Delta Flows: May 14, 2015

“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. And then you win.” ― Ghandi

• Halftime Score. Delta 7. Tunnel Proponents 0.
• Getting Ready for the Second Half.
• Game plan

Halftime Score. Delta 7. Tunnel Proponents 0.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is dead. Long live the Delta! That puts the people who love the Delta and who want to see REAL restoration of the estuary in the lead at halftime. When we consider that the Brown Administration and tunnel proponents threw at us 40,000 pages of convoluted and misleading documents, a quarter of a billion dollar administrative effort, and eight years of public messaging and lobbying by the deep pockets at Westlands, Metropolitan Water District, and Kern County Water Agency to sell the public, Federal agencies and political leaders on the project, we deserve to cheer for ourselves.

Fact is, the BDCP could not stand up to public scrutiny, despite great efforts by the Brown Administration to suppress comments and ignore public input. This is why the Brown Administration’s message has shifted and groups like California Water Security are waging an attack campaign against Restore the Delta and pushing forward a deceptive messaging campaign on Californians. (More about them shortly.)

Under BDCP it was how 100,000 acres of new habitat deprived of adequate freshwater flows at the freshwater end of the estuary would magically restore fisheries. Never mind the findings of those pesky groups like: the National Academy of Sciences, the Delta Stewardship Council’s Independent Science Board, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bay Institute, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, or the Environmental Water Caucus—that fresh water is an essential part of Delta and San Francisco Bay estuary habitat. Never mind that fish evolved over thousands of years to survive and thrive in primarily fresh water conditions in the interior Delta.

BDCP promoted faith-based ecology from the Delta. Like Peter Pan instructing Wendy, BDCP proponents and Brown Administration officials insisted publicly that if one just believed that their experimental habitat could work, it would. Think back to California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Chuck Bonham telling California legislators about a year ago how he thought every day about how to save fisheries and this habitat plan was the best opportunity for fisheries.

Fast forward to May 11, 2015 and hear in Chuck Bonham’s presentation to the Metropolitan Water District how 30,000 acres of habitat will accomplish the same goal that 100,000 acres was going to accomplish a year ago. 100,000 acres is now not realistic. In fact, he takes up the new public official trend of laughing at Restore the Delta saying that he was not “aware of any department that was more committed to restoring the Delta, even more than some entities that call themselves Restore the Delta, than [his] department.” (Hear the presentation here. Go to Water Planning and Stewardship Committee, May 11th )

Let’s see. Our comments on the BDCP, written by the Environmental Water Caucus, brought to light the very same issues that led Federal Fishery Agencies to deny permitting the project, including horrific impacts on water quality. But we’re fake? Guess he is taking his talking points from Steven Maviglio, Fiona Hutton, and Blicker, Castillo, LA and Sacramento based media firms hired to sell people on the California Water Fix and California Eco Restore via Californians for Water Security.

Getting Ready for the Second Half.

So what is left?

Turning first to California Eco Restore, the answer is best described as a shell game restoration effort. Governor Brown and Chuck Bonham’s “Eco Restore” presents as “new” habitat restoration that:

· Was ordered in 2008 in the biological opinion
· Is to make up for past damage from overpumping the Delta for Westlands, Kern and MWD
· Was supposed to be paid for by the water exporters
· Will now be paid for by the taxpayers
· Does not address the destruction from the proposed twin tunnels
· Includes just 2,000 habitat acres to mitigate the tunnels

Under the 2008 biological opinions, water exporters were required to restore 28,000 acres of habitat as mitigation for the damage caused to fisheries for their years of excessive water exports from the Delta.

Under California Eco Restore, they are proposing to use Proposition 1 money to restore 28,000 acres of habitat now using public money to pay for this mitigation from past exports. They are proposing to complete only 2000 acres of new habitat mitigation for the damage caused by the tunnels, which of course will not offset the huge environmental impacts on the region. Nonetheless, even that pittance of expense will be passed along to Californians without the water exporters being held accountable for using the Delta as a water extraction station.

And then there is the fake water fix from Governor Brown that repackages BDCP. “California Water Fix,” is this year’s model of the fifty-year-old pipedream to now build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to take over half of the Sacramento River and divert it underground (out of sight, out of mind) is being sold to us by Californians for Water Security. Of course, Californians for Water Security and California Water Fix carry the exact same messaging. They are busy telling the public that this project will fix broken infrastructure. They use photos of leaky pipes to confuse Californians into thinking that the tunnels will repair broken water mains like at UCLA last summer.

