County Supervisors from the Delta Counties Coalition voiced their opposition to the construction of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels during the public comment period at the first board meeting of the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Joint Powers Authority (DCA) on Thursday, May 17 in Sacramento.
On that day, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) formally entered into a Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement (DCA), forming a partnership for the design and construction of the California WaterFix. The DCA is designed to fast-track the construction of the Delta Tunnels before Governor Jerry Brown leaves office in January 2019.
Brown regards the WaterFix, consisting of two massive 35-mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as his “legacy” project – and is determined to ramrod the environmentally destructive project through, even though it makes no scientific, economic or financial sense.
“This agreement signals a key step toward implementation of WaterFix, and this partnership represents a true collaboration in the best interests of California,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “We look forward to working with the DCA to finalize permitting and design, and to safely and efficiently build WaterFix.”
The County Supervisors disagreed strongly with Nemeth’s claim that the partnership “represents a true collaboration in the best interests of California.”
“Some have called the WaterFix a diabolical plan, bold, and presumptuous,” Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis bluntly stated.
“The Delta is a special and unique place. It is the largest estuary west of the Mississippi river and home to many historical legacy communities and towns, a thriving agricultural economy, diverse geography, and many natural resources. Those of us who are directly impacted are being locked out,” said Burgis.
“We are concerned because we think the ultimate costs of the project will be much, much higher than $17 Billion as witnessed with other megaprojects,” remarked Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas. “There is a finite capacity to generate ratepayer dollars for investment in water system improvements and WaterFix will effectively squeeze out the ability to invest in more beneficial and cost-effective projects.”
Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli stated, “Many of the Delta communities were settled around the time of the Gold Rush era, and in some cases, today are a part of a legacy of seven, maybe even eight, generations of farming families and Delta residents. Quiet rural farming areas will be transformed into gigantic construction zones, more akin to an industrial complex than tranquil country settings.
“Impacts of these prolonged and intense activities, sometimes seven days a week, 24 hours a day for years, will undoubtedly affect the quality of life and daily activities of these rural farming towns. It will likely displace people from their homes, creating economic uncertainty for many small businesses, for farmers and agritourism, and negatively affect the recreational, fishing, boating, eco-tourism activities,” said Nottoli.
San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn stated, “We have the opportunity to build a world class water system, but instead we are getting a flawed, inadequate, and enormously expensive project that will not benefit the residents of California.”
Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson said, “Expediting the project with a JPA at this point in time is grossly inappropriate. Where it may make the Governor happy, it is bad public policy to acquire land, design, and construct the proposed project before it is fully permitted and before environmental impacts identified. In addition, many lawsuits are pending and bonds have not been validated.”
The DCC is an alliance of the counties of Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano and Yolo. The DCC advocates for protecting the interests of the Delta and California’s water supply and has produced a set of approaches that will achieve balance for the economic and environmental health of the Delta while also improving water supply stability. Visit sharedwatersolutions.com.
Tim Stroshane, policy analyst with Restore the Delta, also addressed the JPA Board, reading the following statement.
“Today is the first day that we hope you will come to rue attempting to design and construct the most destructive water project in California history, the California WaterFix Delta Tunnels project.
The DCA is off to a start we could have predicted: your project has a regional scale of effects yet you failed completely to notify the affected public in the Delta region that you are meeting here today.
Restore the Delta let its members know through our usual email, web site, and social media channels. You’re welcome.
I personally and professionally oppose the project. In my work with the California Environmental Water Caucus and more recently with Restore the Delta, I have for years evaluated the project carefully, anticipating that the WaterFix project would have its day in court.
WaterFix proponents have insisted throughout the process, since July 2012 when Governor Jerry Brown announced the tunnels project, that it would have environmental benefits in the Delta estuary.
Members of the Authority here likely hope that Section 437 of the House Interior Appropriations bill passes to create an end-run around judicial review for the Tunnels project. If the project is so beneficial as you and your allies claim, why would such a detrimental rider be needed from Congress? Why do you fear submitting the project to judicial review that would otherwise be inevitable?
At Restore the Delta, we intend to continue our role of getting the word about the Tunnels project out to the public, but it is a responsibility also required of you under the Brown Act as a public governmental body. Please shoulder it, if you hope to win the Delta public’s hearts and minds for this project.
Whether you shoulder that civic responsibility or not, we intend to make your tenure with the DCA as hellish as we can, whether we can sue the project or not.
Thank you for considering my opinion on this vital matter for the Delta.
At the end of the meeting, Tony Estremera, the President of the new JPA, and Karla Nemeth, the Department of Water Resources Director, conducted a signing ceremony for the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Joint Powers Authority. Estremera, was “laughing joyously” when he said he hoped for a “long, long construction period,” according to journalist Gene Beley, who made a video of the event.
The signing of the document is not a laughing matter for the commercial fishing families, recreational angling businesses, Delta and Northern California farmers, Indian Tribes, environmental justice communities, cities and counties that will be devastated by the tunnels in order to serve corporate agribusiness, developers, Southern California water brokers and the 1 percent. Here is Gene Beley’s video: https://vimeo.com/271110544