The Delta Stewardship Council staff today released a draft report finding that the California WaterFix is not consistent with the Delta Plan after considering the appeals filed by an array of organizations, Tribes and governments to the “certification of consistency” filed by the California Department of Water Resources.
This is a major victory against the Delta Tunnels project that Governor Jerry Brown is trying to put in place as much as possible before he leaves office in January and Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom takes the helm. The project would divert Sacramento River water from the North Delta through two giant tunnels to the South Delta to facilitate the export of Northern California water to corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California water agencies.
“In light of claims raised by nine appellant groups, Council staff recommends that the Council conclude that substantial evidence does not exist in the record to support the Department’s findings that California WaterFix is consistent with the Delta Plan. Staff further recommends that the Council remand the matter to the Department for reconsideration, pursuant to Water Code section 85225.25,” according to the report.
The Council staff found that there was no evidence that indicated the Delta Tunnels project would be operated in a manner that meets Delta water quality standards; that DWR did not use the best available science; that DWR did not provide evidence that water suppliers who would benefit from the tunnels would reduce their reliance on the Delta; and DWR failed to demonstrate that “the project is consistent with respect to compatibility with local land use plans.”
What does this all mean? “That means the tunnels will be stopped if the Council members go along with the staff recommendations,” said Michael Brodsky, lawyer for the Save the California Delta Alliance. “The California Department of Water Resources could revise and resubmit the tunnel project at a later date, but I think that would be unlikely if the vote is that it is not consistent with the Delta Plan.”
Brodsky said the council staff accepted 3 of Save the California Delta Alliance’s main arguments: that the Waterfix is not consistent with D-1641 water quality requirements, particularly that it violates the Export to Inflow ratio; that WaterFix does not respect local land uses because of impacts on recreation and legacy communities; that WaterFix does not comply with the Delta Plan policy to reduce reliance on the Delta as a source of water supply.
”The staff report also finds that WaterFix did not use best available science with regard to sea level rise,” said Brodsky.
Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and board member of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), said he agrees with many of the staff conclusions, but disagrees with others.
“On a whole, the staff properly concluded that the California WaterFix is inconsistent with the Delta Plan,” said Jennings. “We were mildly surprised with their findings, but all of the appellant groups made a convincing case that the California Water Fix is simply not consistent with the Delta Plan and Delta Reform Act.”
“The staff agreed with us that the tunnels project doesn’t rely on the best available science and that the beneficiaries of the project have not established reduced water reliance on the Delta and improved regional water self-sufficiency,” he noted. “They have also failed to establish substantial evidence on how they could comply with delta flow objectives, as specified in State Water Board Decision D1641. In addition, they failed to provided adequate evidence that they respect local land use when siting project facilities or restoring habitat,” said Jennings.
Jennings said he disagreed with the staff’s conclusion that the tunnels’ adaptive management plan is consistent with the Delta Plan. For example, he said the WaterFix lacks a final signed adaptive management plan and a financial plan sufficient to ensure implementation of an adaptive management plan.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, praised the DSC staff for having the courage to issue a report finding the tunnels project inconsistent with the Delta Plan.
“We thank and congratulate Delta Stewardship Council staff for doing the right thing and for having the backbone to assert that the CA WaterFix is inconsistent with the Delta Plan. Restore the Delta and its membership have shown up to countless public meetings, hearings, and workshops to communicate this message for three years now,” she said.
“As Governor-Elect Newsom prepares to take office, we hope he reflects on the DSC’s findings that indicate the tunnels project will not protect, enhance, or restore the Delta,” Barrigan-Parrilla stated. “Newsom won over voters by leaving the impression that he would modernize California. Governor-Elect Newsom has the chance to create his own unique legacy by backing away from this outdated 20thcentury project to pursue 21stcentury alternative projects that actually benefit the public trust.”
“The state of California is readyfor innovative water management strategies and local self-sufficiency projects that create a more sustainable, reliable water supply. Newsom could be the leader to make this happen,” she said.
Likewise, Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) praised the staff for issuing such a thorough and accurate report.
“The staff of the Delta Stewardship Council has found the deeply flawed twin tunnels proposal does not respect local communities, reduce reliance on the Delta, or support healthy Delta flows, per requirements of the Delta Plan,” said Frazier in a statement. “These findings validate and confirm what I have been saying from the very beginning about this ill-conceived project.”
“The plan does not use the best science and fails to honestly assess the impacts to Delta communities and the region’s agricultural and recreational economy. Most of all, DWR’s plan fails to reduce reliance on the Delta for statewide water needs, which is a principal requirement of the Delta Plan. The Council’s membership now has a clear responsibility to protect the Delta by rejecting DWR’s certification of consistency,” he concluded.
Frazier noted that a “certification of consistency” declares a project to be consistent with the coequal goals of the 2009 Delta Plan — and is a necessary regulatory step for any development in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Nine separate Delta stakeholder groups appealed the certification of consistency submitted by DWR in July.
These appellant groups are:
(1) the North Coast Rivers Alliance, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association and Winnemem Wintu Tribe;
(2) Save the California Delta Alliance;
(3) Friends of the River, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network, Planning and Conservation League, AquAlliance, Environmental Water Caucus, Sierra Club California and Restore the Delta;
(4) North Delta Cares Action Committee;
(5) City of Stockton;
(6) Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District;
(7) San Joaquin County, Contra Costa County, Solano County, Yolo County and Local Agencies of the North Delta;
(8) Central Delta Water Agency and South Delta Water Agency; and
(9) County of Sacramento and Sacramento County Water Agency.
The Delta Stewardship Council will conduct a public workshop on November 15-16, 2018 at the Ramada Inn (1250 Halyard Drive, West Sacramento, CA 95691) to review and discuss this staff draft Determination related to appeals received on the California WaterFix project Certification of Consistency with the Delta Plansubmitted by the California Department of Water Resources.
“Staff is presenting this version of the Determination to the Council, interested parties, and the public to discuss recommended edits and revisions prior to releasing a proposed Determination for Council consideration and action at a hearing during the December 20-21, 2018 Council meeting. There will be no Council action at the November public workshop,” according to today’s announcement from the Council.
In October, Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom told George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times that he will keep building the California WaterFix, but would like to scale it back to one tunnel.
“I’d like to see a more modest proposal, but I’m not going to walk away. Doing nothing is not an option…. The status quo is not helping salmon,” Newsom said. For more information, go to: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-skelton-john-cox-gavin-newsom-california-governor-debate-20181011-story.html
Access the Staff Report here.
Access the Staff Draft Determination Regarding Appeals of Certification of Consistency for California WaterFix here.
More information on the public workshop is available here.