Water bond includes $485 million to buy water for Brown’s death tunnels

Written By: Dan Bacher, August 13, 2014

Water bond includes $485 million to buy water for Brown’s death tunnels

Yesterday Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and over two dozen agricultural, water, environmental, labor and corporate representatives called for action on Brown's controversial revised water bond, while defenders of the Delta and its imperiled fish populations slammed the proposed measure for containing $485 million to buy water pumped into the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's peripheral tunnels. 

Environmental NGOs backing the Governor's revised $7 million bond include the Community Water Center, Nature Conservancy, California Trout, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, California Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). None of these groups, as opposed to the majority of grassroots environmental, fishing and consumer groups across the state, have gone on record against the construction of the twin tunnels, the most environmentally destructive proposed project in California history. 

The Nature Conservancy Water Program Director Brian Stranko's statement of praise for the Governor's proposal was typical of those made by pro-bond NGO representatives. 

“In this historic drought, our communities are suffering, our farms are suffering and the environment upon which we all depend is suffering. Our window to prepare for future droughts is now," said Stranko. "We need a well-structured Water Bond, one that invests in water infrastructure improvements and one that protects and restores our natural environment. That's what is necessary to get us through this drought and what is necessary to get a bond voters across the state will support in November.” 

The press release from the Governor's Office is available here: http://cert1.mail-west.com/anmc7rm3Myj3Z/myuzj/6una8v213Mgt/tw0cvo7/3Mqvnq3M/majckljul8v21/9bwji?_c=d%7Cze7pzanwmhlzgt%7C12i8yhwyxpwnzo9&_ce=1407943240.900e717c917a501219ef5df1435c8177 

The Governor and legislative leaders in recent weeks have claimed that the bond must be "tunnels neutral" to garner the support of voters, but there was no mention of "tunnel neutrality" in the statements released by the Governor's Office yesterday. 

However, State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) issued a statement claiming that the new bond proposal is "tunnels neutral." 

"We fought hard to ensure this bond would be BDCP neutral and to ensure no funds will be used for the Delta Tunnels, including to pay for costs for their mitigation. We also won recognition and first time ever funding of $50 million for the Delta Conservancy, including their ability to fund important agriculture sustainability projects in the Delta. All told, it’s a good deal for the Delta and Northern California," Wolk said. 

Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Governor Brown's rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, disagreed. The group called upon Delta and other legislators to vote against Governor Brown’s water bond proposal, saying it is NOT “tunnels neutral,” and contains $485 million to buy water to be pumped into the tunnels. RTD called upon Delta legislators to reject any bond with false protections. 

“This bond proposal gives the Brown administration $485 million to buy water to be pumped into the tunnels,” said RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “It contains false protections for the Delta, and we call upon legislators, especially those representing the Delta, to vote against it. We are not fooled, and this bond will become a referendum on the tunnels. That is not going to advance the water solutions we need.” 

Barrigan-Parrilla said the governor’s flow language would allow public funds to be used to purchase water that could be diverted into the Delta tunnels. The Department of Fish and Wildlife would use up to $485,000,000 from Sections 79733 and 79737 to buy water that would be dedicated under Water Code Section 1707 for instream use in waterways upstream of the Delta. 

"However, once that water reached the tunnel intakes it could be diverted into the tunnels," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "The new wording does not prevent that. This water would be available for export from the Delta the same as any other water purchased by the exporters. The public would be paying for that benefit to the exporters." 

Barrigan-Parrilla urged people to call Speaker Atkins and President pro Tem Steinberg and let their staff know you are against a water bond with environmental water account funds for water to fill the Delta tunnels and against money for habitat restoration that will pave the way for construction of the Delta tunnels. Their phone numbers are below: 

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg: 916-651-4006 
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins: 916-319-2078 

Kathryn Phillips, Sierra Club California Director, also issued an action alert, "Stop the Free Ride for Dam Builders," about the water bond. She urged Club members and supporters to call Assembly Member Eggman at 916-319-2013 and ask their representatives to VOTE NO on AB 1471 and SB 866 unless they are amended to make sure that there is a level playing field for all California, no preference for Central Valley dams, and responsible legislative oversight of how the money is spent. 

"This week, the legislature will vote on either of two bond bills, Senate Bill 866 and Assembly Bill 1471. The bills are identical and if either of them passes, it means that voters will face a $7.2 billion water bond ballot measure in November that will devote a third of its value to dam builders in the Central Valley. And the legislature will forfeit its traditional oversight role for this money for dams," said Phillips. 

"Call Assembly Member Eggman at 916-319-2013 and urge your representative to VOTE NO on AB 1471 and SB SB 866. It's OK to call after hours and leave a message," she urged. 

BDCP background: Jerry Brown’s Death Tunnels 

Governor Jerrry Brown's Bay Delta Delta Conservation Plan to build the 35-mile long peripheral tunnels won't create one drop of new water, but the project will lead to horrendous environmental degradation, according to tunnel critics. The construction of the tunnels, estimated to cost $67 billion, will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. 

BDCP opponents say Brown's "legacy" project will lead to the death of the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas that provides a nursery for many species. It will harm salmon, halibut, leopard shark, soupfin shark, sevengill shark, anchovy, sardine, herring, groundfish and Dungeness crab populations stretching from Southern Washington to Southern California. 

Under the guise of habitat restoration, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will take vast tracts of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to irrigate toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and provide Delta water to Southern California developers and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations in Kern County. 

The tunnels are being constructed in tandem with the federal government's plan to raise Shasta Dam, a project that will flood many of the remaining sacred sites of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe that weren't inundated by Shasta Dam

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