Taxpayers Are Paying Lion’s Share for Brown’s Delta Tunnels
by Dan Bacher | posted in: Spotlight | 0 How would you like to pay for a massive government public works project that will drive Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt and other fish species to extinction but won’t create one single drop of new water?
In fact, you and every other taxpayer in this country are already being billed for this giant boondoggle, Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels, whether you like it or not.
Federal taxpayers, not the federal water contractors, are paying the lion’s share for the Governor’s project to divert water from the Sacramento River, a coalition of environmental and fishing groups revealed on April 28. The water will be exported for use for corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and extreme oil extraction methods.
In response to a January 25, 2016 letter sent by conservation groups, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director David G. Murillo has confirmed that more than $86.9 million of the costs for the Delta Tunnels have been billed to federal taxpayers to date!
The alarming data was revealed in a news release, including a copy of the letter, issued by: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta (RTD); Carolee Krieger, California Water Impact Network (C-WIN); Conner Everts, Southern CA Watershed Alliance & Environmental Water Caucus (EWC); and Tim Sloane, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA. The letter is available at: http://restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Bureau-4-16-16-response-to-NGO-Ltr-Tunnels-Costs-Jan-2016.pdf
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation letter “affirmed the tunnels project is not authorized by Congress and they have no plans to conduct the required feasibility study or pay the construction costs that will more than double the current State Water Project debt to be paid by ratepayers and property taxpayers if permitted,” according to the groups.
In the letter, Murillo wrote
“Due to the State separating the BDCP into two programs and due to the fact that Reclamation does not have construction authority for the new conveyance facilities, Reclamation does not anticipate formally submitting a feasibility report to Congress.
Currently, there are no plans for Reclamation to fund the construction of California WaterFix, nor provide financial assistance agreements to provide funding for construction.”
Murillo also divulged that the federal contractors paid zero money of the $73,733,099 of federal dollars granted to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for the Delta Tunnels Plan through FAA #1 and #2.
“The federal CVP contractors contributed $0. The funding source was Federal appropriations,” said Murillo.
In addition, he said, “Westlands Water District paid $0. The funding source was Federal appropriations.”
The Environmental Water Caucus, along with several of its member groups who sought answers regarding this gouging of the federal taxpayers, called on the State Auditor to investigate why state laws requiring federal contractors such as Westlands Water District are “shirking their responsibilities to pay for the water export tunnels environmental review.”
“In response to our questions, it is clear Congress and the American people are being misled,” stated Tim Sloane, PCFFA Executive Director. “While our salmon heritage hangs on the brink of extinction and toxic algae blooms build, funds to protect fish and wildlife and restore the Delta Estuary have been diverted to fund water tunnel export plans to take even more essential fresh water from this critical estuary.”
“As federal investigators probe the California Department of Water Resources overcharges, double billings and $300+ per hour charges to the federal government for the water export tunnels, the Bureau of Reclamation’s admission that federal contractors such as Westlands, have not paid their required 50% share of the tunnels in accordance with state law, needs to be investigated,” asserted Conner Everts, Executive Director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance and the Environmental Water Caucus.
“How have the federal contractors been shirking their duties under state law to pay for the CA WaterFix environmental analysis, while the state contractors (ratepayers) are pouring money into the effort (over $60 million from MWD alone, to date)?” he asked.
“The largest irrigation district in the nation which receives 100’s of millions in taxpayer subsidies, Westlands Water District wants the nation to not only give them a permanent water contract for free with virtually no strings as to how they will contain their toxic groundwater pollution, now we find out they have been gaming their responsibility to pay for these expensive tunnels to export even more water to these toxic lands,” explained Carolee Krieger, Executive Director of California Water Impact Network. “Continuing to send more water to irrigate these toxic soils at taxpayer expense makes no sense.”
“State ratepayers and taxpayers are footing the bills along with folks in New Jersey, while Westlands, the largest irrigation district in the nation, funds phony advertising campaigns hiding behind their hard working farm workers, to solicit even more taxpayer dollars to fund this expensive risky tunneling project,” stated Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of Restore the Delta. “We are calling on the State Auditor to investigate.”
The Department of Interior’s Inspector General in April opened an investigation into the possible illegal use of millions of dollars by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in preparing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Delta Tunnels Plan. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/12/feds-to-probe-misuse-of-state-funds-for-jerry-browns-delta-tunnels/)
“These funds have been spent on the environmental studies –NEPA review—and hired contractors paid by DWR with Federal Grants,” the groups stated. “These federal grants are under investigation for a variety of reasons—double billing, failing to follow federal procedures such as competitive bidding and questions about “reasonable and prudent” charges among others.”
The investigation resulted from a complaint the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed on the behalf of a Bureau of Reclamation employee on February 19, 2016.
Yes, we have a real “win-win” scenario here, don’t we. Salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt will be exterminated, not one drop of new water will be created, and the taxpayers will be hosed! And it’s all to create a “legacy project” for Jerry Brown, one of the worst governors for fish, water and the environment in recent California history, at the same time that a federal investigation of illegal use of funds for the Delta Tunnels by the Brown administration moves forward!
Questions the State Auditor Should Ask
The Reclamation response to the NGO letter raises additional questions, especially for the State Auditor Elaine Howle, according to the groups. For example:
How have the federal contractors been shirking their duties under state law to pay for the WaterFix environmental analysis, while the state contractors are pouring money into the effort (over $60 million from MWD alone, to date)?
Are Federal CVP Contractors Paying Their 50% for the Tunnels Planning and Environmental Review? The letter confirms federal taxpayers have been billed more than $86.9M for the Delta water export tunnels. It appears State Law, California Water Code Section 85089 is being circumvented by Westlands and other federal contractors, Why?
Recall Water Code Section 85089 requires….Construction of a new Delta conveyance facility shall not be initiated until the persons or entities that contract to receive water from the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project or a joint powers authority representing those entities have made arrangements or entered into contracts to pay for both of the following: (a) The costs of the environmental review, planning, design,…
Background: Tunnels Plan Just One of Brown’s Terrible Environmental Policies
While the Delta Tunnels plan poses a huge threat to the ecosystems of the Sacramento, San Joaquin, Klamath and Trinity river systems, it’s not the only environmentally devastating policy promoted by Governor Jerry Brown. Brown is promoting the expansion of fracking and extreme oil extraction methods in California and is overseeing water policies that are driving winter run-Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other species closer and closer to extinction.
Jerry Brown also oversaw the “completion” of so-called “marine protected areas” under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, overseen by a Big Oil lobbyist and other corporate interests, in December 2012. These faux “Yosemites of the Sea” fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling, fracking, pollution, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.
As if those examples of Brown’s tainted environmental legacy weren’t enough, Brown has promoted carbon trading and REDD policies that pose an enormous threat to Indigenous Peoples around the globe; has done nothing to stop clearcutting of forests by Sierra-Pacific and other timber companies; presided over record water exports from the Delta in 2011; and oversaw massive fish kills of Sacramento splittail and other species in 2011.
While Brown spouts “green” rhetoric when he flies off to climate conference and and issues proclamations about John Muir Dayand Earth Day, his actions and policies regarding fish, water and the environment are among the worst of any Governor in recent California history.
For more information about the real environmental record of Governor JerryBrown, go to: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/25/1506146/-Govenor-Jerry-Brown-Celebrates-World-Water-Day-As-He-Promotes-Salmon-Killing-Delta-Tunnels