Twin tunnel reaction sorts out the sides
July 25, 2012
• UPDATED at 9:30 a.m. Thursday
• Picking a side crosses political lines
• ‘Suck our river dry’
Another north-south battle may be shaping up in California, this time over Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans for a massive 37-mile long twin water tunnels project.
If built, it would suck fresh water out of the Sacramento River and deliver it to state and federal irrigation systems south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to be pumped to the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles and Santa Clara County.
For eons, all of the Sacramento River, the state’s largest, has flowed to the sea through the Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast of the western hemisphere.
But just as the Peripheral Canal scheme which was put together when Mr. Brown was first governor of the state, divided California, so it would appear that his tunnel plan will do the same.
Here is a digest of some of the reaction.
• “The Southern California Water Committee joins organizations and leaders throughout the state in congratulating Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar in reaching this milestone. We thank them for diligently working to advance the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” says Charles Wilson, chairman of the Southern California Water Committee. “We look forward to advancing the plan and the environmental review process, knowing that it will bring new reliability to our statewide water supply while protecting a critical ecosystem.”
• “It’s disappointing in this day and age that we have to continue to discuss whether large, expensive tunnels with no environmental safeguards and many harmful impacts are the right solution for California’s water troubles. We don’t need 19th century solutions to today’s problems,” says Sierra Club California Senior Advocate Jim Metropulos.
“Governor Brown’s Delta tunnel proposal raises more questions than answers about how to address the state’s water problems.
“Californians need to know upfront how much water will be taken from the Delta by the massive tunnels, and how that will impact fish and wildlife and how any negative impacts will be mitigated or avoided. Right now, the science shows that some species, including the winter Chinook salmon, would be harmed by the construction of the tunnels. The project could make things worse for fish and wildlife than not doing anything at all.”
• “This new approach is a major step toward a real solution in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta,” says Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “For the first time since this effort began six years ago, we now have the basis of a coordinated, consolidated plan to achieve the joint goals of ecosystem restoration and reliable water supplies for the 25 million Californians who rely on Delta water. I remain committed to the BDCP process and fully support this action.”
• “Our water system is broken, but we are on the right path to bringing long-term water security to California,” says Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno. “Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar’s welcome announcement reiterates their commitment to moving forward with real, comprehensive solutions. Until my constituents no longer have to fight tooth and nail for every drop of water, I will keep fighting for the completion of the BDCP.”
• “For years, I have been fighting against water exportation that would hurt our community. This BDCP plan is a travesty for northern California and will decimate our region, costing millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. This development is a huge breach of the public trust. Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar have shown today that they have little regard for the people of San Joaquin County. The families, farmers, and small business owners in northern California stand to have their livelihoods destroyed. This will have ruinous consequences for our local economy at a time when we already struggle with record unemployment,” says Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.
• “Today’s proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan missed a golden opportunity to develop sound water policy, instead choosing politics over science. It will cost jobs, harm our environment and is a bad deal for Northern California,” says Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena. “All that we’ve insisted on is that any BDCP be based on sound science. Given the announced preferred alternative, this was apparently too much to ask. Before making irreversible decisions, we need a transparent, comprehensive and impartial discussion, with all stakeholders at the table, on how this would impact the farmers, fishers and businesses that depend on the Delta for their livelihoods.”
• “I am troubled by the tone of today’s announcement,” says Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. “If ‘getting it done’ means cutting corners, leaving out details, and getting ahead of the science, we’re not actually getting anything done – we’re just getting into a trap. There are parts of this proposal that are encouraging and are a step forward from previous efforts, but even after this morning’s announcement there’s a lot of work left to be done before any final decisions can be made. This process has to engage in the hard work of science – not just leap ahead before we know the impacts of this plan on the health and economy of the Bay-Delta and the communities that depend on it. Keep in mind what is at stake here – a badly designed plan can harm drinking water supplies, further endanger California’s salmon runs, and ruin the economic livelihood of tens of thousands in the fishing and related industries up and down our coast.”
• “To solve California’s water issues, northern California must be part of the decision making process. Unfortunately we were not. Imagine if San Francisco decided to build the Golden Gate Bridge without consulting Marin County? The 9,000 cfs facility being proposed is simply not acceptable. It will cause massive impacts in the Sacramento area and suck our river dry. There are still a lot of unaddressed issues, and it is my sincere hope they will be addressed before any BDCP moves forward,” says Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento. “This proposal will also put at risk Senior Water rights that Sacramento County and the Delta region hold. As the member of Congress that represents the Sacramento region, ‘home’ of the project’s massive infrastructure, I can tell you there are no benefits to Sacramento, only negative impacts.”
• “If the state rushes to build a 9,000 cfs water project without doing the science on how it would divert the river, then the Delta will suffer, and farming and fishing jobs that depend on it will be lost. California fishermen and fisherwomen are just recovering from three years of disaster, and now a 50-year permit is being rushed for water contractors for a project that would sell Northern California communities down the river. A plan this reckless will not succeed,” says Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.
• “The 9,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) conveyance facility being proposed could wreak havoc on the Delta and the jobs it sustains and put existing water rights in the Delta and Northern California at risk,” says Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield. “It is possible for California to solve its water problems, but the Delta and Northern California counties must be at the table, and it will take a comprehensive, multifaceted approach, not just a piece of plumbing in the Delta. We must address the needs of all Californians by prioritizing storage, conservation, recycling, levee improvements, and habitat restoration. A BDCP without these elements is incomplete at best.”
• “In nearly every corner of California, family farmers and ranchers have a stake in the outcome of delta decisions. So do the people in California, the United States and throughout the world who depend on the food and farm products grown by our farmers,” says California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger.
“Farmers will continue to use water as efficiently as they can to nourish their crops, replenish their soil and benefit the wildlife that lives on farmland,” he said, noting that since 1967, crop production in California has doubled, while farm water use has risen just 10 percent.
“But water efficiency has its limits,” Mr. Wenger says. “To sustain agricultural production to feed our growing population, California must add new surface water storage as a crucial element in resolving our state’s water problems.”
• "Today's announcement marks another milestone after six years of studies and significant investments by public water agencies. We congratulate the governor and the Interior secretary for their leadership in identifying more specific elements of a proposed plan and a path forward for this key process. We also applaud them for stressing the importance of achieving the coequal goals,” says Timothy Quinn, executive director of the statewide Association of California Water Agencies.
"As outlined in the framework, the BDCP includes significant levels of habitat restoration along with conveyance improvements to better protect fish and water supply reliability. That combination of habitat restoration and conveyance improvements distinguishes the BDCP from past efforts to address the Delta and makes this process our best option for meeting the coequal goals of improved ecosystem health and water supply reliability.
"This effort is vital to California's environment and economy. Though there is still much work to be done, progress is being made. We urge the governor and the secretary to keep the process on track and complete the BDCP in a way that works for the entire state."
• “The governor's plan is really just another top-down approach from Sacramento. Delta stakeholders have never really been invited to the table, even though it will significantly impact our economy and our way of life. My position has always been focused on the how, rather than just saying "no." I've been open to honest discussions as a representative of our region and a member of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, but sadly there has been no real effort by the Brown administration to reach consensus,” says Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Stockton.
“Most troubling of all is the fact that the administration did not conduct an economic feasibility or cost-benefit analysis before proposing this project. Administration officials have said in many public hearings that they don't plan to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis before implementing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” he says.