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Peripheral Tunnel Opponents Debunk State’s Effort to Distance New Project from Peripheral Canal

For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; [email protected]  Twitter: @shopcraft
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

Peripheral Tunnel Opponents Debunk State’s Effort to
Distance New Project from Peripheral Canal
New Project is Massive, Costly and Flawed Just Like the Old Project,
BDCP is NOT a 21st Century Strategy but more like a 19th Century One

While both the 1982 Peripheral Canal and the 2012 BDCP are flawed strategies, as no estuary has ever been healed in the history of the world by having its primary freshwater source diverted from itself, the California Resources Agency’s listed benefits for the 2012 BDCP in its document BDCP – A 21st Century Strategy are nothing more than propaganda points.  Their document obfuscates the history behind the peripheral canal and the flaws within the current BDCP proposal.

“The Resources Agency compares its flawed Peripheral tunnels project to its prior fatally flawed Peripheral Canal project and concludes that the new version is better than the old. That’s like saying you’re better off with terminal cancer than leukemia,” says Restore the Delta Executive Director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla in response to the 2012 BDCP – A 21st Century Strategy. “Both projects would prove fatal to the health of the Delta, the San Francisco Bay and California’s salmon and other fisheries. There are better solutions than remodeling an outdated water project.”

Here are some of the flaws in “BDCP – A 21st Century Strategy,” the California Resources Agency’s attempt to distance the Peripheral Tunnels from the Peripheral Canal:

Conveyance:  While 35 miles of underground tunnels are less of an eyesore than 35 miles of an open canal, the apparatus used to divert the majority of the Sacramento River from the estuary will still result in a dewatering of the estuary.

While the proposed 1982 peripheral canal had numerous flaws, the turnouts proposed along the canal would have allowed for at least some fresh water freshening of the estuary.  Such consideration for water quality has been eliminated in the BDCP 2012 plan. That’s actually a step backward.

Conveyance Type:  The 2012 BDCP allows for through-Delta operations via dual conveyance.  In other words, water will be diverted at the top end of the Delta, and the minimum amounts of freshwater allowed to pass through the Delta will be diverted by the existing pumps at Tracy without improvements in fish screening.

Consequently, the Delta will be more deprived of needed fresh water flows than it is even in the present, and the fish entrainment problem at the current pumps will continue.

Capacity:  1982 called for 21,800 cfs in terms of water transport capacity.  On the current document, the capacity is listed as 9000 cfs, although the tunnels can move 15,000 cfs.  What is to stop the Resources Agency from adding additional intakes to bolster capacity?  On an average summer day, the Sacramento River flows at about 14,000 cfs at Hood.

Intakes and fish screens:  The 1982 Peripheral Canal called for 1 intake.  The 2012 BDCP calls for 3 intakes.  What leaders at the Department of Fish and Game do not know is how well fish can recover from each intake encounter.  Will fish have the strength to make it past 3 intakes?  Also, the fish screens needed for this new system have yet to be designed. The proposed fish screens for the Peripheral tunnels are completely untested. No one should make the same mistake of relying on assurances that the screens will protect fish populations. That same empty promise was made for the Tracy pump fish screens that kill millions of fish every single year.

Regulatory Control:  The regulatory controls for the 1982 peripheral canal project are part of the endangered species protection law in the present and should be followed for current pumping operations.  The problem is that the California Resources Agency and the State Water Resources Control Board failed to enforce these laws.  The 2012 BDCP touts recovery of fish species as the new end goal, along with balance for beneficial uses of exported water.  Why would Californians anticipate that these same agencies will improve in the enforcement arena?  In fact, it would be more cost effective for the citizens of California and water rate payers if these same agencies would begin enforcing existing species and water quality laws, rather than pursue a massive, flawed Peripheral Tunnels project.

Habitat Conservation and Natural Community Planning.  The newly added Habitat Conservation Plan to the 2012 BDCP in itself will not restore the Delta.  Habitat without adequate freshwater flows will not restore fisheries.

Then and Now: The Resources Agency list goals, approaches, and new information as having improved under the BDCP.  This is perhaps the most ludicrous part of their claims, as development in these areas has taken place outside of the BDCP.

Storage:  Improvements have been made  as a result of local water projects.  In fact, BDCP will divert needed funding from many more local projects throughout California that could actually add more water to the state system.

Environmental Goals/Protections:  The exact same agencies will be in charge of environmental protections for the BDCP as are presently responsible for the health of Delta fisheries.  Rewriting a plan will not bring about proper enforcement.

Delta Reliance:  Reduced reliance on the Delta falls under the Delta Plan and work of the Delta Stewardship Council and is not part of the BDCP.

Water Conservation:  SB7x is legislation that will be implemented that is independent of the BDCP.  Funding the BDCP will divert water agency and public money from important conservation projects that will actually make more water for the system.

Water rights:  Are granted and enforced by the State Water Resources Control Board, independent of the BDCP.

Siesmic, Sea Level Rise, and Subsidence Risk. While climate change science is new since 1982, and geological science makes advances each year, a good deal of Delta science has been conducted by institutes and engineering firms that will profit from re-engineering the Delta.  Delta experts on levees, and earthquakes have been left out of research and planning within the BDCP process.

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