Agencies Promoting Delta Water Diversions Asked to Correct Tunnel Vision

For Immediate Release, July 22, 2015

Contact: Robert Wright, Friends of the River, (916) 442-3155 x 207,
Conner Everts, Environmental Water Caucus, (310) 804-6615,
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, (209) 479-2053,
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185,

Agencies Promoting Delta Water Diversions Asked to
Correct Tunnel Vision
State and Federal Agencies Ignoring Delta Ecosystem Improvement Alternatives

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Conservation groups in California warned regulators today that their rush to approve construction of massive water-diversion tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta violates state and federal laws. The letter sent to federal and state agencies that are promoting the so-called Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)/California Water Fix underscored the agencies’ failure to consider alternatives that would reduce diversions and increase freshwater flows through the Delta.

“Governor Brown and the tunnel-promoting agencies have a bad case of tunnel vision, and have ignored all requests for a Delta plan with true alternatives that reduce fresh water diversions and protect the Delta,” said Robert Wright, senior counsel for Friends of the River. “The Environmental Water Caucus developed a Responsible Exports Plan alternative and handed it to BDCP agencies on a silver platter. Other agencies ranging from the National Academy of Sciences to the Environmental Protection Agency have also called for real alternatives. Instead, BDCP agencies have released another flawed environmental review document that fails to comply with our environmental laws.”

The environmental coalition is calling on BDCP agencies to reject the water plan and prepare a new Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement that would include a range of real Delta restoration alternatives, instead of just replicating the same water-diversion and conveyance project “dressed up in different outfits.” The groups wrote that “instead of sharply defining the issues and providing a clear basis for choice among options, the BDCP consultants have produced 48,000 pages of conclusory Water Tunnels advocacy.” BDCP agencies have ignored repeated requests to develop and consider real alternatives in order to “stack the deck” making it easier to adopt the Water Tunnels alternative.

“In addition to protecting the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, and making more water for California, the Environmental Water Caucus plan for water efficiency would actually create more jobs for California than a large and expensive project like the Delta Tunnels,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta’s executive director. “The U.S. Alliance for Water Efficiency says that 22 jobs can be created for every $1 million spent on water efficiency. In stark contrast, the revised BDCP EIR, reveals that the tunnels at best would make about 5.5 jobs for every $1 million of public investment, less than half the job creation of most construction spending.”

“The fix is in for the twin tunnels project, which has always been merely a huge water grab with some window dressing. Now the so-called ‘California Water Fix’ has abandoned any pretense of habitat protection,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This disastrous water-export plan will hand over massive diversion tunnels to corporate agribusiness and lock in the current over-pumping of water from the Delta, decimating our native fish runs and speeding up the extinction of endangered salmon, steelhead, smelt and sturgeon.”

Read the letter here.

Friends of the River, California’s statewide river conservation organization, protects and restores California rivers by influencing public policy and inspiring citizen action.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Restore the Delta is a grassroots campaign of more than 20,000 people devoted to saving the San Francisco Bay Delta estuary for our children and future generations.

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