Brown Administration squandering an opportunity to restore the Delta while claiming they are trying to preserve it

For Immediate Release: Friday, January 11, 2013

Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546;  Twitter: @shopcraft

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

Friends of the River, Environmental Water Caucus, Restore the Delta: Brown Administration squandering an opportunity to restore the Delta while claiming they are trying to preserve it

Call for Cost-Benefit, Water Availability, Water Quality, and Public Trust Analyses of Peripheral Tunnels in the Delta Plan

Sacramento, CA – Friends of the River, the Environmental Water Caucus and Restore the Delta today criticized the Brown Administration for squandering the opportunity to create a Delta Plan that would restore and heal the Delta through implementation of the Delta Stewardship Council’s efforts.  Instead, the State administration, including its Delta Stewardship Council and Department of Water Resources, is failing to balance the co-equal goals of restoring and protecting the Delta, while improving water supply reliability, by “ignoring the water flow needs for ecosystem restoration in the Delta,” said Bob Wright of Friends of the River to the Delta Stewardship Council in a public hearing.  “The Delta Plan, as it stands right now, is set to incorporate without proper analysis the building of two massive tunnels as proposed in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan – both 33 feet wide, 35 miles long, and 150 feet deep – with a capacity to take 15,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of fresh water out of the Sacramento River upstream from the Delta near Clarksburg to transport to the pumping plants near Tracy.  That is an enormous quantity of freshwater, constituting the entire average flow of the River during the summer.”

Environmental groups have presented a number of alternatives to improve the Delta and the state’s water supply without taking more water from the Delta.  Those kinds of alternatives are the only real way to save the Delta.

Nick Di Croce of the Environmental Water Caucus, a coalition of more than 30 conservation, fishing and consumer protection groups, told the Council that its “Plan” for the Delta is deficient in several essential areas.  “The ‘Plan’ fails to address the root cause of the ‘unreliability’ of Delta water, which is the commitment of state and federal agencies to water rights and water contract amounts for far more water than is typically available from the Delta. One of two legally mandated goals of the Delta ‘Plan’ is to assure water supply ‘reliability.’  But it can never be achieved without this analysis.  The costs and benefits of the ‘Plan’ are nowhere in sight.  A cost-benefit analysis is a commonly accepted method for displaying to the public and decision makers whether a project should proceed.  Is there a reason that the Delta ‘Plan’ does not have a cost-benefit analysis? The Delta Stewardship Council feels that it is not their responsibility to perform a Public Trust Analysis for the Delta ‘Plan.’  The Public Trust doctrine is the foundation of state water management.  It ensures that the values of export water are balanced and compared to the benefits of rivers, estuaries, wildlife, and recreational values.  Shame on the Council for not living up to their responsibilities.”

“Given that salinity intrusion is already a huge problem now for the Delta, and will worsen greatly as a result of changing conditions, including climate change, the plan to benefit the exporters by adding new massive diversions of freshwater upstream from the Delta would be a ‘double whammy’ and likely the final nail in the coffin for the Delta,” said Wright. “Presently, the exporters, including the wealthy, powerful, and massively subsidized large growers in the Westlands Water District and Kern County Water Agency, divert the water they take from the southern end of the Delta. The Delta obtains some freshwater benefits of the water before it is taken, as it does flow through the Delta. The large interests exporting the water presently share some of the interest of the Delta in keeping salinity intrusion from becoming too great as, like the people in the Delta, they are drawing their water from the Delta also. If the Delta Tunnels are constructed, the exporters will be able to take massive quantities of freshwater upstream from the Delta unaffected by worsening salinity, leaving the Delta to become a polluted and salty wasteland. We are fighting so hard to try to stop the Delta Tunnels because we are trying to save the Delta from that fate.”

Wright also noted that: All responsible agencies and organizations know that too much freshwater is already taken from the Delta.

A different portion of the draft Delta Plan admits that as a result of climate change, “Sea level rise, as much as 55 inches by 2100 (OPC 2011), will result in high salinity levels in the Delta interior, which will impair water quality for agricultural and municipal uses and change habitat for fish species.” (Delta Plan 80).

“The State is not requiring the exporters to pay for attempts to mitigate the massive worsening of salinity intrusion that would occur because of the new diversions of water upstream,” said Wright. “Their plan is to stick the taxpayers with the mitigation costs. So far, they have pulled a proposed bond measure from the ballot twice out of fear that the bond measure would be defeated at the polls. This entire process is not only an outrage against the environment and the Delta. It is also an outrage against the people and the taxpayers of California. The people voted down the peripheral canal back in 1982 by a 63-37% vote. It is gross hiding the ball by the State in league with the exporters to renew the peripheral canal plan, this time in the form of the Delta Tunnels, which would destroy the Delta by converting it from a freshwater body to a saltwater body with one hand, while with the other hand they attempt to impose the costs of attempting to mitigate this looming environmental disaster on the taxpayers. The exporters would gain the benefits of grabbing the freshwater while the Delta and the taxpayers would reap the pain in the form of environmental destruction and higher taxes.”

“The only true cost-benefit study of the Delta Tunnels project that has been prepared, is the study done by the Eberhardt School of Business, University of the Pacific. That study demonstrated that the costs of the Delta Tunnels would be 2.5 times higher than the benefits, so that the project does not make economic or financial sense. In the most recent round of drafts released by the Council, the cost-benefit study is not even mentioned, let alone analyzed. The Delta Tunnels Project would inflict an environmental disaster upon the Delta; the perpetrators of this disaster seek to inflict all costs of attempting to mitigate this disaster on the taxpayers; and the project would reach great heights of absurdity by carrying out environmental harm and destruction while at the same time not making economic or financial sense. The exporters and their puppets in the State administration, are attempting to perpetrate a ‘hat trick’ of bad things on the Delta and the taxpayers,” said Wright.

Di Croce also criticized the Council’s failure to meet the requirement that the plan “recover” the Delta. “The high level of water exports from the Delta over the last few decades has brought on the decline of the Delta ecosystems.  But the Delta ‘Plan’ is paving the way for a water-tunneling project whose intent is to allow more water to be exported from the Delta.  How can taking more water out of the Delta recover it?”

See the following web sites for these types of sustainable alternatives:

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