≡ Categories

OPINION: Peripheral tunnel plan wouldn’t save the delta

In case you missed it…

The Press-Enterprise

OPINION: Peripheral tunnel plan wouldn’t save the delta

By Barbara Barrigan-Parrillla
Published February 28, 2013

In response to The Press-Enterprise editorial “Shore up state’s imperiled water supply” (Our Views, Feb. 17):

Implementation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would not help augment a tightening water supply. The entire peripheral tunnels project is based on a series of myths generated by a few huge water-takers who get most of the water for unsustainable farming on arid land.

The people of the Inland Empire have a deep interest in getting a fair solution as they are the ones whose water bills will increase the most. The taxpayers of the south pay the debt for the water facilities while much of the water is virtually donated to the agribusiness giants of Kern.

Building two tunnels 40 feet in diameter will not make more water for Central Valley farmers or urban residents in Southern California. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan estimates costs of $23 billion for construction, habitat restoration, and monitoring and adaptive management. Add to that debt servicing costs of $1.1 billion per year for 35 years. Two-thirds of the water taken from the delta will go to land-rich mega-farmers and billionaires in Westlands, Kern and Semitropic water districts, many of whom will water cotton, almonds and other permanent, water-intensive crops, planted on arid land. These mega-farms represent about 1 percent of the population and 1 to 2 percent of the state’s economy. And they still want more water from the delta. Large portions of these crops are for export to India and China. The billionaires will sell some of the water to desert developers.
The reason delta fisheries are in crisis is because of over-exporting of water, so building a new project to export even more water is no solution. When the State Water Project was brought on board more than 40 years ago, the supply for new water was not developed on the state’s wild and scenic rivers. Instead, the Department of Water Resources, the Department of Fish and Game, and the State Water Resources Control Board failed to enforce the law, and allowed years and years of over-pumping from the delta, thereby ruining the water habitat needed by fish. More harm was caused by pumping facilities not properly screened to protect delta smelt and other native fish species. The State Water Resources Control Board has promised to water users eight times more in water rights than exists in actual water supply in the system.

The truth is that changing the point of diversion will not magically bring back fish or put more water back into the system for fish or water users. California experiences drought about one-third of the time, and with climate change, the frequency of drought will increase. Are we willing through taxes and higher water rates to pay $60 billion for two regularly-dry tunnels? And when water is flowing, are we willing to dewater the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the Americas so that corporate growers on the west and southern sides of the San Joaquin Valley, who receive 70 percent of the water taken from the delta, can continue growing unsustainable, subsidized crops like almonds for export?

In addition, the technology for the fish screens at the new intakes has not yet been designed. The Department of Fish and Game does not know if fish will recover passing three intakes. And, as the plan currently calls for continued pumping from the existing facilities during dry periods, without proper fish screening (which water contractors were supposed to pay for 20 years ago), fish will continue to be killed in large numbers as a result of water exports.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan at best can be called a pipe dream. It’s time for our elected officials, like Gov. Jerry Brown, to get serious and realistic about solving California’s water issues. Reclamation, recycling, ground water clean-up, storm water management, and large scale conservation projects will actually make thousands of jobs for Californians while creating a new water supply. Making each region in California as water independent as possible through local water projects will not only help to restore the delta, but it will actually secure California’s water future.

Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • June 12, 2013, 8:50 pm

    Please tell me where I can get signs to put in front of my house -save the Delta, stop the
    tunnels, signs I am SO against the tunnels and the terrible destruction and devastation they
    would cause.

  • Richard L Smith
    September 18, 2013, 3:22 am

    I am retired from the City of Philadelphia living in the Delta (Rio Vista) since 2007. I am a wildlife amateur concentrating on water fowl and birds of prey. I am dead set against this tunnel project for environmental issues more than the purported economic issues but the greed of the mega corporations has got my blood aboilin’. They tried a similar situation in that they wanted to expand the Phila. Int’l airport but keep it in the city. Phila. county and Delaware County along with the Tinicum Wildlife Preserve (now the John Heinz Wildlife Preserve) abut each other. They expanded the airport but they had to expand into Tinicum Twp (Delaware County) The voters contacted each and every city and state politician and told them if the measure passed, they should seek employment elsewhere at the end of their term. They weren’t happy that they could not keep the money in Philadelphia, but the tact worked. The preserve is alive and flourishing and , in fact, has itself expanded into both counties. Perhaps we should utilize the same strategy. We’ve nothing to lose. In re Gov. Brown excluding the press from a public meeting reeks of illegality, we have a legal “right to know” I will join the fight, financially if need be. Richard John Lawrence Smith

  • Richard L Smith
    September 18, 2013, 3:25 am

    It should have read …I am an amateur photographer…etc. That’s what happens when you’re seeing red!