Congressional Leaders Urge Cost-Benefit Analysis Of Delta Tunnel
Written By: Dan Bacher, July 31, 2012
On the same day that the recreational salmon season began on the Sacramento, Feather, American and Mokelumne rivers, Congressional Leaders released a letter sent to California and federal officials urging them to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the peripheral canal or tunnel.
Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and former Deputy Secretary of the Interior, sent a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar, Acting Commerce Secretary Blank, California Governor Brown, and California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Laird encouraging them to undertake a "more thorough statewide cost-benefit analysis" in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process.
Representatives George Miller, Jerry McNerney, Mike Thompson, Doris Matsui, Lynn Woolsey, Pete Stark, Barbara Lee, Sam Farr, Jackie Speier, and Anna Eshoo joined Garamendi in signing the letter.
The letter was released as the water wars are heating up in California. Political insiders report that Governor Jerry Brown and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will announce a plan on or about July 25 for the $14 billion tunnel to export more water from the Delta to corporate agribusiness and southern California.
The letter points out serious deficiencies in a recent benefit analysis conducted by Dr. David Sunding for state officials on whether a planned conveyance facility would be large enough for water exporters. "This analysis and the present course of BDCP policy have failed to look at the catastrophic costs that would occur with a facility of the scale currently being considered," according to a statement from Garamendi's Office.
The letter says, “Sunding’s analysis was incomplete at best, and the project Dr. Sunding analyzed threatens water districts, fishermen, agriculture, landowners, and other stakeholders in Northern California by assuming massive increases in water exports and regulatory assurances that would shift the mitigation burden to other water rights holders."
Even the smallest conveyance facility considered in Dr. Sunding's analysis would present an "unacceptable danger" to the ecologically vulnerable Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Delta and northern California water users, and the regional economy that the Delta supports, according to Garamendi.
"The BDCP process is heading toward the creation of a massive water diversion facility that could destroy the entire Delta," said Congressman John Garamendi (CA-10). "The only protection against this catastrophe is existing water rights and environmental laws at the federal and state levels, which the House of Representatives has already voted to completely overturn with the disastrous HR 1837. Instead of moving headlong on this dangerous course, we must develop an overarching water vision for California that includes critical improvements for the Delta's levee infrastructure, coupled with increased water recycling, conservation, and storage."
"We're asking for answers to basic questions. All stakeholders must be able to fully evaluate the proposals on the table. Californians deserve a more thorough financial analysis, and a clearer picture of the impacts of the plan, than we've seen so far," said Rep. George Miller (CA-7).
"Time and again, the interests of the people who rely on the Delta for their livelihoods have been ignored," said Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-11). "Now we see through clear scientific proof that any plan that includes a canal will devastate the region, costing millions of dollars and countless jobs. We need a plan that will do right by the families, farmers and small business owners who call the Delta home. To knowingly destroy the resource that a vast amount of people rely on is completely unacceptable."
"Sound science must be at the heart of all BDCP decisions," said Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-1). "Before any decisions are made, we need a transparent, comprehensive and impartial discussion on how this would impact the Delta and its surrounding areas. The worst thing we could do is rush to a under-researched decision that devastates the livelihoods of farmers, fishers and businesses who depend on the Delta."
"The present Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a recipe for disaster for Northern California's economy, the health of the Delta, and the future of our fisheries," said Rep. Pete Stark (CA-13). "Before building additional infrastructure to divert water from the Delta we need a statewide water policy vision that considers the impacts on all stakeholders, including those in and around the Delta and Bay Area, and puts us on a sustainable course."
"We've repeatedly called on BDCP negotiators to put policy before plumbing," said Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-12). "But with 11th hour studies like these, the BDCP appears more like a kangaroo process in which the outcome is foretold and the scientific warnings over water diversions are ignored. Northern California cities and counties, Pacific coast fishermen and Delta farmers are being asked to sign on the dotted line for a massive, multi-billion dollar water conveyance facility. An actual cost-benefit analysis not geared toward the beneficiaries of a massive facility should not be too much to ask."
Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Director of Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific, recently released a separate, more thorough cost-benefit analysis of the planned facility conducted by, of the planned facility, which found that the costs substantially outweigh the benefits.
"Taking into account in-Delta and upstream impacts, while not including the benefits of regulatory assurances, Dr. Michael found that 'costs of the tunnel are 2.5 times larger than its benefits, and thus the project is not economically justified due to a benefit-cost ratio of 0.4,' the letter stated.
The construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel that would divert water 35 miles around the Delta to the Tracy water export pumps is expected to hasten the extinction of Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species, according to agency and independent scientists.
A broad coalition of Delta residents, fishermen, family farmers, Indian Tribes and environmentalists believes that you can't "save" the Delta by draining it.