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Experts: Latest BDCP Proposal Still “Fatally Flawed”

Experts: Latest BDCP Proposal Still “Fatally Flawed”
No Cost-Benefit Analysis of Alternatives;
Dewatering the Delta billed as “Conservation Measure”

SACRAMENTO, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition opposed to the Brown Administration’s rush to construct massive Peripheral Tunnels to take millions of acre-feet of water from the Delta, today said the revised BDCP proposal for Peripheral Tunnels to export Sacramento/San Joaquin/San Francisco Bay Delta water, mainly to benefit unsustainable mega-farms on the west side of the Central Valley, is still “fatally flawed.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta said, “In its rush to build a project that would exterminate salmon runs, destroy sustainable family farms and saddle taxpayers with tens of billions in debt, mainly to benefit a small number of huge corporate agribusinesses on the west side of the Central Valley, the Administration has yet to complete a valid cost-benefit analysis of its Tunnels and seriously examine alternative solutions.”

BDCP is rigging a cost-benefit analysis of the proposal by refusing to include alternatives, and excluding some costs that would fall on water ratepayers. How much will rates need to increase if this project moves forward?

“This project will still cost billions upon billions of dollars to give ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer and ratepayer subsidized water to corporate agriculture and real estate developers to make millions upon millions in profits. California will not go dry without these tunnels. There are no guarantees that southern California residents will even receive more water,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The proposal takes a build it now, figure it out later approach. But after billions are spent building new tunnels, the pressure would be overwhelming to maximize water exports no matter the consequences on Delta communities and fisheries.”

Two-thirds of Delta water exports go to support 0.3-0.4% of the California economy (GDP) on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Less than a third goes to areas representing two-thirds of the state’s population and economy. “Why would anyone choose to sacrifice family farms on prime farmland in the Delta in order to send subsidized water to grow subsidized crops on the impaired soils of west side plantations, whose owners live in Pacific Heights and Beverly Hills? Why would we use two and a half times the water to grow an almond in the west side of the Valley than is required to grow an almond in Butte County?” asked Barrigan-Parrilla. “The ‘tunnels’ represent more than simply a transfer of good quality water around the Delta. They also represent the largest transfer of private wealth in our history.”

The common people will pay for the tunnels and a few people will make millions. It will turn a Delta waterway, already in crisis, into a sewer pipe. It will be bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California.

“The administration’s proposal continues to fail to incorporate what’s now the overwhelming scientific consensus that fish in the Estuary need more fresh water. Even though the number of intakes has been reduced from 5 to 3, the total amount of water that can be pumped from the Delta is virtually the same. Decisions on how much water would be pumped would be made only after tens of billions of dollars are spent on the intakes and tunnels. Pressure would be unstoppable to over-pump the Delta,” said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, ,

Jennings also added, “BDCP is a recipe for ecological disaster. California is in a water crisis because the State has over-promised, over-allocated, wasted and inequitably distributed scarce water resources. The Delta is in a biological meltdown because the estuary has been deprived of more than half of its historical water flow; its hydrograph has been turned on its head and its waterways used as sewers.

“This project threatens the collapse of Delta and longfin smelt; American and threadfin shad; split tail; Fall, late-Fall, Winter and Spring runs of salmon; steelhead, green and white sturgeon, striped and large mouth bass; as well the lower tropic levels that comprise the food chain. BDCP is predicated on taking more water from or around the estuary. And taking more water from it cannot restore an ecosystem that is hemorrhaging because of a lack of flow. The National Research Council, the Independent Science Board, NGO scientists and the fishery agencies agree that the project would hasten extinction rather than restoring species. Faced with overwhelming criticism, BDCP went back to the drawing boards and came forth with the desperate idea of building it now and figuring out how to operate it later. As presently outlined, BDCP is not a path to restoration – it’s a death sentence for one of the world’s great estuaries.”

The earlier draft outlined 19 Conservation Measures. The first Conservation Measure (CM1) was Water Facilities and Operation. We will be interested to see how operating peripheral tunnels to take large amounts of fresh water can possibly be framed as a conservation measure when Delta habitat has been transformed into a place hostile to native species by reductions in flows of fresh water.  

RTD questions how independent the science will be.Even the Delta Independent Science Board told the Delta Stewardship Council that it is concerned that the BDCP “favors combat science” and would likely “yield further fragmentation in Delta science and decision-making.”

BDCP is still not considering any alternatives for meeting the coequal goals except the peripheral tunnels, although there are several that could be evaluated. We still don’t expect BDCP’s consulting economist, Dr. David Sunding, to be given the latitude to do a really comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. We wonder about how this process can move forward to the EIR/EIS stage when the Department of Water Resources has not been able to collect geotechnical data necessary to design the tunnels under the Delta.

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