In a media teleconference on January 7, three Brown administration officials claimed that no money in the $122.6 billion General Fund budget for 2016-17 unveiled by Governor Jerry Brown would be used to implement the Delta Tunnels under the “California Water Fix.”
In response to a reporter’s question about whether any budget money would be used for the Delta Tunnels, John Laird, California Natural Resources Secretary said, “California Eco Restore has been separated from the California Water Fix,” the conveyance plan.
Likewise, Mark Cowin, Director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), affirmed, “There’s no money in the budget to advance the study of the California Water Fix or tunnels as you call it. Those activities are funded entirely by the state and federal water project contractors that benefit from the project.”
Chuck Bonham, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director, noted that money allocated from the state’s cap-and-trade (carbon trading) program would be used restore wetlands through the California Eco Restore program. “This program has nothing to do with the proposal to modernize conveyance infrastructure,” said Bonham.
However, Restore the Delta (RTD) disagreed strongly with administration officials’ contentions that no budget money would be used to fund the controversial conveyance project, pointing out the budget does include $3.6 million for the Delta Tunnels (California Water Fix).
“The money would come out of the General Fund to the Delta Stewardship Council and is intended to incorporate the Delta Water Tunnels conveyance project into the Delta Plan,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD)
“The Delta Plan was originally written for incorporation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), a plan that failed to meet Federal guidelines for water quality and fishery standards. The new plan for the Delta Tunnels (WaterFix) has already received a failing grade from the Federal EPA. The separated out and reduced conservation effort is now called ‘EcoRestore,’” she said.
She said the language at issue is located on page 107 in the budget summary pdf:
“Update of the Delta Plan—An increase of $3.6 million General Fund for the Delta Stewardship Council to implement the Delta Science Plan and incorporate the WaterFix Delta conveyance project into the Delta Plan.” (http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/FullBudgetSummary.pdf)
Laird, Cowin and Bonham apparently failed to read this language that very clearly states that the $3.6 million will be used to “incorporate the WaterFix Delta conveyance project into the Delta Plan.”
Barrigan-Parrilla emphasized that the “WaterFix” has not received any of the state or federal permits required to begin construction.
“The Governor is rushing the permitting process at the California State Water Resources Control Board despite the fact that the best available science needed to evaluate these permits is now more than 20 years old. The Bay-Delta Water Quality control plan is now 7535 days overdue,” she stated.
Barrigan-Parrilla reminded Californians that the Governor promised Californians that no money from Proposition 1, the Governor’s controversial water bond passed in November 2014, would be used for the tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
“Now the Governor’s budget is calling for $3.6 million for the Delta Stewardship Council to include the tunnels into the Delta Plan from these same bond funds that have been put into the General Fund. He has broken his promise to taxpayers,” she said.
It’s easy to see why the Governor broke his promise to the taxpayers when you consider the $21.8 million that Big Money interests, including corporate agribusiness groups, billionaires, timber barons, Big Oil, the tobacco industry, and the California Chamber of Commerce, dumped into the Proposition 1 campaign. There is no doubt that these wealthy corporate interests are expecting a big return for their “investment,” including the construction of the tunnels, in California’s play-to-pay politic system. For more information, read my article on the East Bay Express website: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/04/29/why-governor-brown-broke-his-prop-1-promise-big-money-interests-dumped-218-million-into-the-prop-1-campaign
“Governor Brown wants to waste more taxpayer money to prop up a hugely controversial project that was supposed to be paid for by the water exporters,” she said. “It’s time for the madness to end. Let’s redirect available funding to projects that will make California water more resilient to climate change and extended droughts.”
“Water recycling, urban water conservation, groundwater recharging, and storm water capture are all projects that are desperately needed, as we see by the massive flooding in Southern California today. The tunnels fail to address those opportunities. The Delta Tunnels are a 20th Century fix to a 21st Century problem,” Barrigan-Parrilla concluded.
The tunnels would divert massive quantities of Sacramento River water for export to corporate agribusiness interests irrigating drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting environmentally destructive fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods in Kern County.
The tunnels would hasten the extinction of imperiled Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
Unfortunately, some species may become extinct even before Brown has a chance to build his “legacy” project, the Delta Tunnels, due to abysmal state and federal government water management policies.
Fish species ranging from endangered Delta smelt to striped bass continued to plummet to record low population levels in 2015, according to the annual fall midwater trawl survey results released by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on December 18.
Only 6 Delta smelt, an endangered species that once numbered in the millions and was the most abundant fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, were collected at the index stations in the estuary this fall. The 2015 index (7), a relative number of abundance, “is the lowest in history,” said Sara Finstad, an environmental scientist for the CDFW’s Bay Delta Region.
Likewise, longfin smelt, a cousin of the Delta smelt, declined to the lowest abundance index (4) in the history of the survey. Only 3 longfin smelt were collected at the index stations throughout the three-month period. For more information, go to: http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/1/4/1466156/-Delta-Smelt-and-other-fish-species-plummet-to-record-low-levels