Young, Diverse Community Leaders, Job Developers Call for Ending Push to Build Peripheral Tunnels, Invest in Clean Water for all California Communities, Sustainable Jobs, Alternative Water Solutions

For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 16, 2014
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546;; Twitter: @shopcraft; @MrSandHillCrane; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

Young, Diverse Community Leaders, Job Developers Call for
Ending Push to Build Peripheral Tunnels,
Invest in Clean Water for all California Communities,
Sustainable Jobs, Alternative Water Solutions

Listen to the audio recording of our press conference for 1/16/2014:

Sacramento, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would cost up to $70 billion, drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today held a news conference at the State Capitol, during which young, diverse, community leaders and job developers called upon the governor to abandon the tunnels and invest instead in clean water supplies for all California communities, and develop sustainable jobs in alternative water solutions. We are tied to the Delta’s $5.2 billion annual family farm economy, a recreation and Delta fishing economy valued at $750,000,000 annually, and a commercial salmon fishery valued at well over $1 billion per year. Lifting pumping restrictions to take more water out of the Bay-Delta estuary during a drought period, or spending over $60 billion on peripheral tunnels that will not add one drop of new water to our State’s supply, and will not protect the economically vulnerable residents within our State. Such practices and projects will further weaken our Delta area economy, bringing our region, and the State, to an environmental and economic collapse.

Mechanization and the conversion to permanent tree crops that require less human labor for harvesting have contributed significantly to a permanent high unemployment rate in valley communities. Sending more water to these growers is not a solution, but a death spiral for fisheries and sustainable farming. California needs instead to invest in local alternatives to the tunnels that improve water supplies in dry years. Groundwater cleanup, recycling, facilitate underground storage where possible, and other projects are far superior to the tunnels. Investments in these programs in urban areas can free up water for farms and fisheries.

“We call upon Gov. Brown to abandon the fatally flawed $70 billion tunnels,” said Javier Padilla Reyes, Latino Outreach Director of RTD. “Our communities need clean water supplies, not export tunnels for unsustainable cotton and almond mega-growers. The tunnels are a giveaway to a few billionaire absentee farmers, and won’t provide sustainable jobs. Our future is at stake, and we need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges. Many farm communities in the San Joaquin Valley do not have access to clean drinking water. Some of these water sources have been polluted by these same growers, who now want us to suspend environmental regulations. Let’s clean up water supplies for families, not ship more water so huge growers can profit from our loss.”

“Huge industrial growers who have planted permanent crops on arid lands, mostly cotton, and almonds for snacks, flavorings and beauty get 70% of the water exported from the Delta,” said Padilla Reyes. “These billionaires are now trying to whip up a frenzy of fear to overturn regulations that keep them from grabbing even more subsidized water. They use this water for profit, not for people. Urban water ratepayers pay 10 times more than these huge growers, and subsidize their water-wasting ways.”

“There are two paths to reduce the human impacts of drought without sacrificing fisheries and the environment. Our water policy should recognize that California experiences dry years more than half the time, and creates sustainable water projects. We want jobs that pay well and don’t go away when it doesn’t rain. Let’s invest in technology that can help sustain agriculture and free our people to pursue better-paying jobs. Machines can be idled in dry weather and don’t suffer as people do,” said Councilman Zapien. “Rather than generate middle class jobs, the Central Valley Project has created permanent poverty. The proof is that even in wet years, some Central Valley communities are among the poorest and highest unemployment communities in the nation. The mega-growers who have profited from the Central Valley Project have failed to reduce the human impacts of their businesses. They should have planted appropriate crops, and planned for fallowing in dry years, as they promised when the State Water Project was sold to the people of California.”

“There is a better solution for California that will protect the Delta and enhance our overall economic opportunities. Local water projects will actually make more jobs than a large-scale water project like the peripheral tunnels, according to the Southern California Business Roundtable. These jobs pay good wages and would provide new work opportunities for the unemployed throughout California,” said Esperanza Vielma, a job developer with Café, Inc., in Stockton. “We need sustainable jobs for the our future, not wasteful spending that benefits the few billionaires planting unsustainable crops on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Let’s invest in our communities and our future instead of subsidizing the wasteful and unsustainable growers in Westlands and Kern Water District.”

“California can create more jobs, and better jobs, by investing in wise water management -maximizing urban water conservation, agricultural water conservation, water recycling, groundwater clean up, storm water capture, and storage that maximizes use of existingunderground aquifers,” said City Councilman Moses Zapien, of Stockton.

“We have had three dry years in a row, and the governor admits the tunnels won’t add one drop of water to our drought-plagued state,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “Water levels are at record lows in the north part of the state, and corporate agribusiness growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are continuing the push for water deliveries, even though the water system is depleted. Local water projects that create regional self-sufficiency not only break dependence on the Delta, but also create more jobs than boondoggle projects like the proposed peripheral tunnels. We have a clear choice in California. Are we going to continue to subsidize a small number of corporate agribusinesses that contribute less than .3% to the State’s GDP — all at the expense of sustainable agriculture, Delta and Bay Area fisheries, and our state’s overall economic future? Or are we going to turn to sustainable policies that fit with our climate, and our future economic and environmental needs?”

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