Gov. Brown Misleading Public on Earthquake Risk to Push Tunnels

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 8, 2015
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546;; Twitter: @shopcraft; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

Tunnels Opponents: Gov. Brown Misleading Public on Earthquake Risk to Push Tunnels
If levees are so fragile, why is DWR pounding on them?
What about earthquake threat to rest of 300 mile water project?

Jersey Island, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD), 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 held a news conference at the site of the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) construction project to note the Brown Administration was excavating the top of the levee, with several days of pylon driving, and shaking the levee to its core. “There was no damage to the levee, yet the governor claims Delta levees are so “fragile” they will all fail in an earthquake. This is a main justification in the governor’s campaign to force through the water export tunnels. Yet, not one Delta levee has ever failed in an earthquake. The earthquake threat to the remainder of the 300-mile water project is greater than in the Delta, yet the governor has no plans to address that risk. His focus on the Delta shows that it is water exports for unsustainable mega-growers, not earthquake threat to the people of California, that is the governor’s concern.

“Our Delta levees have never failed in an earthquake, despite the governor’s propaganda in support of his underground tunnels,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD executive director. “As the Brown Administration cynically misinforms the public that the levees would fail en masse in an earthquake, his construction crews pound, shake and hammer the same levees to install a river barrier.”

Not one levee has been lost in the Delta due to earthquakes. Geotechnical experts like Dr. Bob Pyke who produced the Economic Sustainability Report for the Delta Protection Commission with Dr. Jeff Michael, assess the risk to other parts of the water delivery system as greater than the earthquake threat in the Delta. The Hayward Fault is 40 miles from the Center of the Delta, but the State Water Project Canals, the Central Valley Project Canals, cross over thrust faults. And the Bureau of Reclamation admits that San Luis Reservoir has a seismic deficiency in its structure. These are much more serious risks to the state’s water delivery system. Yet the governor’s plan ignores these risks to focus on continuing to over pump the Delta to subsidize unsustainable huge industrial agriculture on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

This same report explains that if a major earthquake were to happen in the Delta, 100% of the loss of life from such a tragedy would happen in Delta communities and 80% of the economic loss. That’s correct, the majority of economic loss would be lost infrastructure within the Delta.

The tunnels will not protect the 4 million people who live in the Delta and in surrounding communities, and will not protect this infrastructure. The only thing that will is upgrading levees to the highest seismic standard — a$2- $4 billion investment that includes habitat — a much better investment for the state.

The $16 billion construction cost of the tunnels, according to their own documents, does not provide adequate money for levee reinforcements, and repairs for the ten year construction period of the project. There will be 40 miles of pylon driving happening around the clock, seven days a week for 10 years, with tens of thousands of new trucks moving muck up and down these levee roads for 10 years, staging areas, and the construction of coffer dams. The Delta tunnels plan does not contain adequate mitigation for these impacts, or for protecting people.

The priorities of the State are evident in the inadequate steps taken to protect the Giant Gardner snake, a protected species, during construction. Photos taken during the construction show that DWR put up a 150-foot fence along the staging area that runs for 7 miles. It is laughable to think that will protect the snake from slithering into equipment and materials during construction. The snake can and will easily go around this cloth fence. The entire site would have had to have been fenced to protect that species. How will the State protect endangered species staging 40 miles of around the clock construction for 10 years?

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