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Delta Tunnels EIR: What Do We Know So Far?

For Immediate Release: Tuesday September 29, 2015
Brian Smith, 415/320-9384, [email protected]
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, 209/479-2053 [email protected]

Experts Reading Delta Tunnels EIR (48K Pages),
Express Concerns
Final Month for Public Comments

NOTE: Osha Meserve and Jeff Michael Statements have been updated!

Sacramento, CA – Today, Restore the Delta held a teleconference with a panel of experts reading through the 48,000 page EIR/EIS for the proposed Delta Tunnels Project (formerly known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan).
Californians now have just one month left to submit comments on the Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Delta Tunnels project. The comment period ends on October 30, 2015.

Public Comments on the Delta EIR/EIS can be submitted to:
BDCP/California WaterFix Comments
P.O. Box 1919
Sacramento, CA 95812
[email protected]

This project will cost California tax and ratepayers between $15 and $60 billion — one of California’s largest public investments to date. And there will be no public vote. On a media teleconference today, academics and Delta experts who are reading through the (now 48,000 page) Environmental Impact Report, shared what they have discovered about this controversial project.
For contact information of speakers, please contact Brian Smith 415-320-9384 [email protected]
Here are quotes from each of the speakers
Jeffrey Michael Ph.D. – Director, Center for Business and Policy Research, University of the Pacific: on Water Yields, Economics and Missing Alternatives

First, an EIR must describe the project accurately.  The Delta Tunnels EIR/EIS describes a project that is not economically or financially feasible due to its minimal water yields.  Specifically, the EIR/EIS describes water exports with the $16 billion tunnels will only average about 250,000 acre feet more each year than under No Action. 
That’s about 16,000 acre feet of unreliable, untreated water per $1 billion of capital cost, and incredibly low return on investment.  For comparison, the highest cost alternatives like desalination plants deliver over 50,000 acre feet of highly reliable, purified water for the same capital investment.  

Full Statement
Robert Wright, Senior Counsel – Friends of the River: on the Tunnels plan and endangered species
The Delta Water Tunnels would instead destroy endangered and threatened fish species. The Tunnels would divert for the Central Valley and State Water Projects vast quantities of freshwater from the Sacramento River near Clarksburg that would no longer flow through the lower Sacramento River, sloughs, and Delta. This would jeopardize the continued existence of endangered and threatened species of fish and adversely modify their designated critical habitat by taking away freshwater flows for Winter Run Chinook salmon, spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green Sturgeon, and Delta smelt.
Full Statement
Osha Meserve – North Delta Water rights attorney: on Agencies Forging Forward with Key Permits while Environmental Review Still Underway

Signaling their commitment to a deeply flawed project, the project rushed forward with its major water right and wetland fill permit applications this month.  In its submittal to the State Water Resources Control Board, tunnel applicants claimed they owned the roughly forty parcels of land necessary to construct the three tunnels that can convey 9000 cubic feet per second of water.  Keep in mind the highest the river has flowed near the proposed tunnel intakes is 8400 cfs this month.  Later, after we pointed out the error, DWR submitted an errata sheet and tried to excuse its misrepresentations because the form was not usable for a project this large.  DWR also had to amend its application to show that every water user in the Delta – over three thousand water rights — may be injured by the project from the changes in water quality, quantity and levels the project will cause.

Full Statement
Tim Stroshane – Water policy analyst, Restore the Delta: on the Tunnels impact on water quality

­­Harmful algal blooms are expected to increase due to the Tunnels, consuming most or all dissolved oxygen in the water, and suffocating oxygen-respiring organisms like fish. Blue-green algae, such as one species called Microcystis, can also produce “cyanotoxins” that pose a significant potential threat to wildlife, dogs, and human beings, and exposure can cause liver cancer in humans. Tunnels' reports acknowledge that “increases in the frequency, magnitude, and geographic extent of Microcystis blooms in the Delta would occur relative to Existing Conditions,” increasing a dangerous ecological and public health threat.
Full Statement
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director – Restore the Delta: on Politics vs. Sustainability in the Tunnels Plan

This repackaging of the Delta 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.
Californians now face a huge decision. Should we commit $60 (after bond repayment and operation costs are considered) to construct twin 40 foot-wide, 35 mile-long, tunnels to export what water is left for almonds for export and speculative development – in the year 2031?  Or are we going to protect the most magnificent and important estuary on the west coast of the Americas?
Governor Brown has inherited a legacy project from his father that was created on flawed logic – an overextended water supply, even back in the 1960s.  With climate change, snowpack will continue to diminish in the Sacramento River watershed and more rain will fall at the coast.  Instead of continuing to cling stubbornly to this flawed family legacy, Governor Brown needs to do the right thing for the future of the state he loves. He needs to drop the tunnels project once and for all, and use his office to create a Marshall plan for water sustainability for all Californians, not just mega growers in Westlands and the Kern County Water District, and certainly not for the Metropolitan Water District.

Full Statement


Leave a Comment

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • September 29, 2015, 7:35 pm

    Please do not destroy the Delta for the absurd amount of money. Once we have destroyed this planet we have nowhere to live!!!!!!!!

  • September 29, 2015, 7:44 pm

    That this egregious pipe dream is even seriously considered at this time is testament to the greed of the private sector and corruption of the political class. This cannot stand.

