Coalition Asks Obama To Terminate Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels Plan

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On November 28, a coalition of California conservation, fishing and public interest organizations urged the Obama Administration to terminate Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels plan, the California WaterFix, before Donald Trump is inaugurated in January.

“It is time now to make the right decision,” the groups said in a letter to federal officials. “ The California Water Fix– Delta Water Tunnels– represent a financial as well as an environmental nightmare. This administration should terminate this project. Otherwise, down the road, when the obvious financial and environmental catastrophe is recognized by all, the blame will be placed on this administration.”

The organizations addressed the letter to Sally Jewell, the Secretary of Interior; Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Christina Goldfuss, Managing Director of the Council on Environmental Quality; David Murillo, Regional Director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and other officials.

Groups signing the letter include Friends of the River, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Restore the Delta, Environmental Water Caucus, Center for Biological Diversity, California Water Impact Network, AqAlliance, Sierra Club California, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and Planning and Conservation League.

“When it takes fraud, cover-ups, hiding your own economic analysis and absurdly low estimates to keep a project proposal afloat, that is a red flag that the project is a bad one that should not go forward,” summed up Bob Wright, senior counsel of Friends of the River (FOR).

The groups call the Delta Tunnels plan a “classic corporate welfare public subsidy,” stating, “Every day people would be forking over their hard-earned tax dollars to very wealthy special interests to subsidize the Water Tunnels. And, there will be a disparate impact on low-income communities, both rural and urban, that will bear a disproportional burden through higher water costs for this project.”

The coalition documents how the costs exceed the benefits by 4 to 1 — and how the $17 billion projected budget is “absurdly low.”

“A far greater public subsidy would be required for the project than is admitted in DWR’s secret Economic Analysis,” the letter states. “The first comprehensive benefit-cost analysis of the Water Fix shows that the project would only provide $.23 of benefits for each dollar of cost.”

The Benefit-Cost Analysis of the California WaterFix, written by Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Executive Director, Center for Business and Policy Research, Eberhardt School of Business and McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific (August 2016), states:

“This analysis is based on data and assumptions in the revised environmental documents produced by DWR to support the proposal’s environmental review. The results show the WaterFix costs are four times larger than its benefits, and thus the project is not economically justified.”

The letter concludes:

“President Obama has established a legacy of honesty, scientific integrity and commitment to conservation and protection of our natural resources. The Water Fix project needs to be terminated at this time. It is neither right nor fair that President Obama’s legacy and administration be tarnished in the future with blame for fraudulently inflicting this financial and environmental nightmare on the honest and hard-working taxpayers and ratepayers of America and California.”

Fish advocates worry that Brown will make deal with Trump to fast-track Delta Tunnels

Delta advocates worry that if the Obama administration doesn’t terminate the California Water Fix before President Obama leaves office, that Governor Jerry Brown may make a deal with incoming President Donald Trump to weaken the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act in order to fast-track the construction of the Delta Tunnels.

On November 10, Governor Jerry Brown offered his commitment to find “common ground wherever possible” with the incoming Trump Administration, but to oppose the new administration regarding climate change policies

In response, Restore the Delta issued a statement calling on Governor Brown to advocate for the” “full protection of San Francisco Bay-Delta fisheries and river flows for the estuary,” as he establishes his working relationship with President-elect Trump’s transition team and administration.

Restore the Delta’s executive director Barbara Barrrigan-Parrilla said: “It is striking to us that Governor Brown did not mention protecting the Clean Water Act for drinking water supplies, or the Endangered Species Act in regard to fishery protections, in his statement about the incoming Trump Administration. While we oppose Governor Brown’s Delta Tunnels project, we know that all Californians, expect him, like every governor before him has done, to fight to enforce the federal Clean Water and the Endangered Species Acts to protect the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary.”

Since the election, President-elect Donald Trump’s has appointed corporate agribusiness advocates, oil industry shills and other anti-environmental politicians to his transition team. These appointments pose an enormous threat to the fish and wildlife populations and the river, lake, bay and ocean waters of California and the nation.

On November 11, Trump appointed Representative Devin Nunes (CA-22), one of the most aggressive Congressional proponents of increasing Delta water exports to agribusiness and opponents of fish and wildlife restoration in California and the West, to the 16-member executive committee of the transition team.

On November 21, Trump named Doug Domenech, the director of a pro-Big-Oil think tank, to lead his Interior Department advisory group. Domenech is director of the Fueling Freedom Project, a subsidiary of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an organization heavily funded by the billionaire Koch brothers and ExxonMobil.

Domenech replaced David Bernhardt, a lawyer and Westlands Water District lobbyist who co-chaired the natural resources department at the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and served as a George W. Bush Interior Department official, as the head of the Interior Department team. Bernhart represented the Westlands Water District on litigation involving the Delta and the Endangered Species Act.

Then on December 7, Trump announced Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Attorney General, as his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, “Pruitt has fought and sued the EPA to protect industry interests, and now he’s poised to lead the agency,” said Katy Kiefer, Campaign Manager for Food & Water Watch.

Trump nominates ExxonMobil CEO to be Secretary of State

Then on December 13, Trump announced that he will nominate Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State. “One of the biggest frackers in the business, Exxon not only knew about climate change nearly 40 years ago, but has spent millions to mislead the public on the most critical environmental crisis of our time,” said Kiefer.

On the same day, transition team staff said Trump has chosen former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), a strong ally of Big Oil, for Energy Secretary.

In addition, Tom Pyle, the president of the American Energy Alliance (AEA) heads the Trump Energy Department transition team. The AEA is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based “non-profit” organization that “conducts research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets.”

If people think that the capture of the regulatory apparatus by the regulated has been bad under Obama, it will undoubtedly become even worse under the Trump administration.

The California WaterFix is based on the absurd contention that taking up to 9,000 cubic feet per second of water from the Sacramento River at the new points of diversion, as requested in the petition by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to the State Water Resources Control Board, will somehow “restore” the Delta ecosystem.

I am not aware of a single project in US or world history where the construction of a project that takes more water out of a river or estuary has resulted in the restoration of that river or estuary.

Photo: Lewiston Dam regulates flows from Trinity Reservoir into the Trinity River. A significant portion of the river’s water is routed through a tunnel through the Trinity Mountains to Whiskeytown Reservoir. The water then is released from Whiskeytown Dam into Clear Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River. If the Delta Tunnels are built, the Trinity River, already a significant source of water for corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the Valley, is also threatened by increased water exports. Photo by Dan Bacher.