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Barbara Barrigan-Parilla and Robert Pyke: Yo Gov. Brown–fixing Delta levees IS feasible

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Sept. 21, 2012
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546 [email protected]; Twitter: @shopcraft;
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; @RestoretheDelta

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Barbara Barrigan-Parilla and Robert Pyke:

Yo Gov. Brown–fixing Delta levees IS feasible

By Barbara Barrigan-Parilla and Robert Pyke
Special to the Mercury News Published 09/21/2012

Click here to read online

In an interview at the San Jose Mercury News, Gov. Jerry Brown recently stated that restoring Delta levees is not “feasible” as an alternative to constructing Peripheral Tunnels. But Restore the Delta and engineering and economic experts strongly disagree with his advisers at the California Resources Agency, like Deputy Resources Secretary Jerry Meral, who appear to be misinforming him about the alternatives to building the tunnels.

It is a whopper to pretend that Delta levees are in imminent danger of collapse from earthquakes or other events. While there is some risk, it is relatively low. It is time to stop relying on the earthquake bogey to justify building the Peripheral Tunnels. The director of the U.S. Geological Service recently apologized for inflammatory comments about earthquake risk, and the Resources Agency should follow suit.

Delta levees can and should be further improved because a robust Delta levee system serves multiple goals, including improving water supply reliability. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan intended to justify building tunnels does little or nothing to restore a more natural flow needed by fish in the Delta, and it makes no provision for dealing with a six-year drought.

The Economic Sustainability Plan published by the Delta Protection Commission illustrates that levee repairs are necessary even if the twin Peripheral Tunnels are built. The levees protect 4 million people who live behind them.

If a catastrophe were to occur in the Delta, 100 percent of the loss of life and 80 percent of the economic loss would be shouldered by the people of the Delta region.

The levees are also needed to protect $20 billion in infrastructure including railroads, gas lines, power facilities and highways. According to the Economic Sustainability Plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta issued in January, “[A] large investment in strengthening the Delta’s levee and emergency response systems is a cost-effective approach to improving water supply reliability, economic sustainability in the Delta, and reliable energy, transportation, and water infrastructure that serves statewide interests.”

Shoring up Delta levees is a far more cost-effective way than Peripheral Tunnels to ensure water reliability for the state and preserve environmental and economic stability for the greater Delta. Levee rehabilitation can be done for a $2 billion to $4 billion rather than the $20 billion or so estimated for the tunnel conveyance under the Delta. The governor is ignoring solid evidence of the best and most cost-effective methods to manage our water resources. Instead he is supporting a project that favors the largest corporate agribusiness growers of the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Rather than relying on false arguments for constructing the Peripheral Tunnels, the governor — and water executives such as Beau Goldie of the Santa Clara Valley Water District — should be focusing on the real issues and more cost-effective solutions to restore the Delta ecosystem and to provide a sustainable water supply to Silicon Valley and all of California.

Robert Pyke, Ph.D., G.E., is a consulting engineer and Barbara Barrigan-Parilla is executive director of Restore the Delta. They wrote this for this newspaper.

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