Updates On Tunnel NOP Comments Due 3/20

Dear Friends of Restore the Delta,

First off, we hope you are safe, healthy, and not overly stressing.  Changing our lives (collectively) on short notice is hard.  Fear of the unknown is stress inducing.  And waiting to see what happens can be stressful also.  Our staff and board extend our best thoughts, well wishes, and empathy to all of you, as we dust ourselves off and rally to continue working on Delta water policies.

COVID-19 is a lesson in why good government planning is essential to our physical health, healthy environment, and economic well-being.  Sound planning for our water future has always been our lodestar.

With that said, we want to remind people that DWR has NOT postponed, as of this email, the deadline for written scoping comments for the Notice of Preparation for the Delta tunnel.  We have requested a delay, but we are urging our followers to do their best under the circumstances to provide comments in case the deadline is not extended.  We have pasted in the specifics from the Department of Water Resources below, so you know where to address your comments and how to send them.

Scoping comments are difficult because the Notice of Preparation is a limited document.  There are no project details, so making comments is sort of like being blindfolded and feeling one section of the elephant.  Also, as we see from the Design Construction Authority ITRC Report, the project is changing in scope, so we cannot simply reuse talking points from WaterFix.  

This does not mean we think the new tunnel project is better.  Even if construction impacts are lessened and well mitigated, it still will allow for the transfer of water in much greater volume from the SF Bay-Delta estuary, Northern California rivers, and Northern California groundwater systems to unsustainable agriculture and speculative development in Southern California for way too much money. 

We learned from the DCA on Friday that the new dimensions of the Delta tunnel project (including RTM – reusable tunnel material, but we are skeptical much will be reusable) are as follows:
 RTM is “significantly less than Waterfix as that was roughly 40 miles of two-44 ft diameter bores (40 ft Inside diameter) for 9,000 cfs.    The proposed Delta Conveyance project is a single 40ft bore (36ft Inside diameter) at 6,000 cfs.   So just from a pro-rata perspective, there should be about 40% of the total RTM production compared to Waterfix (about 10Mil vs. 24Mil) or a 60% reduction….”

We are sharing this data so that your comments are accurate.  We don’t want folks sending comments that will be discounted due to inaccuracies from quoting WaterFix facts. This does not change, however, how much the tunnel will cost and who will pay.  The $11 billion figure of 2018 included 5% inflation for construction before construction costs spiked. With permitting and creation of infrastructure for tunnel construction (new roads, barge landings and rail spurs), the total construction period is expected (with permitting and processes) to be 23 years.  That alone would double the cost of the project before interests on bond debts and any cost overruns.

Throw in extended droughts from climate change, with the impacts on the economy from the current epidemic, the question becomes even more pressing: who will pay for this project with what money for how much water.

And, as we are learning these days, the cost of not being prepared for emergencies and a changing world, will ruin us.  That is why our comments, which we will share with you at the end of the week, focus in detail on the state’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment. The tunnel is not the answer to sea level rise or to planning for extended drought.

On Wednesday at 11 am, we will hold our first video and teleconference for our members in place of upcoming advocacy training.  This first session will simply help bring our supporters up to date on making comments and current processes.  In the weeks to come, as we will all have time on our hands and all need intellectual pursuits, we will hold planned sessions on understanding California water, the Delta, climate change impacts etc.  We plan to make the best of the situation.

To sign up for our first teleconference, click here.

We wish you all good health, safety, and love.  Regardless of whether we agree or disagree on policies, we are all Californians.  

DWR’s notice for comments is below. 

Yours in service,

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
Executive Director
From DWR:

Next Friday, March 20, marks the close of the scoping comment period on the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the development of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for modernized water infrastructure in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The scoping period provides an opportunity for public and agency comment on the scope and content of the California Environmental Quality Act review, including the potential environmental impacts of a proposed single tunnel conveyance project and range of alternatives that will be analyzed in the EIR. Modernizing Delta conveyance is part of the state’s Water Resilience Portfolio, which describes the framework to address California’s water challenges and support long-term water resilience and ecosystem health. 

The NOP and related availability and informational materials can be viewed online or at one of these locations.

How to Comment:

All comments received during the scoping period will be considered in the development of the Draft EIR. DWR is seeking public input on the scope of issues to be addressed in the EIR and input about alternatives that meet the project’s objectives. Comments may be submitted in several ways:Email: DeltaConveyanceScoping@water.ca.gov Mail: Department of Water Resources, Attn: Renee Rodriguez, P.O. Box 942836, Sacramento, CA 94236 Fillable online form: View formComments must be received electronically or postmarked on or before March 20, 2020.

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