Suspends CEQA, Abandons Public Rulemaking
Drought Barriers for up to 10 Years,
Decimate Fisheries, But No Restrictions on Mega-Farms
Stockton, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build water export Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to Gov. Brown’s executive order.
“While urban water conservation measures are desperately needed, Governor Brown is not calling for shared sacrifice,” said RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “What he is enacting is sacrifice by 98% of Californians, and the sacrifice of the most magnificent estuary on the west coast of the Americas, for the top 1% of water and land barons on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.”
Waters upstream and downstream of the barriers within the Delta will stagnate. When the dilution action of flows is greatly reduced during summer heat, water temperatures increase, salinity is projected to increase, and pollutant and contaminant concentrations will increase as well.
With the drought barriers installed to limit flow, Delta smelt are likely to face extinction this year. And the Delta itself will become an even less hospitable place for the vulnerable fish species that remain.
Restore the Delta released a detailed analysis of how the order will harm the Delta, the estuary and coastal fisheries (see below).
The Governor is trying to expedite installation of drought barriers in the Delta, which will decimate coastal and Bay-Delta fishing economies, Delta farms, and water quality for a myriad of uses in the Bay-Delta estuary, even though the law states that Delta users have the right to use the water for beneficial uses first. Governor Brown’s declaration never made mention of the impacts on the Bay-Delta estuary, and, instead, has buried within it, a suspension of CEQA, a provision of the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, or, that these barriers are not temporary, but a ten-year plan that could destroy numerous fish species and ruin water quality for Delta communities. The governor is also suspending the Government code for rule-making procedures. Will this enable the California Water Commission to skip this process to expedite water projects that voters were promised would undergo strict review under the intent of Proposition 1?
“Governor Brown fails to lead on the harmful impacts of agricultural water exports from the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. Growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are not receiving regular water allocations this year, so the governor orders only enforcement of agricultural water use reporting. But these mega-growers aren’t tearing up thousands of acres of almonds they planted along the I-5 corridor during the last ten years, even in drought. California water law and contracts for export water projects make it clear that their water supply is variable, depending on how much water can be safely shared from the Delta,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.
Top 1% water users and growers, like Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms, are not being asked to reduce water use by 25%, but 38 million Californians are. We are all being ordered to make heavy sacrifices so billionaire farmers can continue to export almonds to China. As a recent report from E&E News revealed, Paramount Farms, Westlands Water District and Metropolitan Water District, have been lobbying to gut federal ESA protections for Delta fisheries to free up more water they can grab from the system.
Governor Brown’s declaration imposes measures that will ruin the health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, and seriously harm the Delta communities directly impacted by installation of the drought barriers. He places the burden on 38 million urban water users who have no control over where water is sent by State and Federal projects. We paid for the lack of rigorous conservation implementation over the last four years by local agencies like Metropolitan Water District.
Restore the Delta Policy Analyst Tim Stroshane said, “The proposed drought barriers project for the Delta will allow the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation to continue managing upstream storage so that the pain of the drought will be borne by Delta residents and ecosystems, and not by Delta water takers. The barriers will have drastic consequences on fisheries, commercial and recreational fishing economies, various Delta farming communities, recreation economies, all so that water will be made available beyond what is needed for health and human safety, but for what purposes we don’t know.”
“California must save water first through agriculture reductions on polluted drainage impaired land, which uses two-thirds of the Delta’s exported water. To protect urban areas, we need a Marshall plan to implement conservation, groundwater storage, storm water capture, cisterns, recycling and effective drought planning. Estimates show that it will cost tens of billions to repair urban water systems alone.” Barrigan-Parrilla said.
In the last 28 water years (since the beginning of the 1987-92 drought), wet and above normal years have occurred just 11 times (39 percent of the time) in both the San Joaquin and Sacramento River basins. This means that the premise of “emergency” drought barriers is false. “Emergency” connotes an event that is short-lived and infrequent, if it occurs at all. But below normal to critical water years occur more than half the time (as they have for almost the last three decades). “Emergency” becomes meaningless.
“The Department of Water Resources plans to install and remove barriers simultaneously with when juvenile salmon would be attempting to rear in, or emigrate through, the Delta before they leave for the Pacific Ocean. The most invasive and disruptive activities associated with the barriers proposal occur at critically sensitive times in the life histories of these most magnificent and vulnerable listed species,” Stroshane added.
“Whether it’s the barriers or the Delta tunnels, it is apparent how little Governor Brown cares for the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. He has not insisted on the fallowing of fields during the drought by junior water rights holders. He is pushing Delta smelt to extinction, setting up our salmon fisheries for failure, and sacrificing sustainable six-generation Delta farms for almonds, fracking, and speculative desert development,” concluded Barrigan-Parrilla.