State officials announced Wednesday that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels will be delayed and a new plan, EIR/EIS and implementing agreement will be drafted, followed by the beginning of a new public comment period.
The decision was made after the state and federal agencies received an avalanche of thousands of public comments, the vast majority sharply criticizing the plan and accompanying environmental documents for an array of flaws.
"The Department of Water Resources and the other state and federal agencies leading the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will publish a Recirculated Draft BDCP, Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), and Implementing Agreement (IA) in early 2015," according to yesterday's announcement on the BDCP website. "The agencies are currently reviewing the comments received through the public comment period that ended on July 29, 2014. The scope of the partially recirculated draft documents will be announced in approximately six to eight weeks." (http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/news/news/14-08-27/Lead_Agencies_to_Publish_Partially_Recirculated_Draft_BDCP_EIR_EIS_and_Implementing_Agreement.aspx
The recirculated documents will include those portions of each document that "warrant another public review" prior to publication of final documents, according to the BDCP officials. The public will also have the opportunity to review the final documents prior to their adoption and any decisions about the proposed actions, the website said.
However, the BDCP website failed to mention that it was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) scathing 43-page comment letter on the BDCP’s draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) that put the controversial project "on life support," in the words of Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). EPA’s comments on the BDCP EIR/EIS can be found on CSPA’s website at: http://www.calsport.org
Restore the Delta, CSPA and other opponents of the environmentally destructive peripheral tunnels hailed the delay and redrafting of its Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan EIR/EIS and a new public comment period. The opponents said the need to delay and redraft the governor’s water tunnels plan shows it is "fatally flawed, does not meet state or federal standards, and lacks a financing plan."
“The delay in the BDCP shows that it is fatally flawed," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. "There is no financing plan. They cannot finance it because the water is not there. Delaying the BDCP will not change the fundamental flaws underlying it: it doesn’t pencil out, there is no surplus water for export, and you can’t restore the San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta estuary by draining water from it. The delay shows the power of public engagement. Thousands of pages of comments were turned in, everything from simple statements from citizens to complex analyses by experts.”
Barrigan-Parrilla said the EIR/EIS is "fatally flawed" due to its failure to include a viable funding plan, exclusion of any true no-tunnels alternatives, failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act as evidenced by numerous scientists’ red flags, misrepresenting taking water to be a “conservation” plan, secret BDCP planning with the exporters and their consultants, and lack of public outreach to non-English speakers.
Tom Stokely, Water Policy Analyst with the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), said he was not surprised with the delay in the BDCP and accompanying environmental documents.
"This is not unexpected because we knew the environmental documents were fatally flawed," said Stokely. "The problem is that that they can't fix the BDCP because the project can't meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and other state and federal environmental laws."
CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings observed, “BDCP was doomed from the beginning because it was conceived on the fatal premise that you can restore an estuary hemorrhaging from a lack of flow by depriving it of another 2.5 million acre-feet of flow. Its two goals are fundamentally inconsistent and spending additional millions to rewrite the EIR/EIS on top the quarter billion dollars already squandered on this project will not improve its life expectancy. It's time to pull the plug, put an end to the suffering and get on with addressing California’s real water problems.”
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. Under the guise of habitat "restoration," The $67 billion project will take vast tracts of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to deliver subsidized water to corporate agribusiness interests irrigating toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.