  • Lester Kite
    September 29, 2015, 8:17 pm

    I read all the comments from these Experts. The common sense decision has to be made, THE TUNNELS are a NO GO!! Governor Brown forget about the Tunnels. Do what’s right for all the people of California. Build the desalination plants, you will create Jobs for a life time instead of creating jobs for a few years building foolish tunnels. What a better way to solve two problems , ocean is rising because of the Ice pack melting use the abundance of salt water and two you solve the water problem. If Governor Brown builds these tunnels he will go down in history as the man who destroyed our Delta, The fish in these rivers will perish, People who have lived in the delta for some three generation will lose their homes , farms like in Hood, Courtland for a tunnel that will not accomplish anything but Death and Destruction. STOP THESE TUNNELS NOW!!!

  • Sharon Brown
    September 29, 2015, 8:49 pm

    This idea is nothing more than the raping of our Northern California resources to achieve what? We do not need to have an Owens Valley debacle repeated just because no one remembers the negative effect of that water theft. This tunnel project is a grander boondoggle!

  • Susan Krinberg
    September 29, 2015, 9:17 pm

    Stop Gov. Brown ‘s tunnel project….this is bad for everyone. Gov Brown be smart build desalination plants, this will create jobs, stimulate the economy.

  • Sherry Meddick
    September 29, 2015, 9:44 pm

    As a southern Californian, I am appalled by this project. Whether it is imminent domain, the high cost, subsidizing big ag or damage to fisheries and ESA species, the project is a political, economic, environmental and policy disaster. It must be stopped.

  • bill ries-knight
    September 29, 2015, 10:32 pm

    As I read this I am thinking exactly what I thought years ago…
    the Delta will die if the water flow continues to be restricted,.

    I wrote this a few years back… and I have taken my websites down since. From ~Dec 16 2008
    I first became aware of the issue of water as a limited resource thanks to the drought of 1976-1977. As 1977 came to a close I was trapped in Bakersfield under a dust cloud, the like of which the United states had not seen since the Dust Bowl years. A cloud of dust a mile high covered the south end of the valley.

    A mile high plume of dust over Bakersfield California
    Dust Cloud eating a trailer community

    That drought was, according to the records, the driest statewide period since records of any reliability were kept.

    What is significant is the fact that water in California has been a limited commodity. We have taken away the water and we farm old lake bottoms, build home in drained swamps and consider live good. We use more water and more water, and nature provides less water and less water.

    In the Pioneer days there were reports of artesian wells that would flow with a head measured in feet. Tulare lake was at least 22 miles by 42 miles as commonly measured and covered an estimated 1000 square miles or more (google the phrase “tulare lake steamboats”) and was serviced from Stockton by steamboat.

    History_of_California.pdf 18mb (1885, Occidental Publishing) page 538 http://savestockton.org/books/History_of_California.pdf

    Annual_Report_of_the_State_Mineralogist_.pdf 33mb (1890, Ca State Printing Office) page 729

    All of the water used by the early farmers was either “fossil water” or the result of natural blockages in the Kings and San Joaquin rivers, preventing rainwater and snowmelt from leaving the south end of the valley.

    Once the lake was drained it became prime farmland which needed water. It is reported the artesian wells in Allensworth, west of Delano, flowed 3 feet above the ground following the draining of Tulare Lake. After the fossil water in the ground stopped flowing, farmers turned to irrigation from the rivers and eventually dams were built to store water for irrigation and, to a MUCH lesser degree, flood control.

    The water that was in the Valley Floor was mostly used up or drained away by about 1940, and irrigation became dependent upon the development of stable resources. The dams on the Kern River, the San Joaquin River, the Kings River and the Mokolumne River, as well the Sacramento and American Rivers do serve as flood control, but agriculture would be dead in the Central Valley without them.

    Now that we have essentially depleted the water table below natures ability to replenish, we are diverting more and more water from The Delta. As far back as the 20’s it was known that brackish water would flow up into The Delta, but winter storms and snowmelt would flush The Delta out every year.

    We now pump so much water out of The Delta the brackish water is not flushed away. Debris, while cleared from the main channels, is not allowed to be cleared from the lesser ones. Normal flows that would flush the normal salts from the valley soils are not there and they linger, creating a “poisonous mess” that eventually kills off fish, turtles, birds and small animals.

    If we continue to divert and pump away all of the water, we might as well just break all of the levee’s, turn the delta into a giant lake with concrete paved sides and add lots of chlorine.

    We could call it The San Joaquin Pool.

  • September 29, 2015, 10:39 pm

    Jerry Brown claims to love the State of California, but is proposing an absurd project that will cost the taxpayers $60 BILLION. But more importantly, this tunnel project will not only ruin the Delta, destroying the habitat of wildlife living there but will also take water that is necessary to the area. Gov. Brown must realize that this misguided project of his father has to be rejected once and for all.

  • JoAnne McGill
    September 29, 2015, 10:54 pm

    These tunnels will Destroy The Delta, the farmers cannot farm with saltwater, the fish will die and who wins nobody except Governor Brown, build the desaltation plants in Southern California. We all know that people who live there are far more wealthy then the small farmers that live here and produce your food. Let them spend there money to solve there problem, we need our water and we ask nothing of those people in Southern California, other than leave us alone, fill your swimming pools with your salt water…….like said before it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the ocean is getting deeper , Think People Think, and quit being so arrogant and Ignorant to the problem. Where the Heck do you think your food is coming from the sky……I’ve never been so upset in my life of people not caring and doing only what they will benefit from and take away from the farmers and the Delta….Shame on you Jerry. Brown..Now I know why I didn’t want to see you come back as Governor, you failed once as governor and I Pray you fail again, you are only trying to finish what your daddy started