For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; [email protected]; Twitter: @shopcraft; @MrSandHillCrane; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta
EPA, Agencies’ Criticisms are Unresolvable, Need 7 More Permits;
Call for End to BDCP Secrecy
Westlands Settlement: Multimillion Giveaway to Industrial Farms
Sacramento, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD), Friends of the River (FOR) and California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today outlined the looming fight over the BDCP tunnels. The Tunnels face a wall of criticism from the EPA and other agencies that would have to approve the permit. The opponents identified seven additional required permits from agencies the governor does not control. Obtaining these permits is unlikely and impossible within the four years of the governor’s new term. The opponents charged that the EIR/EIS process has been fatally flawed due to its lack of public outreach to non-English speakers, failure to present a funding plan, exclusion of any non-tunnels alternative, and scientists’ identification of numerous “red flags.”
The tunnels’ opponents called upon Gov. Brown to “abandon the doomed project” and instead embrace a sustainable water solution that is fair to all Californians. That solution includes reducing Delta water exports, strengthening Delta levees, and investing in regional water independence through sustainable programs.
The EPA found in August that the tunnels violate the Clean Water Act, unrealistically assume that BDCP habitat projects would be 100% successful, and the tunnels conflict with the need to provide freshwater flows to the San Francisco Bay and salmon and other fisheries. The EPA also criticized BDCP’s inadequate financing plan, narrow range of alternatives to the tunnels, and many of the specific findings of the project’s effects.
“The EPA’s critical comments letter is a death sentence for the BDCP tunnels,” said Bob Wright, FOR Senior Counsel. “EPA has said the BDCP Water Tunnels would contribute to increased and persistent violations of water quality standards in the Delta. Greater freshwater flow through the Delta, not less freshwater flow, is needed. It is time to start over and for the BDCP agencies to stop hiding alternatives that would increase flows by reducing exports. The BDCP agencies continue their secrecy excluding the public by discussing the ‘scoping’ – what portions of the BDCP Draft documents will actually be revised and recirculated in 2015 for a new public review period — in secret. The water takers and their consultants participate and drive that process. The BDCP proponents tell the Big Lie that taking more water upstream will be good for the fish and the Delta, while concealing all contrary information from the public.”
Attorney Michael Jackson, a California water rights expert and C-WIN board member, said, “Even if the Brown Administration were to get a permit without the normal consultation process involving environmental and fisheries interests, there are still seven permits that would be required before this could be built. These permits are from agencies the governor does not control, they would take more than 4 years he has in office. These permits include new clean water standards; a water supply; a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers; and proving to the courts that the BDCP is the least environmentally damaging alternative.”
“The Administration must identify the water available for the pumps. Since 84% of the water in low-water years would have to be taken from the existing below-Delta pumps – clearly ending the fish killing is not the purpose of BDCP. When BDCP takes the fresh water that presently flows through the Delta from above the northern Delta boundary, they are going to cause legal harm to the farmers who currently draw water within the Delta. It is unlawful for the State to cause a change in water quality for those who farm in the Delta. The SWRCB is required to amend the water quality standards in the Delta to reflect the current conditions. They are going to have to make those changes before this project can be built. All of the hearings called for more outflow into the Bay, and BDCP agencies have no authority over that part of the process. The BDCP is very unlikely to win approval, and we urge the governor to turn his attention to projects that could win approval.”
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD, said that a proposed settlement of a lawsuit between federal agencies and the Westlands Water District should not be approved. Consensus has been reached between the Federal Government and Westlands, subject to approval, on potential terms for settlement regarding the management of drainage within the Westlands’ service area. As part of the negotiations it was agreed that the water supply to Westlands would be permanent and also have a much higher water delivery priority (roughly 800,000 acre feet per year). “The U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have previously concluded that the best solution to the drainage problem would be to retire 300,000 to about 400,000 acres in the Western San Joaquin Valley from irrigation. Instead, the negotiations with Westlands appear headed toward producing the worst possible outcome of continuing to irrigate lands producing enormous amounts of salt and selenium and allowing Westlands growers to establish in effect a permanent water supply for sale, as opposed to reducing exports as lands are and should be retired from irrigation,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The fight over the BDCP tunnels and the future of the Delta is California’s fight over whether we will have a sustainable economy and environment, or if we will succumb to the top 1% of corporate water interests controlling rivers, streams, fisheries, water rates, family farming, local development, and spending from the general fund – all in all – access to the California dream.”
The tunnels opponents outlined a sustainable solution to our water challenges. “We need to face the fact that the State has over allocated up to 5 times more water than is normally available in the Delta watershed,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “We need to invest in water recycling, conservation, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup, and new water-saving technologies that provide local jobs and reduce reliance on the over pumped Delta.”
If you would like audio of our teleconference regarding updates to the BDCP tunnels, contact Steve Hopcraft at [email protected].