Bay-Delta Plan Is Released Bay Delta-Plan is Released Central Valley Business Times Santa Barbara December 9, 2013

Critics say governor’s Delta plan runs rough-shod over facts Monday’s release of some 34,000 pages of plan plus environmental impact report for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan promotes pork barrel fantasies of Gov. Jerry Brown, the state Department of Water Resources and corporate agriculture, critics say. The state Natural Resources Department has released the plan, signaling the next stage in a statewide water war with Delta and northern California groups fighting the governor and his downstate allies.

Among those opposing the plan is the Sierra Club California.

"Once more, Governor Brown’s administration has proposed essentially the same thing: giant tunnels and huge price tags that would create environmental destruction and not resolve the state’s water demand needs," says Kathryn Phillips, director of the Sierra Club. “We need a better plan for restoring the Delta environment and making sure Californians all over the state get the water they need. It’s time to retire this boondoggle and the myth that tunnels will create new water."

The plan and its EIR/EIS works out to about 68 reams of paper, calculates Bill Wells, executive director of the California Delta Chambers & Visitor's Bureau.

"A ream of 20-pound bond paper is about 2 inchs thick so the total document, not including covers, would be more than 11 feet thick," he says.

At the heart of the plan are two 40-foot in diameter, 35-mile long water tunnels with enough engineered capacity to drain the normal flow of the Sacramento River., although the state says it probably would never do that.

The intakes would be roughly where the Sacramento, the state’s largest river, flows into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The pipes would empty out into the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project systems to move the water south to farming interest on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and to urban users in Southern California and a portion of Silicon Valley.

“California is in a state of permanent water crisis, but the Twin Tunnels will only exacerbate the problem – and saddle ratepayers with billions in debt in the process,” says the Santa Barbara-based California Water Impact Network. “The Brown administration’s blandishments aside, the Twin Tunnels will do nothing to procure extra water for the state – they are merely a means of conveying water.”

The group, which has been outspoken in its opposition to the tunnels, says the project ignores the diminishing amount of water that can be gleaned from the annual amount of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Shasta-Trinity mountains, which it says all reliable computer models indicate will diminish significantly in coming decades.

“There will be some beneficiaries of this project, however,” says Carolee Krieger, executive director of the California Water Impact Network. “The Twin Tunnels will allow a few hundred corporate farms in the western San Joaquin Valley – corporations with junior water contracts – to increase their control over the state’s developed water.”

Ms. Krieger says the project, if built, would ensure steady deliveries of water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta “to the selenium-impaired croplands of the western San Joaquin … greatly exacerbating the state’s already serious selenium and salt pollution problem and degrading Delta agriculture and fisheries.”

She contends that in its rush to get construction started, the state has lied about the real cost of the tunnels.

“State officials maintain the Twin Tunnels project will ‘only’ cost $25 billion,” she says. “But the California Legislative Analyst’s Office notes that this figure does not include the interest costs of the project’s bonds. Independent analyses put the final price tag at around $70 billion – and even this is optimistic, if we consider recent history.”

She points to two examples: the state aqueduct that delivers water to Santa Barbara County, which was supposed to cost $270 million but ended up coming in at $1.76 billion, and the new span of the Bay Bridge, which the state first said would cost $1.3 billion but has cost $6.4 billion to date with the project still unfinished since the earthquake-damaged old span has yet to be demolished.

C-WIN also says the state’s argument that the tunnels would be a better plan in case the Delta were to ever have a serious earthquake fails sinch a much cheaper alternative is at hand.

The seismic risk to the Delta can be mitigated simply by strengthening existing levees, it says.

“We can buttress the Delta’s levees to withstand major quakes from any nearby fault for $2 billion to $4 billion,” says Jim Edmondson, a C-WIN director. “This is a public works project that makes real sense. The price tag is reasonable, and the Delta’s water infrastructure and croplands would be protected at a fraction of the cost of the Twin Tunnels.”

Mr. Edmondson says California needs to reach beyond the Delta when considering future water policy.

“The Delta isn’t a bottomless well,” he says. “It can’t meet all of California’s water demands. Consumptive water rights claims already exceed the amount of developed water in California by a factor of five. If we want to avoid crushing ratepayer debt and the ecological collapse of the Delta, we have to move in other directions.”

Other comments:

• The Sacramento Regional Water Authority says the governor's plan is not enough.

"We urge the administration to develop a plan for operating California's water system that goes beyond a BDCP," is says in a statement. "A robust statewide operational plan would provide more certainty for regional water supplies in light of potential changes in Delta water quality standards, climate change, an evolving Delta ecosystem and the BDCP's potential implementation. Such a plan would also help to identify the most promising opportunities for additional surface and groundwater storage."

• “Currently, we’re crippled by outdated infrastructure and a regulatory environment that is hindering our ability to capture fresh water when it is abundant, lessening the amount of water available to use in dry periods – a problem that is exacerbated as we conclude one of the driest years on record," says Terry Erlewine, general manager, State Water Contractors.

• "The latest BDCP web page and the new page set up by the Delta Stewardship Council about the BDCP reflect the latest major propaganda changes in defense of their mutual boondoggle," says Burt Wilson, a tunnel opponent and publisher of the Public Water News Service. "Specifically, both water agencies are now pushing the BDCP as a conservation plan with the specter of the twin tunnels relegated to an afterthought. This is the agencies' latest efforts to downplay the $25 billion Delta tunnels which everyone seems to know will ruin the Delta -- everyone, that is, who isn't employed by a water agency."

• "Since there has been no substantive change in the purpose or fundamental design of the BDCP, it is hard to imagine how these documents change the fundamental fact that the whole BDCP is a $25 billion boondoggle that will lead to the destruction of the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Western Hemisphere," says Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove. "This project still doesn’t create one gallon of new water, and it still doesn’t add one gallon of desperately needed storage for existing water. The BDCP remains a bad deal for California."

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