Are the Tunnels Good for California?
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Good morning. Thank you Chair Wolk and committee members. I am Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla with Restore the Delta. I represent over 25,000 Californians who want to see the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary restored for our children and future generations. Thousands of our members reside at ground zero for the proposed Delta tunnels project.
We are pleased with today’s oversight hearing. It is a first step. But we are calling on this committee, and the entire legislature to make oversight of the Delta tunnels their immediate and primary oversight priority.
According to its website: DWR’s mission is to manage the water resources of California to benefit the State’s people, and to protect, restore, and enhance the natural and human environments. It seems that this mission, however, does not apply to the people and wildlife of the Delta.
As reported by the Associated Press yesterday, a land acquisition plan for taking 300 parcels of productive Delta farms out of operation was not included in the revised draft EIR/EIS for the tunnels, but was a confidential document that had not seen the light of day until our colleagues acquired it through a Public Records Act request. This land acquisition plan states that 300 landowners will only be given 30-days-notice to sell their land before the state moves to immediate eminent domain proceedings.
Never mind that these parcels of land are California’s oldest family farms, many in production for 150 years & produce a $5.2 billion annual economy. This 160 page land acquisition plan was created for the Metropolitan Water District by a separate entity of policy contractors called the Design Construction Enterprise who are embedded within DWR via an $11.4 million no-bid contract.
It seems that we have two processes: a public comment period for the EIR and the propaganda behind the tunnels – and another process of what the project really is – hidden.
This committee needs to be asking a series of questions, like why was the land acquisition plan not included in the EIR for the project? Why is DWR handing out no-bid contracts for the oversight of the second largest public works project in the history of California to a contract firm without engineering qualifications? Why do Californians have to resort to public records act requests to find the truth about this project?
And then there is the EIR/EIR itself. From it, we need to be asking: Why are the significant water quality impacts of the project for the Bay and Delta buried in the appendix of its 48,000 pages? What about those public health impacts for the Delta? How will the tunnels help with drought if they are going to be dry 52% of the time and if the Delta watershed is oversubscribed five-fold in normal water years? How many fish will be saved by the experimental fish screens and new intakes not yet designed? Who is going to pay for the tunnels? And who is going to get the water?
Perhaps what I find most frustrating is that the Delta is always accused of not offering up a solution.
Restore the Delta has been advocating for the same solution for years. First, we need to reduce exports to a sustainable level from the Delta – as describe here by the prior panelists. Second, we need to fix the existing pumps and fish screens because they will still be in use 52% of the time. Third, we need to invest in recycling, storm water capture, conservation – NRDC has done that work – we can make 7 million acre feet of water doing the real conservation work that California still has not done. Last, we have to deal with the oversubscription of water. We will need an eventual adjudication of water rights. We need to retire the drainage impaired lands in the San Joaquin Valley. With the five-fold over subscription of water there is no way around it. But we can do all these other things first and do what has been done in Colorado, New Mexico, and Idaho. Water conservation will get us through while we go through the process.