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Read or Listen: MWD after Bay-Delta estuary: Funds $600,000 Attack on Delta Water Rights

For Immediate Release: Thursday, March 12, 20145
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; [email protected]; Twitter: @shopcraft; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta;
Bob Wright, FOR, 916/442-3155 x207; [email protected]

Brown Administration Hides Truth About Tunnels From Public,
Tunnels Opponents Post Suppressed Public Comments:
Includes EPA, Army Corps of Engineers & State Water Resources Control Board;
MWD Funds Misguided $600,000 Attack on Delta Water Rights, Would Ruin Sustainable Family Farms

NOTE: Technical difficulty between 22:02 to 23:52

Sacramento, CA- Friends of the River (FOR), Restore the Delta (RTD) and other opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta of freshwater and doom sustainable farms, and salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today announced posting on the Friends of the River website of hundreds of suppressed public comments on the Brown Administration’s Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). These comments, including those from public agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Army Corps of Engineers and even the State’s own Water Resources Control Board, have been suppressed by the Administration.

The tunnels opponents also exposed MetropolitanWater District (MWD) funding of a misguided, $600,000 legal attack on Delta farmers’ senior water rights. The attack, discussed only in a closed-door session on Tuesday, will fail, and is a waste of MWD ratepayer money, because it is premised on a “broken” Department of Water Resources (DWR) model.

Friends of the River obtained copies of the BDCP comments under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and posted them at www.friendsoftheriver.org/bdcpcomments regardless of whether the particular comments oppose or favor the Water Tunnels, or agree or disagree with Friends of the River’s comments.

The Brown Administration has especially suppressed scathing comments made by environmental organizations, water districts, and government agencies from throughout the Bay-Delta region and Northern California. The Brown Administration is cutting off the voices of the people who will be harmed by the project. These BDCP documents reveal that fisheries will not recover, and Clean Water Act standards will not be met because Delta water quality will deteriorate to dangerous levels, and the tunnels will be dry over 50% of the time.

“Gov. Brown is suppressing nearly 1,000 (928) public comments, keeping Californians in the dark about the facts and alternatives to his unsustainable water export project submitted by those who are not BDCP Water Tunnels advocates,” said Friends of the River Senior Counsel Bob Wright. “Thousands of comments from individuals have also been suppressed by the Brown Administration. Since the BDCP agencies are not airing both sides of the issues—in the traditional American way—Friends of the River is now doing the government’s job of informing, as opposed to propagandizing, the public.”

Friends of the River has posted nearly 300 comment letters from public agencies and organizations, with some letters having as many as 19 attached exhibits. This is truly a wealth of information about the likely environmental and economic consequences of the Water Tunnels. Because of the huge volume of comments by individuals, Friends of the River was unable to complete the posting of comments by individuals made after May 14, 2014. So, there are still thousands of comments that remain hidden from public view.

After the BDCP Drafts were released in December 2013 for public review, the BDCP website was closed to the posting of comments. That is an undeniable fact shown by simply going to the BDCP website. This hiding of contrary information from the public even extends to comments by critically important public agencies, such as the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, and State Water Resources Control Board.

“The deliberate suppression of independent comments on the BDCP website is calculated to deceive the public about the adverse environmental effects, and true costs of the Water Tunnels,” said Wright. “The reason the BDCP agencies conceal the detailed, scientifically-supported comments from public agencies and public interest organizations is because the Water Tunnels are a bad project that cannot withstand informed public scrutiny.”

Large California infrastructure project boosters are masters of deception, as evidenced by the explosion of the forecasted cost of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge span from $1 billion to $6 billion—and that scandal included the suppression by this same State government of contrary critical quality control information.

The tunnels opponents pointed to a recent study showing that “deceptions or strategic manipulation of information or processes” is a cause of late, over-budget and failed large infrastructure projects. “[A]cross the globe, large infrastructure projects almost invariably arrive late, over-budget and fail to perform up to expectations.” Flyvbjerg, Garbuio and Lovallo, Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects, 51 California Management Review 170, 171-2 (winter 2009). “The underlying reasons for all forecasting errors can usefully be grouped into three categories: delusions or honest mistakes; deceptions or strategic manipulation of information or processes; or bad luck.” (Id. at 172).

“The BDCP would divert water away from the sustainable, multi-generational farms of the Delta. These farms have senior water rights dating back to soon after statehood in 1850. The state and federal water export projects were originally premised on in-Delta uses being fully satisfied, and water quality maintained prior to any exports occurring,” said Delta water rights attorney Osha Meserve. “With these senior water rights, which were promised to be protected as a condition of the export projects, the Delta is entitled to all the water it needs for beneficial uses as long as it is not wasted.”

