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Restore the Delta (RTD) and many other groups held a big rally at the State Capitol on Tuesday, July 29, featuring the delivery of a “Death of the Delta" coffin containing thousands of public comments opposing Governor Jerry Brown’s peripheral tunnels.
Hundreds of people, including fishermen, Tribal leaders, environmentalists, Delta farmers and environmental justice advocates, rallied in over 100 degree heat to protest Jerry Brown’s tunnel plan and to call for a new Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). The protest was held on the final day of the public comment period for the BDCP.
The opponents charged that the EIR/EIS process has been “fatally flawed” due to its lack of public outreach to non-English speakers, failure to present a funding plan, exclusion of any non-tunnels alternative, and scientists’ identification of numerous “red flags.”
The rally opened with a blessing by Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and featured a number of speakers from an array of organizations. Musicians at the event included Raging Grannies of Sacramento and Fresno, who performed three original songs against the tunnels, and Johnathan Michelsen, who composed the songs "Blue Heron" and "Save the Delta" for the event.
Caleen Sisk said, “We ask that the Great Creator look down on our hearts and open our minds so we can see the good things and that the good people will wake up to join this effort to protect the waters of not only California but the world. All of the waters are connected."
Chief Sisk emphasized that rather than growing export crops on drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, California is one of four salmon states in the U.S. and should rebuild the salmon population for economic, cultural and spiritual reasons. Salmon now contribute many billions to the New Zealand economy – and California should embrace its role as a salmon state.
The Tribe is now engaged in a campaign to bring back the McCloud River winter run chinook salmon back from New Zealand to be reintroduced into the McCloud above Shasta Dam – and is currently fighting the Shasta Dam raise that is proposed by the federal government in tandem with the construction of the twin tunnels.
After she spoke, Chief Sisk held up a sign stating, “No Shasta Dam Raise,” while Jessica Lopez, Chair of the Concow Maidu Tribe, held up a sign proclaiming, “We are not defeated.”
After Sisk spoke, Michael Jackson, lawyer for the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and other groups, exposed the insanity and big lies that the BDCP is based on.
“There are many mistakes in this (BDCP EIR/EIS) document,” said Jackson, as recorded on video by Gene Beley of the Central Valley Business Times. "This review did reaffirm some conclusions are simply continuations of the big lies that built the original State Water Project. One of the biggest lies is that there is now enough water for the tunnels.”
In 1960 when the Department of Water Resources (DWR) issued its plan for the State Water Project, they said would only be able to get three million acre feet of water by 1981 if they didn’t get the North Coast rivers connected with the project, wrote Beley. When he was Governor, Ronald Reagan took the North Coast rivers off the table for SWP diversions for environmental reasons. The people of the Sacramento Valley and upstream were worried, so the concept of “area of origin” started.
“All of the promises in history were that they (Southern California) would not take one drop of water that was needed in Northern California,” said Jackson. “They also made clear in this document that the Delta Protection Act is simply words. They don’t think it can be enforced. They don’t intend to enforce it.”
“They don’t care about the environment to the Delta because they have a magic bullet again this time — habitat restoration can replace outflow. There will be no outflow to speak of past the new twin tunnels,” noted Jackson.
“One of the big lies is that they give a damn about any fish. What they are doing today is exterminating the Delta smelt because it is in the way of the pumps. If they have to release outflow for fish below, the tunnels die. If they can kill the fish before then, the tunnels live," he concluded.
Jackson read a powerful statement from Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, who couldn’t attend the rally because of illness. Jennings pointed out the dire situation that Delta smelt, an endangered species and indicator species that demonstrates the health of the Delta, is now in:
"Several days ago, the Department of Fish and Wildlife released the results of the last of this year’s 20-mm surveys for Delta smelt. At one time, Delta smelt were the most abundant fish in the Delta. Today, they’re an endangered species. Delta smelt are the proverbial 'miner’s canary,' a yardstick of the health of the estuary,“ said Jennings.
“In 141 separate trawls at 40 locations in the Delta – stretching from Cache Slough to San Pablo Bay, the survey found two Delta smelt: that’s two! By far, the lowest number in history,” he stated.
“We don’t know where the point of no return is for Delta smelt – but it's close. And the same folks that orchestrated this disaster – or stood by as it unfolded – now ask us to trust them that their latest scheme, BDCP, will restore the Delta,” wrote Jennings.
Esperanza Vielma with EJAG and Cafe Coop blasted the Brown administration for its failure to publish the BDCP EIS or EIR in Spanish or other languages.
"There are over 600,000 limited English speakers in five Delta counties. Yet there are no interpreters or translated documents provided to explain the 52 impacts of the BDCP on Delta communities," said Vielma.
Jim Cox, president of the California Striped Bass Association, said 90 percent of the fish in the Delta are non-native fish including striped bass, largemouth bass and catfish. “DWR feels these fish aren’t worth saving,” he told the rally audience.
Zeke Grader, executive director of Pacific Coast Federation of the Fishermen’s Associations, made the inevitable comparison between the water pirates leading the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation and the banksters who engineered the economic crash of 2008 and the bank bailouts.
“Bernie Madoff may be in jail, but it is pretty obvious he is being channeled now by the Bureau of Reclamation and DWR, and we have to tell them today that we are not going to stand for grand theft water," quipped Grader.
Other speakers at the rally included Kathryn Phillips of Sierra Club, Alex Aliferis of Coco Tax, Jonas Minton of the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), Conner Everts with the Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) and EJCW (Southern California), Rogene Reynolds, Assemblymember Jim Frazier, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, Anna Swenson of North Delta Cares, Bob Wright of Friends of the River, Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch, Chelsea Chu of Center for Biological Diversity, Kathy Miller with City of Stockton, Paul Rockwell of Berkeley Youth Fishing Club, Sally Shanks of the Lodi Crane Festival, and Bill Wells with the Delta Chamber of Commerce.
You can see Gene Beley's videos of the rally and the coffin delivery and a transcript of quotes from the speakers at: http://www.centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=26424
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