But in front of Metropolitan Water District, Bonham carriers Governor Brown’s message that the tunnels will help fish because they will “eliminate” reverse flows.

Let’s be clear. The governor’s plan will not stop the massive killing of fish. For fifty years, the water exporters have failed to install workable fish screens at the water pumps. Those pumps would continue to operate half of the time, so that destruction would continue. Why would we trust the water exporters and the state to design, install and operate fish screens at the north Delta pumps that they have failed to install at the south Delta pumps? Rather, the aquatic destruction of the south Delta would be matched by hydrodynamic catastrophes for fish at the north Delta tunnel pumped intakes.

The governor’s plan is overly optimistic about the ability of fish biologists, hydrologists, water managers, and other state and federal officials to manage the juggling act of where fish are in the Delta, with when and how much water to export.

Modeling results showing that the vaunted “state-of-the-art” fish screens for the three Tunnel diversion points in the north Delta would be constructed on the scale, both in terms of height and length (e.g., on the order of 25 feet tall and ½ mile long), of Caltrans’ freeway sound wall barriers, but without assurances that they would protect fish in their vicinity when the pumps behind the screens are “toggled” on to divert water.

The governor’s plan will not end the reversal of river flows. Model results in the Plan that show that by 2060 there would be reverse flows in nearby sloughs and river branches just downstream of the Tunnels, and that winter-run and spring-run juvenile Chinook salmon survival rates would be reduced sharply beyond their already dismal survival rates through the Delta.
The “fix” will still have the same balky economics for ratepayers and customers that plagued the tunnels project under BDCP’s cover page. MWD and Silicon Valley [Santa Clara Valley Water District] will boost rates AND property taxes to cover the costs of the “fix” while subsidizing Kern and other San Joaquin Valley water contractors access to even more imported water from the Delta.

It is also worth noting that this tunnel fix only requires a Section 7 Permit which will do away with protections for 35 species, including: fall-run Chinook salmon, sandhill cranes, longfin smelt, white sturgeon, swainsons hawk, tri-colored blackbird, western burrowing owls, Pacific and river lamprey, Sacramento splittail, and Western pond turtles. But, we are assured by Mr. Bonham, no state agency “cares” more for Delta restoration than California Fish and Wildlife.

Game plan

The game plan for California Water Fix and Californians for Water Security is pretty predictable. Overstate the earthquake threat. Blame the people of the Delta for the watershed’s decline while denying the most damaging impact of all, water exports. Buy television and radio ads to scare people. Their efforts read like a chapter straight out of Naomi Klein’s Disaster Capitalism.

Public Records Act documents received from the Santa Clara Valley Water District show how Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms led the charge to create Californians for Water Security. They spent piles of money on focus groups with people from urban water districts, led by ratepayer-funded water district officials, to discover public fears and create messaging to sell the tunnels. This week, they are continuing by running from business chamber to business chamber to scare them into supporting the tunnels, falsely making the earthquake threat in the Delta somehow greater than the threat to the water system in Los Angeles. They forget, however, that time and time again in California, the majority of people do not see issues in the same way that dated, out-of-touch business chambers do.

They pulled together their coalition of business chambers and construction unions to raise funds for lobbying, legal work, and a public relations campaign to combat the “small, but vocal” opposition to the tunnels. Even though recent outrage at the Governor’s declaration for Delta critics to “shut up” reveals that the movement opposing the tunnels is really no longer that small. They are the narrow interests. We represent the real, broad coalition of left, right, and center that will restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary for our children and future generations.

In contrast, our game plan is much more real. We will continue networking with a broad range of groups, throughout California. We will investigate, and we will publish our findings. We will counter lies and fear tactics with facts. We will provide factual based comments to public agencies. We will educate. We will make sure that thousands of Californians comment once again on the project, regardless of how many hours they devoted to the task. We will talk with anyone and everyone who is willing to listen. We will hold events and rallies. We will fight this project in the courts, and in the court of public opinion. We will march when and if it is needed. And we will not stop until the tunnels are dead.

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