Tribes, Youth and Fishermen Urge State to ‘Shut Down’ Delta Tunnel; Comment Period Extended to April 17

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Hoopa Valley High School students, members of 7 Northern California Indian Tribes and anglers spoke out against the Delta Tunnel project in Redding on March 2. Photo by Dan Bacher.


Over 200 people including members of at least seven California Indian Tribal nations, along with some recreational anglers and environmentalists, marched on the meeting room of the Sheraton Inn in Redding on the evening of March 2, shouting “Shut It Down” and “No Water for Profits,” in strident opposition to the Governor’s Delta Tunnel project.

After marching into the room, they testified before the Department of Water Resources staff about damage that would be caused to their livelihoods and culture if the Delta Tunnel is constructed. The meeting only took place under pressure from the Hoopa High Water Protectors Club and their allies, who demanded at the first scoping meeting on February 3 that a meeting be held in the north state.

There were so many speakers that the DWR moderators, under pressure from all of people who had traveled there, finally decided to hold the comment period a half hour longer than originally planned. Not one person who showed up indicated support for the Delta Tunnel.

Annelia Hillman of Orleans, Yurok Tribal Member and artist, set the tone for the evening when she got the crowd chanting “Shut it Down!” during the rally. Dozens of youth spoke, sang songs and testified during the rally and scoping meeting.

Kylee Sorrell, Hoopa High Water Protectors Club representative, reflected the view of many tribal youth that showed up at the meeting.

“I should be in school,” she said. “I should be able to be a kid. I should not have to be continually fighting for my river and culture.”

Margo Robbins, an adviser for the Hoopa High School Water Protectors Club, stated, “We’re here today at the Delta tunnel scoping meeting to let the government know that we cannot sustain any more diversions from the Trinity River.”

“As native people, we rely on the river and the salmon as part of our traditional heritage. We cannot afford to let anything further erode our river systems,” Robbins testified.

Morning Star Gali of Save California Salmon, a Pit River Tribal Member, said regarding the water planned for export in the Delta Tunnel, repeated to the DWR staffers a question that she had asked Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot at a meeting in Sacramento in February:

“The economies, heath and subsistence of Tribal and coastal communities rely on salmon, how will cutting regulations help protect these communities and restore salmon and why is DWR not reaching out to North State rural and salmon dependent communities on things like the tunnel and water portfolio.”

The Governor’s Delta Tunnel’s plan is being promoted by the Newsom Administration after a fall when low numbers of fall Chinook salmon ascended the Trinity and Klamath rivers. As a consequence, the Klamath River fall Chinook abundance forecast of 186,600 adult salmon is even lower than the 2019 forecast and will likely result in big restrictions and/or closures for Tribal, recreational and commercial ocean fishermen this year.

Carrie Buckman, the DWR program manager who conducted the Redding meeting and previous scoping meetings around the state, said, “The project does not include any changes to the Trinity or Klamath rivers,” after Dania Colegrove, a Hoopa Valley Tribal Member, asked why the Trinity River wasn’t included in the map of watersheds impacted by Delta Conveyance.

However, meeting attendees weren’t impressed with DWR’s claim that the Delta Tunnel wouldn’t impact flows on the Trinity, the largest tributary of the Klamath.

“Despite many promises over the years to leave Trinity River flows intact, we have uncovered evidence that there are plans to increase exports of Trinity water to the Central Valley,” said Georgianna Myers of the Yurok Tribe. “The Delta tunnel project only increases the risks to the Trinity River.”

“Promises to protect the Trinity in the past were broken time and again. We say no more. The fisheries in the Klamath and Trinity are at a breaking point, and we cannot endure any more. Simply put, the Klamath and Trinity rivers are everything to us,” she concluded.

Richard Myers, a member of the Yurok Cultural Committee and a former Councilmember from the village of Sregon, emphasized that the state and federal governments haven’t consulted with the Tribes along the Klamath and Trinity rivers, even though they will be impacted greatly by the Delta Tunnel, voluntary settlements, Sites Reservoir and other water plans.

