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Restore the Delta Calls on Governor Brown to Back “Clean Water Bond All Californians Can Support”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; [email protected]; Twitter: @shopcraft; @MrSandHillCrane; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

Restore the Delta Calls on Governor Brown to Back
“Clean Water Bond All Californians Can Support”

SACRAMENTO – Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s plan to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries called on Gov. Brown to back a “clean water bond” for the November 2014 ballot that does not include any taxpayer funding for mitigating the damage from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). Such funding includes habitat and water acquisitions to facilitate the BDCP and/or mitigate damage by the BDCP’s water export Tunnels. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said, “California desperately needs a new sustainable water policy and a bond measure that invests in conservation policies that have broad and deep support. We call on Gov. Brown to leave tunnels mitigation out of a water bond.”

“In records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the BDCP appears to plan to use bond funds to help fund purchases over the next 50 years of up to 1.3 million acre feet of water annually from upstream areas, such as the Sacramento Valley. These purchases are supposed to make up for over-pumping for the new water export Tunnels,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “This provision would become a referendum on the tunnels project and would likely doom the water bond to failure, leaving us with no progress on our need for drought resilient water projects.”

“In bond provisions labeled as BDCP ‘restoration’ and ‘habitat’ funding, the public would pay to purchase so called ‘enhanced environmental flow’ water from previously identified districts in the Upper Sacramento River Basin – leading to the devastation of their groundwater supplies. That same water would be diverted into the new BDCP Tunnels before it flows into the heart of the Delta,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.

“Mega-growers within Westlands and Kern County are depending on public subsidies to make the BDCP pencil out. The public purchase of ‘environmental’ water with bond funds has already been shown to be a waste. From 2000-2007, an ‘environmental water account’ was set up and spent nearly $200 million in public funds as the species crashed and the State Water Project over pumped the Delta, creating, huge profits for private landowners like billionaire Stewart Resnick. The voters will not agree to that kind of waste and profiteering again,” Barrigan-Parrilla added.

In addition, BDCP water exporters are relying on the public, through a combination of state and federal funds and two successive state water bonds, to pay $7.824 billion (before interest in today’s dollars) toward the cost of BDCP. The draft BDCP describes how state bond measures would provide $3.759 billion in funds to carry out the project. Taxpayers, through other state and federal funding allocations, would also pay the remaining $4 billion needed for the estimated $25 billion dollar project. With the water exporters paying for the cost of the water export Tunnels through increased water rates to families, the public would pay additionally through taxes for the cost of creating more than 140,000 acres of experimental habitat, on Delta farmland, the largest strip of prime farmland in California.

“According to independent scientific reviews, BDCP habitat is unlikely to yield the benefits assumed by BDCP, in part because the Tunnels will starve the Delta of needed fresh water flows. The BDCP water export Tunnels will remove life-giving flows of high quality water through the Delta. The massive acquisition of farmland for habitat is a ruse to justify building the BDCP Tunnels, and the water exporters are planning to stick the taxpayers with that bill,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla.

Restore the Delta calls on Governor Brown support the following three principles in the 2014 water bond:

Remove all funding for Delta habitat and water purchases tied to the BDCP. Funding actions needed by the still draft, unfinished BDCP will take away funding from other crucial water projects that will make California drought resilient. Taxpayers should not be expected to pay to restore habitat or purchase paper “environmental” water to make the Tunnels appear to be an environmental project.

Support levee improvement funding in order to upgrade Delta levees to the minimum PL194-99 standards. The Governor needs to recognize that if there is a catastrophic event in the Delta, one hundred percent of the loss of life and 80% of the economic loss will fall on the Delta region. Levees protect statewide water supplies and provide local flood protection. Regional infrastructure worth billions of dollars (roads, railroads, electric transmission lines, gas lines) is also at risk. The State claims to be worried about an earthquake in the Delta, yet inexplicably is focused not on shoring up the Delta’s earthquake defenses, but on building Peripheral Tunnels to “protect” the water exported. The State has forgotten that 4 million people live in the five Delta Counties and need to be protected from a catastrophic flood event.

Support conservation and local water supply and treatment projects throughout California to make the state more water resilient and less dependent on Delta exports.

We are calling on Governor Brown to support principles that will actually lead to more secure water supplies for all Californians, rather than endorsing a water exporter driven bond that will deliver only for certain special-interest water districts to the detriment of the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas.

“If the governor and Westlands mega-growers insist on including taxpayer subsidies for the tunnels mitigation in the water bond, it will become a vote of the people of California on the mammoth and destructive BDCP Tunnel project, estimated to cost a total of at least $54.1 billion after interest,” said Restore the Delta’s media consultant, Steve Hopcraft.

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