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DELTA TUNNELS: New Plan, New EIR, Same Old Water Grab

For Immediate Release: Wednesday 7/8/15

Brian Smith, 415/320-9384, [email protected]
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, 209/479-2053 [email protected]

DELTA TUNNELS: New Plan, New EIR, Same Old Water Grab
Three government actions imperil the largest estuary on the West Coast

Listen to our teleconference:

Sacramento, CA – Today, Restore the Delta and a coalition of advocates for the San Francisco Bay-Delta held a teleconference to preview the EIR/EIS for the revised Delta Tunnels project (formerly known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan) to be released on Friday, July 10.

The old plan failed to meet federal standards under the Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, or to pencil out for water users. Under the leadership of Governor Brown’s administration, and public relations efforts like Californians for Water Security, tunnel boosters have rebranded the project “CA Water Fix” and “CA Eco Restore,” though it will do neither.

Advocates warned that this repackaging of the water export tunnels will waste up to $60 billion dollars without creating any new water, won’t help desperate communities during the drought, or fund innovative water conservation, stormwater capture, or water recycling projects that cities are eager to build for resilience in a changing climate.

In addition, the lack of scoping meetings for the new plan, lack of details regarding financing, and addition of 8,000 new pages for public comment on top of the existing 40,000 pages, reveal that the Brown administration is seeking to move forward with the project without transparency. $248 million spent thus far on drafts and publicity have netted a project-concept that will not produce one drop of new water for the state, but that has enriched special interest water and engineering consultants over the last eight years.

In a teleconference Wednesday morning, Delta experts outlined three ways present State and Federal government action is harming the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary:

1. Mismanagement of the Delta by the State Water Resources Control Board during the drought by suspending water quality standards;
2. Federal legislation aiming to further weaken Delta protections and increase water exports;
3. The plan to build massive Delta tunnels that will imperil Bay-Delta water quality and Northern California fisheries, inundate Delta family farms with salt water, and continue California’s history of unsustainable water policy paid for by water rate and property tax payers.

Quotes from Today’s Briefing

Osha Meserve, Delta Water Rights attorney:
“In this drought year, it is obvious there is not enough water in the system to meet species and in-basin needs and satisfy the insatiable water demands of the Delta water exporters. The tunnels, unlike water conservation, would not create any new water and would substantially degrade water quality, impairing the Clean Water Act mandate for the estuary to be fishable, swimmable and drinkable. The billions slated for investment in tunnels to literally reroute the Sacramento River will create even more pressure to push any remaining fish in the estuary over the brink of extinction, just like they have done this year.”

Bob Wright, Friends of the River:
“The revised EIR does not consider the Environmental Water Caucus’ sustainable export plan, which we have tried to get them to consider for more than three years. They have ignored the 8,000 public comments demanding a better plan. Rather than go back to the drawing board, this tunnels plan looks exactly like the old one. The deliberate suppression of alternatives reducing exports, coupled with the suppression of independent comments from the BDCP and Water Fix websites, is calculated to deceive the public about the adverse environmental effects and true costs of the Delta tunnels.”

Bill Jennings, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance:
“Virtually every promulgated statute and regulatory standard protecting the Delta has been routinely ignored and violated over the last three decades and, consequently, any assurances and promises by Delta tunnel proponents are worthless. California has been in a drought cycle more than forty percent of the time over the last hundred years and the tunnels will not provide a single additional drop of water. They will, however, further degrade Delta water quality and exacerbate conditions that have brought fisheries to the brink of extinction.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta:
“The recently introduced H.R. 2898 (Valadao) would maximize water exports from the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary and further weaken regulations for endangered fish species. Today, Delta communities face invasive plant species and toxic algal blooms as a result of inadequate flow. HR 2898 does nothing to help with drought relief for 55 of California’s 58 counties. It does nothing but shift public health and wealth to private hands through water transfers. HR 2898 is not in the interest of taxpayers and the general public, it is the same old water grab for industrial mega-growers.”

Conner Everts, Environmental Water Caucus:
“Historic drought is proving, again, that local, cost effective and environmentally beneficial water solutions are immediate and eliminate the need for far away, costly, and environmentally detrimental speculative projects. With unprecedented response agencies like MWD are having to fully fund the huge demand for incentives and we are witnessing the future now. First things first: invest in local infrastructure and leaky pipes-LADWP today is announcing their local water and energy investment rate increase-stop dumping billions of gallons of treated wastewater into the ocean, and greatly increase efficiency while capturing and reusing stormwater, rainwater, and greywater. Our groundwater basins are being cleaned up and the opportunity to recharge and maintain like Orange County has been doing for years are the solutions of this century and the appropriate reaction to climate change and the extremes of this, the new normal.”

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