Court Ruling Invalidates Delta Plan, Stymies the Twin Tunnels

A ruling by a Sacramento Superior Court judge invalidates the Delta Plan, the Brown administration’s restoration blueprint for the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. The decision throws a large monkey wrench into the administration’s “California WaterFix,” a massive water conveyance scheme that would shunt most of the water from the Sacramento River to Southern California via two gigantic subterranean tunnels. The decision by Judge Michael Kenny declares the Delta Plan invalid because it does not conform to state laws passed in 2009. The ruling is a clarification of an earlier ruling issued in May.

The court found that the Delta Plan was not legally enforceable because it only provided “recommendations” that could reduce reliance on Delta water exports rather than firm and quantified targets.

“…None of the recommendations proffered by (the State Delta Stewardship Council) as complying with this requirement appear to be designed to achieve measurable reduced Delta reliance…” Kenny wrote.

Carolee Krieger, the executive director of the Santa Barbara-based California Water Impact Network, called the ruling a momentous development in the fight to stop the Twin Tunnels. C-WIN is a lead litigant in the coalition that sued the Delta Stewardship Council over the plan.

“The court noted that there can be no plan unless it is consistent with the law,” Krieger said, “and the law clearly states that the plan must have clear, quantified, and enforceable targets. The fact that it doesn’t means there is no longer an extant plan. This is a major blow to Governor Brown’s wasteful and destructive plan to drain the Delta via the Twin Tunnels, and a huge victory for the ratepayers and environment of California.”

The ruling greatly complicates State plans to expedite approval and construction of the tunnels, a water conveyance megaproject that would disrupt the ecological stability of the Delta, displace the region’s family farmers, cost taxpayers up to $70 billion or more, and provide no additional water to Southern California.

Still, warns Krieger, the battle is by no means over, given that the Brown Administration will attempt to revise the plan to conform to the judge’s order. “The ruling gives us three to 12 months of breathing room on the Delta Plan,” Krieger said. “But there are other fronts in this fight. The administration must also draft a valid Environmental Impact Report for the so-called California WaterFix, which is the authorizing mechanism for the Twin Tunnels, and the State Water Resources Control Board must approve a proposed change of diversion for the project. We’re going to challenge them at every step. We won’t rest until this fiscally irresponsible, environmentally destructive, and wholly unnecessary ‘legacy’ project is, so to speak, dead in the water.”