Peripheral Canal opponents urge Interior to block project

June 13, 2012 9:00pm
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•  Say multi-billion dollar project would suck nearly all the water out of the Sacramento River

•  State is ‘poised to make an enormous mistake ... and potentially drag the American people along with it’

Thirty-eight environmental, fishing, consumer, Native American and other groups are urging the Obama Administration to throttle state plans to build a peripheral canal.

In a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the group say the canal, or its alternative, a massive tunnel, would suck out most of the water from the Sacramento River before it enters the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The canal or tunnel would move the water into the state and federal irrigation systems.

The government is "poised to make an enormous mistake ... and potentially drag the American people along with it" by backing "construction of a world-record-size tunnel or pipes capable of diverting 15,000 cubic feet per second from the Sacramento River -- nearly all of its average freshwater flow," the letter says.

The coalition sent the letter after the administration of California Gov. Jerry Brown informed them that the state intends to proceed with construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel without a vote of the citizens.

In 1983, Californians soundly rejected a plan for the peripheral canal.

The groups say the "$20 to $50 billion dollar, highly controversial project will primarily serve to deliver Sacramento River water, through State and Federal pumps, to provide subsidized irrigation water to corporate agricultural operations of the western San Joaquin Valley."

The letter was signed by Sierra Club California, Environmental Water Caucus, Friends of the River, California Water Impact Network, Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Food and Water Watch, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the Planning and Conservation League and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, as well as twenty-nine other organizations.

"The Department of the Interior has a duty to protect the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. Diverting its largest fresh water source through a pipe or tunnel will destroy this amazing tapestry of fisheries and family farms,” says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.

“Supporting the state of California in its aim of building a $51 billion canal or tunnel and then figuring out how to operate it later simply cannot be defended in the eyes of the public,” she says.

The groups call on the Obama Administration to instead invest in more efficient use of water through cost-effective water conservation and recycling.

“This will not only protect the pocket books of millions of California ratepayers and U.S. taxpayers, but will help ensure that legally-required salmon doubling goals, estuary restoration, and public trust values are honored for future generations,” the letter says.

“From its inception, this plan has been crafted by, and for, South-of-Delta exporters. They have used their economic power to influence and rush this half-baked, multi-billion dollar water tunnel," the groups say.

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Comments on this story

Steve Maniaci 6/14/12 10:06 AM (
And the pendulum now swings to the extreme far left. This propaganda should be discounted because we all know that the plan is to move surplus water in times of heavy runoff through this improved conveyance system, and that there are restrictions on the draw to prevent damage to the ecology of the Delta. These statements are mearly scare tactics that, once again, are meant to mis-inform the public. I sure hope that Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary Salazar see through this and let common sense prevail! We need to foster the American farm, not shut it down so we can build more condo's.

Jim Peck 6/14/12 12:27 PM
Steve - After spending 20 to 50 billion do you really think it will only be used during times of excessive spring runoff? In wet years there is more spring water in the San Joaquin alone than the pumps can divert, so water from the Sacramento cannot be utilized. Sacramento water is needed when the demand from state and federal water projects exceeds the available water in the SJ. As I see it, the state considers it to be an insurance policy against a catastophic failure of delta levies which could bring salt water up to the pumps. The corporate water and ag entities see it as an another source of taxpayer subidized water that they can buy cheaply to grow crops or sell at a profit. If this project is built, I believe that those who use the water should bear all the costs of construction as well as operation so that no taxpayer dollars are used.

Steve Maniaci 6/14/12 1:49 PM
Jim - You make some valid points that have been part of the arguement for years. But please rise above this. Californias have not spent on improvement and additional water conveyance and storage for many years. Doing nothing, except continueing the argument, will solve nothing. Do you really believe that salt water intrusion would ever be allowed to happen? Yes, the project is an insurance policy in many ways, but that is a positive! Yes, water users include corporate entities. Corporations are not the devil, and neither is making a profit. Let's stay focused on solving the water problem and leave the politics out of the arguement. As I see it, your common talking points are blinding your logic and common sense. Please remember that farmers are all environmentalists, and tend to be very good stewards of the land.

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