The deal made between the Jerry Brown and Donald Trump administrations to fast-track the construction of the Governor’s Delta Tunnels project, an alliance that I predicted on election night 2016, is becoming more apparent every day.
On July 28, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), under the helm of Director Chuck Bonham, issued an “incidental take permit” for the construction and operation of California WaterFix in “compliance” with Section 2081(b) of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
The mission of the CDFW “is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.”
However, in an apparent violation of its mission, the permit allows the project to kill state-listed species, including Sacramento River spring and winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species, during the construction and operation of the two massive 35 mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
“Issuance of this permit represents another significant milestone in the WaterFix planning process,” proclaimed the announcement about the permit on the California WaterFix website. “As described in the permit application, WaterFix will implement measures for construction and operation of the project to fully mitigate the impacts of any incidental take of state-listed species, and will provide additional protection through real-time operation of the facilities in a manner that avoids and minimizes incidental take.”
Representatives of fishing, conservation and environmental justice groups were reviewing the over-200 page document at this time.
“A number of the staff and attorneys of various organizations are examining the documents for the possibility of litigation,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).
The complete incidental take permit is available at: cms.capitoltechsolutions.com/…
A number of issues with the incidental take permit and related documents are apparent after a quick look at the permit.
First, the operations plan in the permit and the EIR/EIS recently released by the Brown administration are different from those proposed in the petition for water rights by the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources to change the points of diversion for the Central Valley Water Project and State Water Project. They are also different from the biological opinions released by the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that claim that the tunnels will not harm endangered fish species.
Second, there is no signed and committed adaptive management plan or plan to finance adaptive management in the incidental take permit.
Third, the federal biological opinions that approved the construction of the tunnels project need to be followed by a subsequent biological opinion so the tunnels can be connected to the Sacramento River.
“The federal government has only released a biological opinion on the construction of the tunnels—the public will have to wait for future biological opinions on the intakes and operations of the project,” explained Jennings. “In essence, they’re asking contractors to commit to paying for construction without knowing how the projects will be operated and how much water can be exported.”
On July 26, the Trump administration released a no-jeopardy finding on the biological assessment to build the tunnels, claiming that the California WaterFix will not jeopardize threatened or endangered species or adversely modify their critical habitat. The biological opinion is available here: https://www.fws.gov/sfbaydelta/HabitatConservation/CalWaterFix/Index.htm
Four days later, four fishing and environmental groups filed two lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s biological opinions permitting the construction of the Delta Tunnels. The lawsuits said the biological opinions are “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion.”
The groups said the tunnels would divert millions of acre-feet of water from the Sacramento River before it reaches the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, noting that freshwater flows are “particularly important” to endangered species, including spring and winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and Delta and longfin smelt. The water will go to corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods.
The lawsuits claim that the biological opinions not only unlawfully fail to protect native salmon and other fish from extinction, but “allow river conditions to degrade further.”
“Decades of research and study demonstrate that unsustainable diversion of water from the San Francisco Bay estuary is the single most important factor driving the decline of numerous fish and wildlife populations,” said Jonathan Rosenfield, lead scientist for The Bay Institute. “The tunnels do not change that reality and neither will an amorphous ‘adaptive management’ program that amounts to wishful thinking.”
Over the past couple of weeks, the Jerry Brown administration has incurred the wrath of environmental justice advocates, conservationists and increasing numbers of Californians by ramrodding Big Oil’s environmentally unjust cap-and-trade bill, AB 398, through the legislature; approving the reopening of the dangerous SoCalGas natural gas storage facility at Porter Ranch; and green lighting the flawed EIS/EIR documents permitting the construction of the Delta Tunnels.
To make matters worse, Governor Brown showed his authoritarian bent by accusing AB 398 critics of practicing “forms of political terrorism that are conspiring to undermine the American system of governance” in an interview with David Greene of NPR (National Public Radio) on July 25: bit.ly/…
Below is the relevant excerpt from the transcript:
BROWN: “Yeah. We listened to a variety of opinions from a variety of points of view. And some of the folk on the left said, oh, you can’t talk to oil companies. Are you talking to the Chamber of Commerce? Are you talking to the Farm Bureau? That’s just horrible.
And then on the other side, The Wall Street Journal and some of the Republican activists said, you’re a Republican. You can’t vote for something that a Democrat would support. Well, both of those, in my view, are forms of political terrorism that are conspiring to undermine the American system of governance.”
While many reporters and editors in the mainstream media and some so-called “alternative” media falsely depict Jerry Brown as a “climate leader” and the “resistance” to Trump, he is in fact collaborating with the Trump administration in the destruction of salmon, the San Francisco Bay-Bay Delta and West Coast fisheries and the devastation of California by the fossil fuel industry.
The release of the CDFW incidental take permit is just the latest action in Jerry Brown’s campaign to plunder California’s fish, wildlife, people and environment to serve the greed of Big Ag and Big Oil.
On February 6, twelve public interest groups, led by Consumer Watchdog and Food & Water Watch, unveiled a comprehensive “report card” on Jerry Brown Administration’s environmental record showing that he falls short in six out of seven key areas, including oil drilling, fossil fuel generated electricity, toxic emissions, the California Environmental Quality Act, coastal protection and water. Read the report “How Green Is Jerry Brown?” at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/isbrowngreen