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Written By: Dan Bacher, June 21, 2014
The Brown administration has no plans to translate the 40,000 pages of Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and accompanying environment documents into any other language than English, in spite of requests by consevation, fishing, and environmental justice groups to do so.
In response to my question of whether or not any of the documents would be translated, Richard Stapler of the Natural Resources Agency told reporters at a press conference on Friday, May 30 that the cost of translation would be "prohibitive" and questioned whether it would be possible to translate some of the technical language.
The press conference, held by Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin, Department of Fish and Game Director Chuck Bonham and other state and federal officials, was called to announce the release of the plan's draft implementing agreement and an extension on public comment period on the plan.
"We’ve had the comment period open for BDCP now for just about six months. We’re extending it now for another two months, so of course we appreciate that input this late in the comment period on this issue. That said, for the entire time and for the entire process, we have actually have had an 800# where all of those languages, people can ask questions in all of those languages and get answers.
There is a prohibitive cost associated particularly with translating technical language, if it’s even possible to translate some of that technical language, so that is a significant issue. But we are extremely sensitive to those populations and any suggestion otherwise is more just political rhetoric than anything else.
So we do have some materials that are available in different languages. We are currently translating some other fact sheets and such for those populations, making extra additional well above and beyond what is necessary under CEQA to reach out to the groups that represent those communities to be sure that they are being properly educated and have the opportunity to ask questions about those impacts."
I then asked Stapler, "So you’re not going to translate either the IA or the BDCP documents?
Stapler replied: "The 35,000 page BDCP document, no."
I find it extremely ironic that Stapler describes the cost of translating the BDCP documents into languages other than English as "prohibitive" when the tunnel plan will cost over $67 billion, according to the estimate of an economist at a Westlands Water District Board of Directors meeting last year.
Jane Wagner-Tyack of Restore the Delta responded to Stapler's response to my question in her article in the June 5 RTD newsletter, pointing out the arrogance of Stapler's response:
"Resources Agency Deputy Director for Communications Richard Stapler said that for the entire process, they’ve had an 800 number where people can ask questions about BDCP in various languages and get answers. Which is fine if people know there is as project they should be asking questions about. But BDCP hasn’t done that kind of outreach to non-English language communities.
Stapler mentioned the 'prohibitive cost associated particularly with translating technical language, if it’s even possible to translate some of that technical language.' So all those languages that aren’t English just don’t even have the words to explain the BDCP? And all those people who don’t speak English wouldn’t understand anyway?
What arrogance. “
Then Wagner-Tyack pointed out the refusal of the Brown administration to publish the BDCP documents in other languages besides English in the larger contest of the rush to build the tunnels without proper public and scientific input and support. Rather than a well thought plan, the BDCP amounts to a "data dump":
"The question everyone should be asking is: How should the State explain to ALL citizens what it plans to do, or allow to be done, with public resources and public funds?
Reviewers are calling for reissued documents to address dozens of inadequacies in BDCP and the EIR/EIS. But that doesn’t mean that anyone wants more of the same. More of the same wouldn’t clarify anything. At least one reviewer has called the BDCP and its EIR/EIS a 'data dump'– bloated with details, short on usable analysis of those details. Native English speakers, even those with technical science training, have trouble understanding it.
The Delta Science Program conducted an independent science review of the BDCP Effects Analysis, which should explain how implementing BDCP will impact covered species (the point of a habitat conservation plan). The review panel looked at the Effects Analysis chapter, which is 745 pages long, but also at eight technical appendices with about 4500 additional pages.
Reporting to the Delta Stewardship Council for the review panel, panelist Dr. Alex Parker said they found a disconnect between the Effects Analysis chapter and the technical appendices with regard to scientific certainty. The panel also found that the document lacked structure and was therefore hard to interpret.
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