For Immediate Release: Monday, April 20, 2015
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; [email protected]; Twitter: @shopcraft;
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 [email protected]; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta
Tunnels-Only BDCP: Gov. Abandons Pretext of Saving Fisheries
Ignores “Co-Equal Goals” Requirement; End-Runs EPA
Water Use: The Top 1% Water-Takers vs. 38 Million Residents
Sacramento, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD) and other opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build massive underground water tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today said in a news teleconference that Gov. Brown’s abandonment of habitat restoration in his BDCP tunnels project “violates the statutory ‘co-equal goals’, end-runs the EPA and other federal scientists who refused to issue permits for the project, and makes the tunnels project a simple water grab for industrial mega-growers,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD executive director. “You cannot have successful habitat or restore fisheries while draining the Delta of its water. The governor has now abandoned that as a co-equal goal of building the tunnels. BDCP is now a naked ‘tunnels-only’ water grab for the unsustainable mega-farms in Westlands and Kern.”
Chelsea Tu, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “The new plan is a giant step backward. If it goes through, this massive project’s boosters will be able to build these tunnels without having to do anything to protect our wildlife and waters — and will neatly sidestep input from the public. This backdoor process will waste more taxpayer money and kill more Delta species like endangered salmon and smelt.”
“As drought becomes the new normal, California cannot afford to continue to lose Delta species that are already on the brink of extinction,” said Tu. “Instead of spending $25 billion to take more water from the Delta to fuel speculative sprawl and export agribusinesses, California should invest money in proven water conservation, efficiency, reuse and recycling strategies for both cities and farms.”
“We must change how the public’s water is used. While urban families are being required to cut water use by 25%, billionaire Stuart Resnick and others continue to plant thousands of acres of new almond trees during the drought. Mr. Resnick uses as much water for his almonds as the amount of water 38 million Californian’s are now required to conserve,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “While farmers make their own decisions on what to plant, the public is paying the price for poor decisions made by greedy mega-growers, who plant permanent crops where there is no water. That is not sustainable and the tunnels would subsidize unsustainable agriculture.”
Jonas Minton, water policy advisory for the Planning & Conservation League, said, “After wasting $250 million on failed public relations, they have mutated this into something even worse for water users, taxpayers and environment.”
Conner Everts, executive director of the So. Cal. Watershed Alliance, said that the failure of the BDCP to meet our water challenges or conservation goals means we must abandon the tunnels and invest in conservation opportunities.
“Local water solutions are the most cost effective and responsive solution to our water challenges, and that is where we should invest, instead of in tunnels that produce no new water,” said Everts. “Despite passing a large water bond, there is little available funding specifically targeted for conservation: just $250 million out of $7.545 billion from bond measures and $1.1 billion from the Legislature. Conservation funds will have to be allocated locally, and through state and federal resources. That funding should not be diverted for tunnels. There is not money for local infrastructure, and it is well known that trunk and main water lines must be repaired. We are losing 10% of our treated drinking water to leaking pipes. We can’t afford to sink billions into tunnels. Instead, we must invest in conservation, repairing our infrastructure, and becoming drought-proof.”
The tunnels opponents released new information from Public Records Act requests showing that the State of California is circumventing the contracting rules for state projects and violating the statute enacted so the water takers themselves control design, construction and financing of the tunnels.
“Huge water-takers are manipulating the process with the cooperation of the Brown Administration so they can grab front row seats to deliver that water to themselves,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Prior to even having draft environmental documents for the public to review, the Californian Department of Water Resources (DWR) is poised to sign a ‘secret’ contract enabling a small, select group of water-takers unprecedented control and access out of the public eye, and circumventing state contracting and competitive bidding processes designed to protect ratepayers and taxpayers.”
The State Water Project contractors are trying to circumvent contracting and competitive bidding procedures to control who is in charge, while using DWR’s imprint of a public project. This secret planning process sets up moving forward with a project that has not been approved or permitted by circumventing codes and laws regarding contracting.
This complex process is designed to take decision-making away from DWR scientists who oppose the project, and the Legislature, and give it to a select group of special interests that want to operate a public water project for their benefit.