For Immediate Release: 10/30/2105
Contact: Brian Smith, 415-320-9384, [email protected]
30,000 Californians Speak Out Against the Delta Tunnels
Voters rejected Peripheral Canal in 1982 – This time? No public vote
Sacramento – At a press conference held on the steps of the State Capitol today, a coalition of citizens groups and elected leaders gave their “closing argument” against the proposed, Delta Tunnels. Controversy over the project has only grown since the Draft EIR was rebuffed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers in the fall of 2014.
On July 10, 2015 a Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIR/SDEIS) was released and a new round of public comments began. Today – on the last day of the comment period – the coalition announced 30,000 comments were submitted by California individuals and organizations AGAINST the re-proposed Delta Tunnels plan.
At a rally on the steps of the State Capitol, speakers explained how the new Recirculated EIR will violate the Delta Reform Act of 2009, the federal Clean Water Act, the federal Endangered Species Act, the California Constitution, and numerous administrative codes under CEQA and NEPA. The environmental report is once again incomplete and inadequate after nine years and one-quarter of a billion dollars has been spent.
Speakers asked Governor Brown to listen to Californians and end his push for the Delta Tunnels, once and for all. Speakers explained how the Delta Tunnels will continue the trend towards centralization of the state’s water supply, at a time when regional resilience should be the goal. They suggested redirecting state investment towards building and expanding local water sustainability projects like groundwater recharging, water recycling, and expanding urban conservation programs that have been so successful this year.
Quotes from Today’s Speakers
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta:
(Full comment available here)
“Today we are proud to announce that 30,000 Californians, from every background, have submitted public comments against the Delta Tunnels! Governor Brown, the people of California are not convinced. We have done our homework and read the 48,000 pages you asked us to when you told us to “Shut Up.” We have decided we do not want to spend $60 billion to export more water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary to the top one-percent of big industrial growers and special interest water districts. We do not want a project that does not meet Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act standards. We do not want a project that will decimate our regional economy. What we do want is sustainable solutions to California's water challenges based on recycling, conservation, stormwater capture, groundwater recharge, and local water projects that create jobs.”
State Senator Cathleen Galgiani
“Notwithstanding the recent changes to the tunnel plan, I must remain opposed to it for both economic and environmental reasons. The research has convincingly demonstrated how the tunnel plan is not economically justified and is financially infeasible without a substantial taxpayer subsidy. Many of the reported benefits of the “WaterFix” project include unrealistic and inaccurate comparisons of conditions without the tunnels. It is imperative that we look at many options with regards to long-term water policy. Any long-term plan including Delta tunnels will need to provide much more compelling economic, environmental and increased water supply arguments in order to be beneficial to the Delta and the State.”
Robert Wright, Senior Counsel, Friends of the River
“This is an emergency. The San Francisco Bay-Delta is in peril. Extinction is forever. This Tunnels project must either be dropped, or the ‘Water Fix’ agencies must issue new, honest documents under the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Policy Act that will disclose the cons of the Water Tunnels as well as tout the claimed pros and thus serve as a basis for meaningful review and consideration by the public. The lying has to stop.”
Tim Sloane, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations:
"It's not rocket science: our salmon and our Delta Estuary need fresh water to survive. The Tunnels would hijack that water and deprive all but a fraction of Californians of its benefits. It's just a big straw with public trust resources on the Delta end, and industrial agribusiness sucking on the other."
Conner Everts, Executive Director of the Environmental Water Caucus:
“We have shown through mandatory conservation we can achieve permanent reductions. Since 1978, despite millions of new residents, Californians have reduced urban water consumption by almost 25 percent. When people learn water conservation strategies, those reductions become permanent. We have existing solutions – local projects with local jobs that will increase efficiency while reducing demand and leave more water for the environment. In preparation for El Niño, we should deploy water capture programs that provide thousands of local jobs and build local water supplies.”
