Environmental groups assail governor’s Delta tunnels
January 30, 2017
• File lengthy objections to massive construction plan
• “The Tunnels project is analogous to a line of credit or sub-prime loan”
The Environmental Water Caucus, a group of more than 20 environmental organizations, has filed a lengthy list of objections to Gov. Edmund Gerald Brown Jr.’s plan to drain fresh water out of the Sacramento River before it could flow into the California Delta.
The water would be shipped in twin underground tunnels from near Courtland to the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project to then be sold to growers in the San Joaquin Valley and urban users in Southern California.
The Environmental Water Caucus comments have been filed as part of the final Delta tunnels environmental impact report and statement.
The EWC says the government agencies pushing the plan “have cherry-picked their preferred provisions of the 2009 Delta Reform Act.”
It says the government is ignoring the law that says it is the policy of the state of California to reduce reliance on the Delta for California’s future water needs.
Written in lawyerly prose, the environmental groups essentially say the government agencies behind the tunnels have been slavishly doing the bidding of the state’s most powerful water agencies.
If the tunnels are built, they could cost as much as $68 billion, including interest on the money borrowed to pay for the work.
Unlike the governor’s ill-fated Peripheral Canal of the 1980s, the tunnels, essentially an underground version of the canal, will not have a vote of the people. Instead, the water agencies stuck with the cost will be allowed to pass along those costs in the form of higher water rates.
The $68 billion is an estimate given several years ago by an independent economist who has studied the proposal. But no one knows what the cost will really be, says the EWC filing, because “since after 10 years of planning, there is still no financing plan for various sources of funds” for the tunnels.
“If surface water management may be analogous to use of a checking account, and groundwater supplies a savings account, then EWC suggests that the Tunnels project is analogous to a line of credit or sub-prime loan that would encourage greater transfers of surface water through cross-Delta (north-to-south) water transfers at the expense of groundwater without the reliable prospect of surface recharge to the Sacramento Valley aquifers in the future,” the EWC says. “The Tunnels would encourage consumptive uses of imported water south-of-Delta that would not be sustainable.”
The Environmental Water Caucus includes the following organizations: AquAlliance; Butte Environmental Council; California Coastkeeper Alliance; California Save Our Streams Council; California Sportfishing Protection Alliance; California Striped Bass Association; California Water Impact Network (C-WIN); California Water Research Associates; Center for Biological Diversity; Citizens Water Watch; Clean Water Action; Desal Response Group; Earth Law Center; Environmental Justice Coalition for Water; Environmental Protection Information Center; Environmental Working Group; Food & Water Watch; Foothill Conservancy; Friends of the River; Karuk Tribe; Klamath Riverkeeper; North Coast Stream Flow Coalition; Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers; Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations; Planning and Conservation League; Restore the Delta; Sacramento River Preservation Trust; San Mateo County Democracy for America; Save the American River Association; Save the Bay Association; Sierra Club, California; Sierra Nevada Alliance; Southern California Watershed Alliance; the Bay Institute, and, Winnemem Wintu Tribe.