Delta group says PPIC twin tunnels poll yields ‘bogus’ results

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The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), an organization that has published several pro-Delta Tunnels reports in recent years, in March released their annual survey of “Californians and Their Government” that included a controversial question about the tunnels.

Pro-tunnels groups touted the results of the survey as showing “support” for Governor Jerry Brown’s water project, while tunnels opponents challenged  the use of a “leading question” in the survey.

The PPIC question asked:
“The governor has proposed to improve the reliability of water supplies by building tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. How important is this proposal for the future quality of life and economic vitality of California?”

In response to the question, about half (51%) say the project is “very important,” (26%) “somewhat important,” and 14% “not too important” or “not at all important.”

“There are wide regional differences: 64 percent of Los Angeles residents call the tunnels very important, but just 40 percent in the Central Valley express this view,” the PPIC noted. “Opinion within the Central Valley varies: in the San Joaquin Valley 79 percent of residents say the tunnels are at least somewhat important, while 58 percent of Sacramento Metro and North Valley residents express this view.” To read the press release, go to:…

As soon as the survey results were released, Californians for Water Security, a Stewart Resnick-funded and pro-tunnels lobbying group, hailed the PPIC poll results with a press release headlined, “77% of Californians Think Governor’s California WaterFix is Important to the State’s Future.”

“This week, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) published a poll which highlights that 77 percent of Californians view Governor Jerry Brown’s California WaterFix as “important.” In fact, 51 percent think it is ‘very important,’” the group said.

In a statement, Restore the Delta responded: “While that is an accurate portrayal of the poll results, ethical public polling requires the strict avoidance of biased questions that may change the accuracy of the survey.”

“In the parlance of polling, the question the PPIC asked is known as a ‘Leading Question.’ Such questions attempt to lead respondents into giving the ‘correct’ answer,” the group said.

RTD said, “This qualifies as a Leading Question because it suggests that the Delta Tunnels proposal will ‘improve the reliability of water supplies.’ There is simply is no justification for such a claim. In fact, a large policy dispute currently underway is over whether the Delta Tunnels will actually function as advertised in either drought or flood conditions.”

The group noted that the tunnels will not be available for use over 52% of the time during dry conditions, and during high water events like the last several months, their experimental fish screens and sedimentation ponds “couldn’t handle the sediment and brush that floats downstream fast enough to function as designed.” Tunnel operators will have to seek temporary change petitions with the State Water Resources Control Board during droughts to take water, just like they do now.

“Unfortunately, PPIC has again put their hands on the scale in favor of the Delta Tunnels boondoggle,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “Californians deserve a non-biased, objective, policy institute that doesn’t play these games in order to appease donors.”

The PPIC Water Policy Center receives funding from Delta Tunnels advocates including the Almond Board of California, Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, and Stewart Resnick’s Wonderful Company, recently featured in the National Geographic film Water & Power: A California Heist.

The leadership of the PPIC includes prominent Delta Tunnels proponents. For example, Phil Isenberg, then Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, joined the PPIC Board in September 2013.

Isenberg has served in leadership roles in both the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in California and planning processes promoting the construction of the Delta Tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

“Phil Isenberg has served since 2010 as chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, which was created by the state legislature to achieve the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem,” according to a press release from the PPIC. “He was chair of the California Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force and chairman of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, whose recommendations provided much of the structure for the major changes in water policy enacted in 2009.”

The PPIC website also touts the facilities of the Bechtel Conference Center, funded by a “gift” from the Stephen Bechtel Fund.

“The Bechtel Conference Center  is designed to serve as both a meeting place and a learning center for nonprofit organizations, highlighting the value that PPIC places on civic engagement, consensus-building, and respect for different perspectives. The center was made possible by a gift from the Stephen Bechtel Fund and opened in spring 2011. In its design and operation, the center reflects the values that PPIC and the Bechtel family place on environmental and technological innovation.”

Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. is the son of Stephen David Bechtel, Sr. and grandson of Warren A. Bechtel who founded the Bechtel Corporation. His San Francisco-based foundation, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, has as its overall mission, “to support well-managed non-profit organizations that provide quality programs and create significant sustained benefits in areas of special interest to the Founders and Directors.”

However, its real mission appears to be the greenwashing of one of the most environmentally destructive corporations on the planet. The Bechtel Corporation, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction firms that was instrumental in the “reconstruction” of Iraq, is a leading advocate throughout the world of the privatization of water systems. It was Bechtel that sued the country of Bolivia for canceling a contract there sponsored by the World Bank. (…)

A CorpWatch report, “Profiting from Destruction,” provides case studies from Bechtel’s history of operating in the water, nuclear, energy and public works sectors. These case studies reveal a legacy of unsustainable and destructive practices that have reaped permanent human, environmental and community devastation around the globe. Letters from “Bechtel affected communities” included in the report provide first-hand descriptions of these impacts, from Bolivia to Native American lands in Nevada.

For more information about the PPIC poll, go here.