Espe Vielma, Environmental Justice Advisory Group for the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District:
“It's sad that there were few public comments from the Environmental Justice community. Forty percent of Californians speak languages other than English at home. Our communities cannot comment on what they cannot read. Did the Delta Tunnels agencies refuse to translate the plan because too many Spanish speakers would join the fight to stop the tunnels?”
Recent News on the Delta Tunnels Proposal
No Guarantees for Water Users, Huge Expense
Federal and state environmental agencies still must sign off, and opponents could file lawsuits to block construction. While the plan doesn’t need the Legislature’s approval, political opposition from Northern California could interfere. Some of the cities and farm districts paying for the system have hesitations about steep costs.
Risky Economic Gamble
All this adds up to a “hugely risky project” for those water users, said Jeff Michael, an economist with the University of the Pacific’s Center for Business and Policy Research and a longtime tunnels critic. “There is so much uncertainty about the water yield and the return on investment,” Michael said. “It’s a massive risk for them.
Salt Water Intrusion Increasing in the Delta
State officials say they are struggling to keep portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta fresh as saltier water from the San Francisco Bay pushes inland during another summer of drought….The state Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation earlier this year asked regulators to temporarily weaken certain salinity standards in the west Delta to hold back more bay water. The request was granted.
AP/Orange County Register
Tunnels Would Increase Water Exports from Imperiled Delta
“On average, for the last decade and a half more than half of the freshwater that would have flowed into the Delta or through the Delta no longer does. One of the things that has done is through the estuary it has created chronic manmade drought conditions," said Swanson. "As far as the estuary is concerned, as far as the fish and the ecosystem are concerned, the estuary has been in a drought. In fact, in the last 15 years it's been in a very, very severe drought. California has been in a drought for the past several years. The Delta's been in a drought for decades."
Christina Swanson, Ph.D. Director, Science Center NRDC at California Senate Hearing
Big Agriculture Seeks to Drain the Sacramento River for Profits
The once-mighty San Joaquin River now runs dry for part of the year thanks to pumping, and Central Valley farmers have nearly pumped their groundwater dry. Why should the Sacramento River be different?
The Tunnels Will Imperil Protected Species and Will Be Rejected, Again
This water diversion scheme isn’t legal, since federal agencies are not permitted to adversely alter critical habitat that is explicitly protected for the recovery of these endangered fish. Such blatant disregard for the Endangered Species Act will certainly make this project ripe for litigation.
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity in Central Valley Business Times
The New Plan Makes Even Less Sense than the First Version
Launched in April and dubbed California WaterFix, this plan will cost more, provide less water than originally envisioned (but more than pumped south now), restore less than half of the delta habitat than proposed, take longer to build and, most notably, lack the 50-year guarantee of water deliveries that made the old plan attractive.
San Francisco Chronicle
State Agencies Already Planning Eminent Domain Takings
State contractors have readied plans to acquire as many as 300 farms in the California delta by eminent domain to make room for a pair of massive, still-unapproved water tunnels proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to documents obtained by opponents of the tunnels…
AP/US News and World Report
State Agencies Already Seeking Permits, Before Comment Period Ends
Federal and California agencies have filed some of the first permit applications for a proposed project involving the construction of twin 30-mile tunnels to help carry water from the northern to southern and central regions of the state, officials said Thursday.
Tunnel opponents say the state should wait for assessment of the environmental impact on the delta, and federal environmental approval of the overall project, before moving ahead.
Retiring Marginal Lands Would Be Much Cheaper and Free Up Water
By stopping irrigation of all of the salt-polluted land that’s in the “San Luis Unit” – a large portion of the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, California residents could benefit from significantly reduced toxic runoff into the Delta, and increased supplies of precious and scarce water that can be put to better uses, according to a report from the environmental research firm EcoNorthwest of Seattle, Wash.
Central Valley Business Times
So Cal Water Agencies Seeking to buy up Delta Farms for the Tunnels
Two of California’s largest and most aggressive water agencies have discussed buying four islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, prompting accusations by environmentalists and Delta farmers that the land purchases could be used to engineer a south state water grab.