Activists shut down Nestlé water bottling plant in Sacramento

(By Dan Bacher, posting originally on Daily Kos) Environmental and human rights activists, holding plastic “torches” and “pitchforks,” formed human barricades at both entrances to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Sacramento at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, March 20, effectively shutting down the company’s operations for the day.

Members of the “Crunch Nestlé Alliance” shouted out a number of chants, including ”We got to fight for our right to water,” “Nestlé, Stop It, Water Not For Profit,” and “¿Agua Para Quien? Para Nuestra Gente.” Continue reading

California Water Wars: Another Form of Asset Stripping?

(By Ellen Brown, reposted from globalresearch.ca) Wars over California’s limited water supply have been going on for at least a century. Water wars have been the subject of some vintage movies, including the 1958 hit The Big Country starring Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood’s 1985 Pale Rider, 1995’s Waterworld with Kevin Costner, and the 2005 film Batman Begins. Most acclaimed was the 1975 Academy Award winner Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, involving a plot between a corrupt Los Angeles politician and land speculators to fabricate the 1937 drought in order to force farmers to sell their land at low prices. The plot was rooted in historical fact, reflecting battles between Owens Valley farmers and Los Angeles urbanites over water rights.

Today the water wars continue on a larger scale with new players. It’s no longer just the farmers against the ranchers or the urbanites. It’s the people against the new “water barons”  – Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Monsanto, the Bush family, and their ilk – who are buying up water all over the world at an unprecedented pace.

Continue reading

Agencies admit failing to protect water sources from fuel pollution

(By Julie Cart crossposted from Los Angeles Times) The agencies charged with overseeing oil production and protecting California’s ever-dwindling water sources from the industry’s pollution all fell down on the job, one state official told a panel of peeved lawmakers Tuesday.

During a testy two-hour oversight hearing, officials from the California Department of Conservation, the department’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the state Water Resources Control Board promised senators a top-down overhaul of their regulation of the disposal of oil field wastewater. Continue reading

Historic rally in Detroit demands water turned back on

(Cross-posted from National Nurses United, 7/18/14)

Turn on the water. Make Wall Street pay.

Thousands of registered nurses, community, labor, environmental and community activists marched in Detroit today in a resounding protests against the shutoff of water to tens of thousands of city residents – an action the marchers called a wanton violation of human rights that creates a public health emergency.

Continue reading

Billionaires’ influence felt in state water policy

By Barbara Barrigan-Parilla. Reposted from sfgate.com To track the outsized influence of Stewart and Lynda Resnick is tough because they have so many subsidiaries and so much money. There are Paramount Farms, Westside Mutual Water Company, a subsidiary of Roll International called Roll Global, which exports almonds – the list goes on and on.

The influence of the Resnicks and their cohorts in the Westlands and Kern water districts has been brought to bear so heavily on the governor’s office during the past three administrations that the fix is basically in on building the peripheral tunnels. Continue reading

Internal memo reveals ‘the fix is in’ on Delta tunnel plan

by Dan Bacher

Advocates for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Central Valley salmon and openness and transparency in government have often stated that the “fix is in” on Governor Jerry Brown’s peripheral tunnel plan.

Their contention that the process is rigged and unjustly manipulated by state officials and water contractors was only confirmed in a May 6 memorandum sent to Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff from DWR Director Mark Cowin indicating that the Brown administration is stepping up its efforts to fast-track the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels.

Cowin said two new organizations will be established within the agency to implement the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan – a DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE) – beginning June 1.

“While many milestones remain before a positive decision to implement BDCP is achieved, DWR must begin to prepare to carry out its critical role in the implementation phase of this important project, should a conclusion be reached to move forward,” said Cowin. “To this end, we are establishing two new DWR organizations beginning June 1, 2014 – the DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (known as the DCE).”

“Undoubtedly, a number of questions will arise about how these two structures will mesh with our existing organization at DWR, and we will be working with you all to elicit your questions and develop solutions together. I look forward to your continued support as we enter into this exciting phase of the BDCP which will shape the future of Delta ecological restoration and water project operations,” Cowin concluded.

