by Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla and Tim Stroshane
Restore the Delta
Remember back in May of 2015 when Jerry Brown suggested critics of his Delta Tunnels plan should “shut up?”
Well, now Californians for Water Security are also asking SF Bay-Delta activists to please shut up. That’s not surprising coming from an astroturf lobbying campaign, launched with the support of the Paramount Farming/The Wonderful Company (Resnick). See the email traffic on group’s founding, released under the California Public Records Act.
What caused this new round of scolding by backers of the Delta Tunnels?
Most recently, they were upset about the news we released on a state-funded, economic analysis that found the Delta Tunnels are not feasible without huge subsidies from taxpayers. The media – who had always been told the Delta Tunnels would be paid for by water users – jumped on the story. The Associated Press story became international news and has currently been picked up by at least 437 outlets.
In response, Californian’s for Water Security whined, “Once again, Restore the Delta is distorting reality in an attempt to stop one of the most necessary projects in our state’s history.” Our crime? Sharing an economic analysis of the Delta Tunnels by a UC Berkeley economist that had never been released to the public. (Thank you, California Public Records Act!)
But they were even more infuriated that Restore the Delta (represented by Earthjustice) submitted detailed testimony at the California Water Resources Control Board from the communities that will be most affected by Governor Brown’s Delta Tunnels proposal. Our testimony comes from farmworkers, Native Americans, subsistence and recreational fishers, and residents of economically distressed Delta cities and towns who fear the Tunnels’ devastating impacts on their livelihoods and ways of life. Their testimony puts human faces on the impacts of this boondoggle for the first time. It’s a fantastic read; we hope you get the time to take a look. This project took months of hard work to complete.
Again, Californians for Water Security sent out an angry statement, “WaterFix has been studied and reviewed for over a decade by the state’s leading scientists, water and environmental experts and represents the only viable plan to protect our water supplies and the Delta.”
Here is our response to Californians for Water Security’s attacks on our claims.
• The proposed facilities are contrary to state water policy.
The Delta Reform Act (Section 85021) instructs the state to reduce reliance on the Delta and employ other techniques and technologies to enable Californians to meet their future water needs elsewhere than from Delta exports. CWF environmental documents are full of passages and modeling results that indicate that current levels of Delta exports would be maintained, not reduced by the Tunnels’ operation. In one scenario, they increase over present levels. As we state in our testimony to the Board, there was no scientific analysis provided in any of the same environmental documents that indicated how the Tunnels project meets the requirement of reducing reliance on the Delta.
• The proposed facilities represent a new water right, not a mere change to an existing right.
The permits under which the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project operate were for specific facilities, like the upstream dams, the Delta Cross Channel, and the Banks and Jones pumping plants. There was originally a diversion point at Hood in the north Delta, that DWR tried to make into the intake for the Peripheral Canal. Voters rejected that diversion point when they rejected Proposition 9, the Peripheral Canal referendum, in June 1982. The Tunnels’ “change petition” is attempting to finesse this point by arguing that the three new diversions for the Tunnels project would make no significant change in how much water gets exported. Their case before the State Water Board ignores the fact that both the Canal and now the Tunnels would physically remove water that now flows through the Delta to the south Delta pumping plants and would deplete Delta channels and sloughs of fresh water essential to their ecological wellbeing. That is a new diversion.
• The project would alter flow and water quality with significant negative impacts on Delta agriculture and employment.
Numerous modeling results show the proportion of water from San Joaquin River flows, laden with selenium, pesticides, boron, and other pollutants, increasing in the Delta. Modeling results show, further, that harmful salinity will increase in parts of the north, south, and west Delta while salinity of Delta exports at Banks and Jones pumping plants improve. It’s plain from the Tunnels’ own modeling results in evidence before the Board.
Californians for Water Security ignores that the SWP and CVP’s inability to meet existing water quality objectives has already failed to protect water users in the western and southern Delta, and failed to protect the imperiled fish species that continue to live in the Delta, against all odds.
They also ignore East Bay MUD’s and Sacramento County Water Agency’s legitimate concerns that their drinking water diversion point at Freeport, a few miles upstream of the Tunnels project, could be harmed by reverse flows that are expected to increase in frequency if the Tunnels intakes are built and operated in the north Delta. Yes, reverse flows would be lessened in the south Delta channels of Old and Middle Rivers, but the Tunnels’ intakes would introduce more reverse flows into the north Delta. It is the removal of fresh water at the Tunnels intakes that would contribute to this problem. How is the spreading of reverse flows to new areas that would be caused by “dual conveyance” of water project exports a way to “improve Delta conveyance” as called for by the Delta Reform Act?
Rest assured, as Restore the Delta activists, we don’t plan on shutting up. In fact, we are thrilled that the Pro-Tunnels Lobby has helped bring more attention to our excellent testimony. And thank you to the hired political operatives who are busy tweeting about us and bringing us new supporters.
That’s the difference between Restore the Delta and Californians for Water Security. We aren’t just a PR group sitting on the sidelines name calling out of desperation to discredit our opponents. We do real research; we work with real people on the ground who live and work in the Delta; and, unlike Californians for Water Security, we have the knowledge, organizational ability, and confidence to present our work under oath.
Delta People Should Shut Up, Again
by Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla and Tim Stroshane