Yet those who would benefit from the BDCP are now openly attacking the right of Delta farmers to use water within their own watershed. This attack is based in part on the faulty results of a broken DWR model showing that in-Delta consumptive use is much higher in drought years than in other years. The model was built decades ago, and appears purposefully designed to over-predict outflow and water quality requirements being met so that exports could be maximized. Based on this fundamental error in the model’s prediction of in-Delta consumptive use, DWR and the water exporters like Metropolitan Water District appear to believe that more water would be available for export if some Delta water uses were curtailed. However, for a variety of reasons, curtailment of Delta water uses would not create more water for export.

In-Delta consumptive use has remained largely the same over the past 100 or more years, since a similar amount of acreage has remained in production over time. Due to the unique hydrology of the Delta, water on the Delta islands is reused many times over and any excess water is quickly returned to the system by each island’s drainage network for others to use.

“This attack on senior Delta water rights appears to be based on DWR’s erroneous model and is a waste of MWD ratepayer funds,” said Meserve. “Even if MWD’s efforts did lead to curtailment of some Delta water uses, more water will not be available for export. MWD and other exporter funds would be better spent reducing reliance on Delta water exports by making more efficient use of limited water supplies available in drought years.”

Hiding Public Comments, Attacking Tunnels Opponents
“The Metropolitan Water District and other Delta water-takers are funding attacks on the legal water rights of Delta farmers, residents and businesses, and on RTD, which represents the people of the Delta and sustainable water alternatives,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of RTD.

Instead of facing California’s water reality, Tunnel proponents have doubled down by attacking the Delta on two fronts. “Instead of following the law and allowing public access to crucial comments critical of the tunnels boondoggle, the tunnels proponents are hiding information and attacking tunnels opponents,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. First they are after Delta water rights. As Osha Meserve explained, the Metropolitan Water District is willing to spend $600,000 of ratepayer money to destroy sixth generation family farms like Steve Heringer’s, and hundreds of others. But that is not enough: Delta Tunnels proponents are now attacking our 8-year-old grass roots effort by creating media campaigns that simply tell lies about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and the people of the Delta.

“Desperate Delta Tunnels proponents are attacking Delta communities, and RTD on every front, outspending Tunnels opponents by hundreds of millions of dollars to pave the way for the water grab,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Restore the Delta and Friends of the River have filed Public Information Act Requests with the Metropolitan Water District, Westlands Water District, Kern County Water Agency, and the Santa Clara Valley Water District. If they are willing to spend rate payer money attacking Delta water rights, we want to see how much they are spending on consultants who are running dishonest and disruptive viral media campaigns to misinform the public.”

Here are links to related materials:
Who owns Californians for Water Security domain and controls website:
http://restorethedelta.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/AlexanderSkatell-CAforWaterSecurity.pdf
Public Records Act requests of Westlands and other water agencies regarding funding of pro-tunnels group that is attacking Restore the Delta:
http://restorethedelta.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/3-10-15-PRA-Kern-Met-Santa-Clara-Westlands.pdf
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, March 10, 2015 Agenda Item regarding increasing funding for attack on Delta water rights (Item 8-8):
http://mwdh2o.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=12&clip_id=4374

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  • Leonard Sarkissian
    March 12, 2015, 10:50 pm

    Thank you for the effort and regular updates. The questions I have about this project are:
    1- We are experiencing drought conditions in the delta area. What will the impact of the tunnels be if this drought continues – which seems to be the likely case.
    2- Why doesn’t the government put its money into something that is sustainable – i.e. a desalination plant close to where the water is needed. We are / will become energy independent in the next year or two – and so this will be a more viable long term solution, rather than as they say “having to rob Peter to pay Paul” – which is not a sustainable solution.

    • March 12, 2015, 11:28 pm

      Thanks for the support Leonard. We have been advocating for a sustainable solution (specifically the EWC solution). Check out our fact sheet “There’s a Better Solution” in our FAQs page and we also have a video on Youtube with over a thousand views called “There’s a Better Solution to California Water” on innovative technology that will protect our water resources, rather than exploit them for big unsustainable Ag businesses. If the tunnels are approved during drought conditions, the ecological collapse of the Bay Delta estuary will follow. The Delta is already facing adverse conditions that are hurting farmers and endangered species due to the relaxation of water quality standards (already weak in the first place), the tunnels, as well as its 50 year construction will be far worst when added on top of that, especially in a drought!

  • Martha Swaim
    March 17, 2015, 7:03 am

    Tunnels are going in the wrong direction. Once again, while NorCal and SoCal are in a drought, The east coast is buried under snow and the mid west is flooding. If California is lucky enough to flood again, the Midwest will probably be in a drought. Need a nationwide plan to protect water from pollution and to share resources.