On August 6, the California Department of Water Resources under Governor Gavin Newsom filed a validation complaint in Sacramento County Superior Court to be positioned to sell bonds for the design, planning, and construction of the controversial Delta Conveyance Project (Delta Tunnel) under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
This was done even though no project plan or environmental impact report (EiS) has been released to the public for review, according to Restore the Delta.
Opponents of the tunnel, including recreational anglers, Tribal leaders, commercial fishermen, family farmers, Delta business owners, Southern California water ratepayers and many elected officials, say the project would drive Delta and long fin smelt, winter and spring run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead and other imperiled fish species closer to extinction — and result in the destruction of the San Francisco Bay Delta and West Coast fisheries. In addition, the plan poses a big threat to the salmon and steelhead populations on the Klamath/Trinity River system and the Tribes that have fished for them for many thousands of hears.
Tunnel opponents also believe the Newsom administration is taking advantage of the COVID-19 Pandemic to rush through the project without proper environmental review and while ignoring the overwhelming public opposition to the massive public works project.
“This is a validation action brought under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 860 et seq. (the “Validation Statute”) and Government Code Section 17700,” the complaint states. “The Department seeks the Court’s judgment confirming the validity of a proposed revenue bond financing the Department has authorized as the mechanism to finance the cost and expense of the environmental review, planning, engineering and design, and if and when appropriate, the acquisition and construction of water conveyance facilities in, about, and through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (the “Delta Program,” as hereinafter further defined).
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, issued a statement criticizing the Department of Water Resources under the Newsom Administration for making a “Trumpian” move with this validation complaint.
“Following in the footsteps of Westlands Water District, which is attempting to move forward with a contract validation for a permanent water contract without environmental review, Governor Gavin Newsom’s Department of Water Resources is using the same move from the Trump playbook — rush the project, ignore the public and proper environmental review processes. Every promise made to the Delta by the Governor’s office, Natural Resource Secretary Wade Crowfoot, and the Department of Water Resources has been broken in regard to the Delta with this move.
“We doubt it is a coincidence that DWR filed this validation suit at the same time the Trump Administration released a draft EIS for the raising of Shasta Dam even though it would violate state law by drowning a segment of the state-protected McCloud River, completing the genocide inflicted on the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. The Delta tunnel will decimate fisheries and water quality for environmental justice and farming communities in the Delta.
“Taking such action during the pandemic to jam the public is unforgivable. It is Trumpian. The Newsom-Trump water plan will be fought, and we will win.”
DWR filed the complaint just a week after Governor Gavin Newsom on July 28 unveiled a final version of his controversial Water Resilience Portfolio, a water plan that that includes the Delta Tunnel, Sites Reservoir and the agribusiness-promoted “voluntary agreements,” all designed to benefit San Joaquin Valley corporate agribusiness interests.
“Governor Newsom is continuing to sell out our rivers and salmon to benefit water brokers and large agricultural corporations,” said Regina Chichizola, the co-director of Save California Salmon. “These are the same corporations that are polluting our rivers and drinking water, then exporting their products.”
It is no surprise that Governor Newsom received a total of $755,198 in donations from agribusiness in 2018, based on data from www.followthemoney.org. That figure includes $116,800 from Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoons Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the largest orchard fruit growers in the world and the sponsors of the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, a corporate agribusiness Astroturf group.
By backing the Delta Tunnel, promoting the agribusiness-sponsored voluntary water agreements, overseeing the issuing of a new draft EIR that increases water exports for the state and federal projects rather than reducing them, and releasing a controversial water portfolio that includes fast tracking the Sites Reservoir, could it be that Newsom is bending to the will of his agribusiness donors?