Articles of Interest on Gov. Brown’s Tunnels
On July 28, 2015, Restore the Delta brought some of their 25,000 supporters to rally in front of the sham public hearing on the proposed Delta Tunnels project which was held at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel in Sacramento. More than 300 people from all over Northern California attended, despite this “hearing” being scheduled on a work day.
When agencies promoting the tunnels announced it would be held science-fair style, with no comments in public, just court reporters tucked away in the back, Restore the Delta decided to put the “public” in this “public hearing.”
The state Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation earlier this year asked regulators to temporarily weaken certain salinity standards in the west Delta to hold back more bay water. The request was granted.
But officials say even those weakened standards have been exceeded in two locations — one on the Sacramento River at Three Mile Slough and another on the San Joaquin River at Jersey Point.
A few years ago, the state tried to shore up its economic argument by attaching a huge value to the hope of 50-year regulatory protection from the Endangered Species Act, and incorrectly attributing habitat restoration benefits to the tunnels. After heavy criticism, the latest revision to the tunnels plan eliminates the 50-year regulatory assurance and separates environmental restoration. The plan’s already flimsy economic rationale evaporated with this correction.
It is increasingly clear that there are less divisive alternatives that provide more economic and environmental value than the tunnels. No amount of tweaking can save what is fundamentally a bad idea. It’s time to move on.
“Much the way Congress and federal regulators gave Wall Street a huge legal pass and billions in bailout money for crashing the US and global economies last decade, so does the State Water Resources Control Board coddle state and federal water projects and their thirsty contractors for managing their water supplies to the point that the systems on which they depend are themselves circling the drain,” said Tim Stroshane, a water policy analyst for the conservation advocacy group Restore the Delta.
One of Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature infrastructure projects, the twin-tunnel plan has been touted as something that makes economic sense. It would be funded by ratepayers, who would pay for the infrastructure and get reliable — although not necessarily more — water in return.
But there long have been questions whether the billions of dollars in new investments were worth it. Furthermore, it’s been increasingly clear the federal government might not be willing to provide the kind of long-term permits for the project that bolster its economic viability.