Our Response to Drought Declaration: California Can’t Tunnel its Way Out of Drought Conditions, Highlighting Need for Sustainable Solution, Tunnels of no use in dry years

For Immediate Release: Friday, January 17, 2014
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve@hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft; @MrSandHillCrane; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 barbara@restorethedelta.org;
Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

California Can’t Tunnel its Way Out
of Drought Conditions,
Highlighting Need for Sustainable Solution
Tunnels of no use in dry years;
California should use $60 billion for sustainable water solutions,
not build tunnels that won’t add one drop

Sacramento, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to Gov. Brown’s drought declaration by calling for him to abandon the tunnels as a flawed solution for a drought-plagued state. RTD criticized the tunnels as an outdated, inappropriate solution to California’s water challenges, one that would create no new water, be of no use in dry years, and drain $60 billion that could otherwise be spent on projects that create new water and increase regional water independence.

“The governor’s tunnels are based on flawed and outdated assumptions that there is ‘surplus’ water to export,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “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. We need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges, not this $60 billion mega-project that would misspend the billions needed for sustainable water solutions.

“The better approach would be to invest wisely in projects that actually produce new water and local jobs. California needs more water recycling projects, such as Orange County’s that is producing enough water for 600,000 residents each year. By cleaning up groundwater, we will create another new supply and room to store water when it is truly available,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Instead of operating in a manner that plans for regular droughts, the State Water Projects deplete storage under the theory that they should ‘take it while it’s there,’ and they thereby make the dry year shortages even worse. This past year the State pumped over 800 thousand acre-feet (TAF) more than it had promised, making the water shortage worse, and compliance with water quality and fishery standards impossible.”

Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, said, “The present crisis could have been avoided, and is a direct result of egregious mismanagement of the state’s water supply system by the state and federal water projects. Excessive water exports and the failure to prepare for inevitable drought have created a decades-long disaster for fisheries, and placed the people and economic prosperity of northern California at grave risk. The State’s obsession with tunneling under the Delta does nothing to address drought, or put us on a path to correct the misuse of limited water supplies.”

“California needs to invest in local alternatives to the tunnels that improve water supplies in dry years. Groundwater cleanup, recycling, storage and other projects are far superior to the tunnels. Even investments in these programs in urban areas can free up water for farms and fisheries,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, said, “It is worth noting that presently, reservoirs in Southern California are filled to 93% capacity. Yet, 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. They have built unsustainable businesses on subsidized water to the detriment of California’s environmental and economic future. Building two tunnels that can divert two-thirds of the Sacramento River during normal rain/water periods, and all of the Sacramento River during dry periods like the present, will not solve California’s water problems. Its price tag, now estimated to be $60 billion, will dry up money for projects that can actually make new water, such as conservation, groundwater cleanup, recycling. 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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