Our responses to Gov. Brown on drought barriers and renaming of “tunnels” to “pipes”

For Immediate Release: Friday, May 29, 2015 
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve@hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053 barbara@restorethedelta.org; Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

• Media Release #1: Tunnels Opponents Respond to Gov. Brown
• Media Release #2: Tunnels Opponents Criticize Drought Barriers

Tunnels Opponents Respond to Gov. Brown

Sacramento, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD) and other 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 responded to Gov. Brown’s continued advocacy of his tunnels. “In addressing Sacramento business leaders yesterday, Governor Brown said that he is now going to call the Delta tunnels, pipes, because pipes are more popular. His reference here to pipes, and his entire talk on the tunnels, echoes the message created by Californians for Water Security — a special interest campaign initiated by Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms. The strategy of Californians for Water Security and the new California Water Fix is to take Californians’ real concerns about our need to fix our leaky water mains and aging urban infrastructure in earthquake prone places like Los Angeles and wrap those fears into the Delta project to divert the Sacramento River from the Bay-Delta estuary, depriving the Delta of its primary freshwater source,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.

“Whether it’s a peripheral canal, twin tunnels, or now pipes, it’s the same old project. Changing the lipstick shade one puts on a pig, doesn’t make the pig any more attractive,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The Delta canals/tunnels/pipes will destroy the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas. They will ruin the environment and economy for the 4 million residents of the Delta counties. They will finish off our salmon runs and other native fish species which are barely hanging on from years of over pumping. They will become financial burdens for water rate payers and property tax payers in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. They will leave the 500,000 customers of the Contra Costa Water District with drinking water that will not meet Clean Water Act standards. They will ruin the $5.2 billion annual family farm community. They will not provide urban residents with any additional water, but they will ensure that the mega growers like Stewart Resnick and those in Westlands who can spend millions on lobbyists and misleading messaging campaigns get the water they want to grow almonds on drainage impaired lands in the desert. It’s time for Governor Brown to stop carrying water for special interests and to show leadership in creating water programs that benefit ALL Californians.

For Immediate Release: Friday, May 29, 2015 
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve@hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft
Tim Stroshane 510/847-7556 tim@restorethedelta.org;

Tunnels Opponents Criticize Drought Barriers:
Brown Admin. Ignores Laws, Has no Permit,
Isn’t Protecting Endangered Species

Sacramento, CA- Restore the Delta (RTD) and other 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 criticized the Brown Administration’s failure to protect the endangered giant garter snake in its rush to install drought barriers in the Delta. As the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) continues building the so-called “drought barrier” at False River between Bradford and Jersey Islands in the western Delta, Restore the Delta activists and Delta residents remain skeptical of DWR’s plans for drought management and its ability to mitigate the project’s impacts on the ground.

“Many Californians are probably unaware, but the State has planned salt water barriers in the Delta for over a century now,” said Restore the Delta policy analyst Tim Stroshane. “Many were far worse than the False River barrier, but with permanent sheet piles going in with this barrier, DWR wants a constant barrier presence there.” At least for the next ten years. DWR’s application originally requested both the US Army Corps of Engineers and the State Water Resources Control Board approve a ten-year “program permit” for the three barriers, enabling DWR to install the barriers in three of the next 10 years at its choosing, including permanent sheet piles at False River.

“Such a permit would wreak havoc on endangered fish like Delta smelt, longfin smelt, and juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead,” said Stroshane. “These fish have one to three year life cycles. If DWR guesses the wrong three years out of the next ten, multiple barriers will implement the death sentence already issued by the State Board’s recent orders.” In withdrawing its request, DWR said they may be back next year with the ten-year request, should the drought drag on.

“The False River barrier is one of several actions the State of California is taking to cover its water systems’ mismanagement of the four-year drought,” continued Stroshane. “DWR and state regulators have failed to analyze and account for public trust resources of the Delta and its watershed, like the giant garter snake.”

An endangered giant garter snake was found by local residents just 20 feet from the False River site, the single barrier DWR settled on after planning barriers for two additional Delta channels earlier this year, near the Sacramento River on Steamboat and Miner sloughs.

DWR determined in its environmental report on the barriers that “based on the locations and circumstances of documented occurrences of giant garter snake in the Delta and observations made during the 2014 field surveys, this species would be highly unlikely to occur at any proposed barrier site. Therefore, the impact on the giant garter snake would be less than significant and would not differ between project implementation in consecutive years versus non-consecutive years.”

The photograph below shows the snake retreating to a nearby road from its Bradford Island habitat, near the water where the False River barrier undergoes construction. DWR failed to recognize that the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s giant garter snake recovery plan says the snake has nearly a 10-mile range. It can slither and swim for substantial distances throughout its habitat. DWR decided that the only mitigation needed for the Giant Garter snake was a 150-foot black cloth fence.

DWR continues to run roughshod over the law – and fails to respond in a timely manner to protect species and to address the real concerns of Delta residents – the real experts who live, work, and recreate in the Delta. Nor has the project received permits from the Corps or the State Water Board.

“Governor Jerry Brown’s April 1 drought proclamation said only that state regulators streamline the permit review process for barriers,” said Stroshane. “All they could do is ask the Corps (a federal regulator) to please hurry it up. But they’ve built the project this month without prior approvals. It was all done on DWR’s timeline, not the regulators’. The fix was in.”

Restore the Delta recognizes that the barrier benefits some portions of the Delta, but, as stated in the group’s comment letters, opposed the barriers because the State always assumes it can tinker with the Delta to fix problems it created through state and federal mismanagement of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project’s upstream reservoirs and Delta exports. And they did so again this year. The barriers protect the channel corridor through which their reservoir releases traverse the Delta to the pumps in the south mainly at the expense of the north Delta. “The barrier they put in protects water quality of the exports,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, “when instead the Delta should be managed as a whole for the health of the estuary.”

We face two “new normals” as the California drought continues: a “new normal” of California’s changing climate, but also a “new normal” of circumventing laws and standards for protecting the Delta, given DWR’s treatment of the Delta as a colony where it can carelessly impact the giant garter snake, fail to meet water quality standards, ignore due process, customer service and basic respect in their dealings with Delta residents.

“If DWR cannot handle this basic, small project correctly,” asks Barrigan-Parrilla, “how will it ever manage construction of two 35-mile long tunnels without destroying Delta communities and threatened species?”

Photo by Anna Swenson.
Photo by Anna Swenson.

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