Delta advocates criticized the memo for being the latest in a series of actions taken by the Brown administration to rush the construction of the peripheral tunnels before permitting of the process is complete – and before any financial plan or agreement to pay for the tunnels, estimated to cost $67 billion or more, is in place.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, said, “Permitting is not complete. There is no financial plan or agreement. The Implementing Agreement will not be released to the public until after the public comment period on the BDCP and its EIR/S is complete.”

“Yet, DWR is moving forward to implement the project?” she asked. “They are trying to steamroll Delta communities which will be harmed by the impacts, and the people of California who will be stuck paying the bill for the boondoggle.”

Carolee Krieger, Executive Director of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), after reading the memorandum, said, “It sounds to me like DWR is going ahead full steam, facts or lack of facts be damned. They have no idea what the project looks like because they have not been able to do the drilling tests because the Delta landowners have won their lawsuits. So they (DWR) have no idea what problems they may face with tunnel construction; they have no real idea of the costs…only guesses.”

“It sounds to me like the same thing the Third District Court said about paper water in our Monterey Agreement case…they are going on ‘a wish and a prayer!'” she stated.

“And where in the State Water Project (SWP) contracts does it allow DWR to collect funds from the contractors for this BDCP/Twin Tunnel planning, as this is not maintenance but a huge new project?” asked Krieger.

Nancy Vogel, Director of Public Affairs for the Department of Water Resources and former reporter for the Sacramento Bee and LA Times, confirmed that Cowin had sent out the memo, but couldn’t answer several questions posed to her by the Central Valley Business Times (CVBT).

The CVBT reported, “Nancy Vogel, chief spokeswoman for DWR, says she does not know how much of the existing DWR budget, including money and staff, will be diverted to the two offices; what prompted the decision to move forward with the two offices or how many additional staff have been or will be hired to staff the offices.

As the Brown administration continues to rush the construction of the twin tunnels, opposition to the project by a coalition of family farmers, Indian Tribes, fishing groups, environmental organizations, Delta residents and elected officials continues to grow.

The public review and comment period for the Draft BDCP and BDCP Draft EIR/EIS will run through June 13, 2014. Restore the Delta will host a “Public Comment Party” to complete more than one hundred citizens comments against the environmentally destructive peripheral tunnels on May 13, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Reserve at Spanos Park, Mt. Diablo Room 6301 W. Eight Mile Rd. in Stockton.

Refreshments will be provided. RSVP and letter writing information, language translators or childcare can be arranged: contact stina [at] restorethedelta.org or call (209) 475-9550. (RSVP is encouraged, but not required.)

The water diverted from the Sacramento River through the tunnels would go to corporate agribusiness interests farming toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations in Kern County, and Southern California water agencies. The construction of the twin tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Below is the memo:

State of California California Natural Resources Agency

M e m o r a n d u m

Date: May 6, 2014

To: All DWR Employees

From: Department of Water Resources

Subject: Establishment of the DWR BDCP Office and the DHCCP Design and

Construction Enterprise

As many of you are keenly aware, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has been deeply engaged in the development of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) since 2006. Several DWR offices and divisions are currently working on BDCP, either as part of the Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program (DHCCP) or as part of the planning and analysis of the overall BDCP program.

We are approaching a critical juncture for BDCP as the planning phase reaches completion, State and federal resource agencies consider permitting decisions, and a more detailed financing plan is developed. While many milestones remain before a positive decision to implement BDCP is achieved, DWR must begin to prepare to carry out its critical role in the implementation phase of this important project, should a conclusion be reached to move forward. To this end, we are establishing two new DWR organizations beginning June 1, 2014 – the DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (known as the DCE).

