Delta Plan amendments marginalize environmental justice and Tribal communities

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Two groups, Restore the Delta (RTD) and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW), on April 18 sent a joint letter opposing the Delta Stewardship Council’s proposed amendments to the Delta Plan that marginalize environmental environmental justice communities and Tribes.

The amendments regarding surface storage, conveyance (the Delta Tunnels) and performance measures “lack a true needs assessment for CA WaterFix, a water supply analysis, a cost-benefits analysis, and fails to consider environmental justice, anti-discrimination, and human right to water issues in their planning and scientific documents within the Delta Plan,” according to the groups.

The letter was sent at time a time when Governor Jerry Brown continues to push for the construction of the two massive 35 mile long twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, to export water to agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California water agencies.

On April 13, Brown met with Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to discuss the Delta Tunnels and other water infrastructure, as well as fire and public lands:…

Randy Reck, EJCW Staff Attorney, said, “The proposed Delta Plan amendments are the latest iteration of a Delta planning process that continues to marginalize the very environmental justice and Tribal communities who bear a disproportionate burden—both environmental and financial—of over-reliance on the Delta. EJCW formed eighteen years ago in response to similar exclusionary tactics employed in the CALFED process.”

“While significant advances have been made in state policy on environmental justice since then, including the Human Right to Water policy, Delta communities continue to be overlooked by a process that doesn’t even pretend to include them. EJCW calls on the DSC to abide by existing environmental justice policies and the values that underlie them, including transparency, collaboration, equity, and opportunity,” he noted.

The letter points out that the terms “environmental justice,” “human right to water, and “anti-discrimination” cannot be found in the reviewed Delta Stewardship Council documents:

State of California environmental justice, human right to water, and anti-discrimination policy requirements apply to planning activities and decisions by all state agencies. We searched planning and scientific documents prepared by the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) concerning Delta Plan amendments (DPAs) for performance measures andconveyance, storage and operations. We used the terms 1 ‘environmental justice,’ ‘human right to water,’ and various permutations of  ‘anti-discrimination.” None of these terms are found in the DSC planning and scientific documents reviewed for this letter.”

The groups said the language of these documents becomes even “more problematic” via the use of the word “promote” in reference to the California WaterFix.

“The Council puts the cart before the horse with its proposed Delta Plan language promoting the Delta Tunnels project,” said Restore the Delta’s Policy Analyst, Tim Stroshane. “They will become both promoter and regulator of the Tunnels and other dam projects if they approve this amendment. It is farcical.”

“The Delta Plan Amendments, as proposed by the Delta Stewardship Council, ignore large portions of the Delta Reform Act that deal with Delta stewardship and promote the construction of the Delta Tunnels,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “In addition, these revised amendments and the Delta Plan in its entirety fail to identify and evaluate the impacts of new conveyance on the Delta environmental justice community. The Council, unfortunately, is continuing to push through boondoggle tunnels that will benefit special interest water districts at the expense of the Delta — the ecosystem and communities that they are to protect, restore and enhance.”

The Delta Tunnels project has come under increasing fire from scientists, economists and public trust advocates over the past few years. Governor Brown claims that the California WaterFix is based on “the best scientific thinking,” but federal scientists strongly disagree with Brown’s claim.

In fact, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has released a draft biological opinion documenting the harm the tunnels would cause to Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, other fish and wildlife species, and water quality. For more information, go to:

Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said the Delta Tunnels, if built, will not only cause “more death and destruction” to  already endangered salmon populations, but will “encourage and motivate” federal plans to enlarge the giant Shasta Dam that impounds the waters of the Sacramento, McCloud and Pit rivers.

“We consider Shasta Dam a weapon of mass destruction,” explained Chief Sisk. “It has already taken our homes, sacred sites, burial sites, and stopped the salmon from returning to their historical spawning grounds. If these tunnels are built, Governor Brown’s so called ‘California WaterFix,’ they will not only cause more death and destruction to the already endangered salmon, but they will encourage and motivate plans to enlarge Shasta Dam.  An enlarged Shasta Dam will flood what remaining sacred sites, and cultural sites that we still use today.” (…)

The Delta Tunnels project also threatens imperiled salmon on the Trinity and Klamath rivers, since Trinity River water is diverted from Trinity Lake to the Sacramento River watershed to supply San Joaquin Valley agribusiness interests with subsidized water.

This year’s run of Klamath River fall Chinook salmon is projected to be the smallest in history — 11,000 fish, about 10% of average for the last 3 decades — causing great hardship this year to the Yurok, Hoopa Valley and Karuk Tribes that have fished for salmon on the Klamath and Trinity rivers for thousands of years. (…)