon, spring run Chinook salmon and other species.

On March 2 at the final Delta Tunnel Scoping Meeting in Redding, Atta Stevenson, Cahto Tribal Member and a board member of the California Indian Water Commission (CIWC), read a very powerful letter to Governor Newsom signed by her and the three other Commission members — President Don Hankins, Vice President Randy Yonemura and Secretary Roger Aguilar — strongly opposing the Delta Tunnel. The first paragraph stated:

“The California Indian Water Commission strongly opposes the Delta Conveyance Project. It appears the Water Resilience Portfolio, Sites Reservoir and Voluntary Agreement do not give credence nor acknowledge traditional knowledge, historical data or salmon sustainability for increased water diversions from the Trinity, Klamath and Sacramento Rivers…Tribal subsistence depends on healthy salmon runs, thus sustaining ceremonial and traditional stewardship, fishing techniques, songs and stories that keep the salmon sacred. Increased water diversions clearly discriminate against small rural communities and jobs that healthy salmon runs give economic relief too.”

Stevenson also personally told DWR and the crowd at the meeting,

“Resistance is our duty and right. Non-violent resistance must be taken to address and counteract broken treaties, treaties and cultural ways of life. Non violent direct action will be the answer.”

Annelia Hillman of Orleans, Yurok Tribal Member and artist, set the tone for that evening when she got the crowd chanting “Shut it Down!” during a rally of members of Northern California Tribes and their allies before the meeting. Hillman said it’s time for disruption, pointing out that this disruption should take place in two ways — the personal and the systemic.

“First, it’s got to start with us by making small changes,” she said. “Change the way you eat. Stop buying Cuties and pistachios.”

“The other thing we need to do is disrupt the system,” Hillman stated. “Get angry. It’s time to fight — we don’t have time left. The destruction needs to stop. It will affect the Klamath — and we won’t let it happen. Shut it down!”

It is telling that during the scoping meeting, not single member of the public, whether tribal members, environmentalists, anglers or local elected officials, spoke out for the project. That’s because only wealthy agribusiness owners, lobbyists, water district officials, corporate interests and a captured state government support the project. The Newsom Administration administration must come to its senses and stop this project!

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.
    Shares