“There’s a trust responsibility here some place. Somebody’s supposed to talk to the tribes if there’s going to be any impact on the river. So far, I haven’t heard of any. And the state needs to talk with all three or four tribes up and down the river. We are people. And you can see the shape of the river’s in now – it’s horrible,” he said.

A dozen members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and their Chief, Caleen Sisk, showed up at the meeting and sang a traditional song after the meeting ended. The Winnemem are a traditional salmon people working to bring back the native run of McCloud River winter Chinook salmon back from New Zealand, where they were introduced 100 years, to their native river above Shasta Dam.

“Truth and healing cannot happen under Governor Newsom’s regime if the state is going to support water projects that destroy our salmon runs,” said Caleen Sisk in a statement before the meeting, referring to Newsom’s executive order apologizing for the genocides survived California Indigenous peoples around the state. “We believe that whatever happens to the salmon will happen to us as a tribal people, and this Tunnel is part of the larger plan that would make the extinction of salmon final.”

Sisk and other Tribal representatives at the meeting called on Governor Newsom to adhere to his obligation, as required by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, to procure free, prior and informed consent from tribes for any project that may impact their ancestral homelands. They are also asking for the Governor to stand with them to fight the Trump administration’s new water diversion rules from California’s salmon rivers.

In her testimony, Sisk pointed out how the Winnemem and other Tribes are threatened by the federal plan to raise Shasta Dam and the Delta Tunnel — and criticized the limited amount of time provided to comment, as well as the failure to answer the questions she has asked in tunnel scoping meetings she has attended:

“We didn’t get even get 3 minutes to speak against the Shasta Dam! Look at the poisons in the bottom of that lake that holds the water for exporting — even though we hold the first in time water rights.\

Fishing guides who spoke included Robert Weese of Northern California Guide Service, who displayed documents to the DWR staff showing how the state and federal government had failed to meeting the doubling goals for salmon and steelhead set under the Central Valley Improvement Act of 1992. He also described how the DWR had broken its agreement to produce 1 million additional salmon as mitigation for the Oroville Dam disaster of 2017.

Jack Trout of Jack Trout Fly Fishing, who guides on the Klamath and Sacramento Rivers and books other guides for fishing adventures around the world, said, “We need to send a message to Gavin Newsom that they cannot do this tunnel — and deliver our water down to the south state. They need to work on solutions.”

Atta Stevenson, Cahto Tribal Member and a board member of the California Indian Water Commission (CIWC), read a letter to Governor Newsom signed by her and the three other Commission members — President Don Hankins, Vice President Randy Yonemura and Secretary Roger Aguilar — opposing the Delta Tunnel. The first paragraph stated:

“The California Indian Water Commission strongly opposes the Delta Conveyance Project. It appears the Water Resilience Portfolio, Sites Reservoir and Voluntary Agreement do not give credence nor acknowledge traditional knowledge, historical data or salmon sustainability for increased water diversions from the Trinity, Klamath and Sacramento Rivers.”

Public Comment Period on Delta Tunnel Extended to April 17

The Department of Water Resources yesterday extended the comment period for the Delta Tunnel by four weeks due to the “rapidly expanding evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, DWR said

“The nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving. As individuals, organizations and local governments are focusing their attention on the safety of their communities in response to this health emergency, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) will be extending the scoping period for the Delta Conveyance Project by four weeks. The new deadline for public comment will be at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2020.

Please also note that the Stakeholder Engagement Committee meeting scheduled for next week has been cancelled. The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority will work to arrange for remote participation for both committee members and the public for future meetings.

Given the dynamic nature of the situation, DWR will re-evaluate public participation needs frequently and will provide additional updates as new information becomes available.”

Public comments on the Delta Conveyance Scoping (Delta Tunnel) may be submitted via email at