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Written By: Dan Bacher, January 31, 2014
Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, today blasted Governor Jerry Brown for urging President Obama to pressure federal scientists to suspend their expert judgment and approve his tunnels.
In a short clip from Sacto TV KCRA Channel 3 on January 30, Jerry Brown described his conversation with Obama talking about the "Delta project" and says (starting at about 18 seconds) "lower level [Federal] officials aren't being helpful …. in fact quite the opposite."
“It is outrageous that Governor Brown is using the drought to push the president to override federal biologists who think the water tunnels are too risky,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “The federal scientists are the only ones willing to stand up to special interests that want to violate the Public Trust, and transfer wealth from this region to mega irrigators with toxic soils on the west side that are last in the water bucket line.”
“The governor has bullied the state scientists into going along with him, but he has not yet cowed the federal experts into disregarding their conclusions and agreeing that Gov. Brown’s tunnels are a solution to our water challenges,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “What’s remarkable is that Gov. Brown is using nearly the exact same language as the Westlands Water District. Clearly, he is carrying their water at the expense of the rest of us.”
She cited language used by the Governor as "right from the Westlands Water District script." The excerpts below are from Westlands General Manager Tom Birmingham at a Westlands Water District Board Meeting on January 15, 2014:
@ 43:03 Transcript Pg 4: Tom Birmingham “They [the state] say this is going to work just fine. And yet, you’ve got biologists in the federal agencies—not people in political positions or even management positions—we’ve got biologists who are saying ‘we still don’t know if this is going to work. There’s too much risk associated with it’.”
“So it’s very exasperating. But again, if these issues are not resolved, we’re done. That message is being sent very clearly to the federal agencies.”
….The basic problem is that every time you complete a stage, the federal agencies—the biologists in those federal agencies—say, ‘We need more analysis. We need more analysis.’ They don’t want an agency decision.”
Barrigan-Parrilla said that instead of operating in a manner that plans for regular droughts, the State Water Project depletes storage under the theory that they should 'take it while it's there,' and they thereby make the dry year shortages even worse.
“This past year the State pumped over 800 thousand acre-feet (TAF) more than it had promised, making the water shortage worse, and compliance with water quality and fishery standards impossible,” she explained.
Restore the Delta issued the statement on the same day that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) said State Water Project customers would get zero water deliveries this year if the drought conditions continue.
"Except for a small amount of carryover water from 2013, customers of the State Water Project (SWP) will get no deliveries in 2014 if current dry conditions persist and deliveries to agricultural districts with long-standing water rights in the Sacramento Valley may be cut 50 percent – the maximum permitted by contract – depending upon future snow survey results," according to DWR. "It is important to note that almost all areas served by the SWP have other sources of water, such as groundwater, local reservoirs, and other supplies."
Barrigan-Parrilla urged the state and water agencies to invest in projects that yield new water and jobs, rather than spending billions on the fish-killing twin tunnels.
“We have had three dry years in a row and the governor admits the tunnels won’t add one drop of water to our drought-plagued state," she stated. "We need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges, not this $60 billion mega-project that would misspend the billions needed for sustainable water solutions."
“The better approach would be to invest wisely in projects that actually produce new water and local jobs. California needs more water recycling projects, such as Orange County's that is producing enough water for 600,000 residents each year. By cleaning up groundwater, we will create another new supply and room to store water when it is truly available," concluded Barrigan-Parrilla.
State and feds drained northern California reservoirs
The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources systematically drained northern California reservoirs last summer, resulting in low flows and endangering salmon and steelhead in the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers, while filling water banks and Southern California reservoirs.
Last summer, high water releases down the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers left Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at dangerously low levels. Shasta is at 36 percent of capacity and 54 percent of average; Oroville, 36 percent of capacity and 54 percent of average; and Folsom, 17 percent of capacity and 34 percent of average.
Yet Pyramid Lake in Southern California is at 98 percent of capacity and 105 percent of average, while Castaic Reservoir is 86 percent of capacity and 105 percent of average.
