Political columnist Dan Walters gets a lot right in his recent CALMatters Commentary piece on Jerry Brown’s failing high speed rail system and Delta tunnels proposal. But he loses us when he discusses the need for a new conveyance project that sends Delta water south, writing,
“Conversely, the need for some sort of water conveyance around or under the Delta has been evident for decades. Pulling water out of the estuary has created no end of environmental problems, leading to court-ordered reductions in diversions that have sometimes left water users short of what they needed.
“Brown took one stab at solving the dilemma during his first stint as governor—a ‘peripheral canal’ to bypass the Delta—and won legislative approval, only to see it rejected by voters in 1982.”
In a recent Sacramento Bee report on Governor Brown’s 2018 State of the State Address, gubernatorial candidate Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom expressed a change of heart regarding his position on the WaterFix proposal. Authors Christopher Caldego and Alexei Koseff note that,
“Newsom also praised Brown’s openness to scaling back the water conveyance project to a single tunnel, which he said he hoped would lead to a deal. Newsom had previously said Brown asked him to reserve his judgment about the multibillion dollar project.
“’This has got to be a top priority in the next administration,’” Newsom said after the speech. ‘You can’t walk away from this.’”
Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla responded,
“While Americans love political compromise, finding a safe, sustainable way to take more water from the Delta through one tunnel or two is scientifically unachievable. Reaching a political compromise is always possible for social policies, not for public works projects in which scientific and economic analysis reveal dangerous outcomes.
“Climate scientists are anticipating continued reductions in the Sierra snowpack in coming years, meaning there will be less water flowing through our rivers and into the Delta. WaterFix’s own two tunnel analysis shows negative impacts to fish, and one tunnel could be even worse at a larger size and operated more frequently, especially without proper screening of the existing Delta pumps. Plus, water users will very likely end up paying an even higher cost per acre-foot of water than with a two tunnel project. Therefore, this fifth reiteration of the Delta tunnels WaterFix is not a viable compromise, because there won’t be any water to fill the tunnel(s); it won’t save fish; and it will still be too expensive. Treating this proposal as a potential compromise is a waste of time and money that would be better spent on alternative solutions to solve California’s water woes.
“We are seeing cities all of sizes, from sprawling San Jose to smaller Santa Monica, investing in water projects and practices that foster regional self-sufficiency and increase local supplies. Stormwater capture, expanded water recycling plants, and conservation targets are paving the way for the future of California’s water management, and it has massive approval from ratepayers across the state. The tunnels do not. We can screen the existing pumps to share a sustainable yield of water from the Delta to supplement supplies for other communities along with implementing these full conservation measures. It is time to put this pipedream of replumbing the Delta to rest.”
In case you missed it (ICYMI): 1/31/18
Nora Kovaleski, 408-806-6470, [email protected]
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, 209-479-2053, [email protected]