The state and federal water agencies exported massive quantities of water to agribusiness interests and Southern California water agencies, endangering local water supplies and fish populations as the ecosystem continues to collapse. (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/22/6090426/northern-california-reservoirs.html)
Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, explained how the water was mismanaged.
“We entered 2013 with Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at 115 percent, 113 percent, and 121 percent of historical average storage. In April, they were still at 101 percent, 108 percent and 96 percent of average," said Jennings.
"With no rainfall and little snowpack, the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau (of Reclamation) notified their contractors that water deliveries would be reduced. But they didn’t reduce deliveries. Instead, they actually exported 835,000 acre-feet more water than they said they would be able to deliver," said Jennings. (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/26/6097073/viewpoints-better-solutions-for.html)
Ironically, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will have enough water in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to supply its users while Sacramento, Folsom and other cities have been forced to cut water use by 20 percent.
“We’ll have plenty of water in 2015,” Jeffrey Kightlinger, Metropolitan’s general manager, told the Sacramento Bee. “And even if it’s still a drought, we’ll still have enough water in 2016." (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/12/6063205/california-drought-will-test-jerry.html#storylink=cpy)
Jennings said the present crisis could have been avoided, and is a "direct result of egregious mismanagement of the state’s water supply system by the state and federal water projects."
"Excessive water exports and the failure to prepare for inevitable drought have created a decades-long disaster for fisheries, and placed the people and economic prosperity of northern California at grave risk. The State's obsession with tunneling under the Delta does nothing to address drought, or put us on a path to correct the misuse of limited water supplies," he added.
The proposed peripheral tunnels will undoubtedly kill the sensitive Delta, a delicate mix of salt and freshwater, that is vital to the life cycle of Central Valley Chinook salmon, as well as thousands of other fish and species, according to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.
“There is no precedent for the killing of an estuary of this size, so how could any study be trusted to protect the Delta for salmon and other fish? How can they even know what the effects will be?” said Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk. “The end of salmon would also mean the end of Winnemem, so the BDCP is a threat to our very existence as indigenous people.”
Failure to plan ahead contributed to water shortage
John Herrick, Restore the Delta board member and Counsel and Manager of the South Delta Water Agency, said the failure of the state and federal water projects to plan ahead contributed to the current water shortage.
"Last winter and spring the projects were concerned about not having enough water to meet fishery or agricultural standards, and so sought changes in their permits to allow for the relaxation of those standards," he said.
“At the same time, they projected the amount of water available for export. As soon as the projections were released, they began to pump MORE water than they projected; thus taking the water needed for fish and endangering future allocations for all purposes. If this had not been allowed, the reservoirs would have 800+ TAF more storage in them than they currently do,” he noted.
“The Urgency Petition process is for actual, unforeseeable emergencies,” said Herrick. “The State has known since at least September that we might be facing a horrible water supply year due to the lack of precipitation during the first 9 months of 2013. Knowing that reservoir levels were getting very low, and that the prior year had insufficient water for fish and water quality standards, the projects simply waited to see what would happen. Not until the very last minute did they file their Urgency Petition,” he explained.
“Urgency Petitions require no public notice or input, but must be based on a finding that the petitioner exercised due diligence in getting the permit change under the normal petition process if possible. Since the projects have known for months that this scenario was facing them, they should have made their petition months ago. But that would have resulted in public notice, public hearing and input by the interests who depend on the current standards being met.
It appears that, as in the past, the projects manipulated the process to make sure there was no official opposition to their requests to violate the water quality standards. Worse, it appears the regulators (SWRCB staff) were working with the regulated projects outside of the public purview to make sure the petition remained unknown. Therefore, there was no contrary data submitted to contradict the pre-agreed to order granting the petition. What would have been the findings of the SWRCB Board if the information of the projects taking too much water last season were in the record?”
For more information, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org
Photo: Castaic Reservoir on 1/31/14, courtesy of Castaic Lake State Recreation Area.
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