First, a new BDCP Office will be established within the Executive Division. The initial focus will be the completion of the conservation plan while providing early coordination and transition to implementation of BDCP conservation measures 2 through 22, including, for example, tidal marsh restoration, Yolo Bypass fishery enhancement and urban stormwater treatment. This team will work to plan, manage, and integrate coordination among DWR’s various divisions involved with development of BDCP and initiate preliminary evaluations needed to implement BDCP. In addition, this team will play an important role in agency and stakeholder engagement needed to complete the plan. To help facilitate the completion of BDCP, including the needed close coordination with the Governor’s Office and the State administration, the office will initially be led by the Chief Deputy Director.

This office will lay the foundation for the implementation of BDCP, and once the BDCP is finalized, that work will be merged into the formal BDCP Implementation Office as is defined in Chapter 7 of the BDCP. This organization will likely be a multi-agency effort involving DWR or supported by DWR.

Second, a Delta Conveyance Facility Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE) will be established within the Department as a new program to support activities associated with design and construction of conservation measure 1, the Delta Conveyance facilities. The mission of this enterprise is intended to be limited to this singular focus, and the life span of the enterprise will be limited to the time necessary to complete construction of these facilities. The organizational structure and staffing of the DCE is envisioned to be somewhat unique in comparison to a typical DWR organization. It will be managed by a Program Manager under contract to DWR, and will be staffed by highly qualified individuals from within DWR, participating regional and local public water agencies, and private consulting firms. As part of DWR, it will have the capacity to issue contracts for consulting services as well as construction, using DWR’s authority and in keeping with all applicable State contracting statutes. Initially the DCE will be located in the Bonderson Building, but it is anticipated that it will move to another location to accommodate the growth needed to complete the design and construction of the conveyance facilities.

Undoubtedly, a number of questions will arise about how these two structures will mesh with our existing organization at DWR, and we will be working with you all to elicit your questions and develop solutions together. I look forward to your continued support as we enter into this exciting phase of the BDCP which will shape the future of Delta ecological restoration and water project operations.

Mark W. Cowin

Director

Crystal Geyser, small town locked in bitter water fight

By Peter Fimrite, reposted from sfgate.com  – The clean freshwater that squeezes out of the crags and burbles up into springs and creeks around Mount Shasta is cherished far and wide as a curative natural serum for every ailment short of hurt feelings.

That may explain why the mineral-rich water is now a source of so much pain in the picturesque city of Mount Shasta, at the base of the Siskiyou County volcano.

To the dismay of residents, Crystal Geyser recently came to town hoping to turn a profit. The Calistoga-based purveyor of water and juice wants to tap a local aquifer known as Big Spring, bottle the water and sell it.

The move has infuriated environmentalists, local American Indian tribes and residents of this city of 3,394, whose interest in the resource borders on the spiritual. Continue reading

With Drought, New Scrutiny Over Fracking’s Water Use

KQED reports that California’s historic drought and shrinking water supplies are putting a spotlight on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and its thirst for freshwater. In other states, the controversial technique is a heavy water consumer, using millions of gallons of freshwater to extract oil or gas from each well.

In California, fracking uses less water on average than in other states, according to industry data. But that trend is shifting, as oil companies make a play for the Monterey Shale, the largest untapped oil resource in the country.

Other key points from the article:

  • Farmers near Bakersfield are concerned about orchards in areas to be opened up to fracking. While farmers fallow land and pull up orchards, they’re asking whether there’s enough water to go around.
  • Monterey Shale holds what could be the largest oil resource in the country: 13.7 billion barrels according to one estimate but it is hard to extract
  • Oil industry groups argue that fracking in California currently uses relatively little water compared to other users such as agriculture but fracking in Monterrey Shale will probably use a lot more water.
  • There will be a localized impact from fracking, because it happens in some of the most water-stressed parts of the state.
  • In the Rose oil field near Wasco, fracking uses from half a million to a million gallons of water per well, substantially more than other oil fields.
  • According to permits filed for the first time this year under new state regulations, oil companies are planning about 250 new fracking jobs that would draw water mostly from local water districts.
  • State Senator Fran Pavley introduced a bill, SB 1281, that would require oil companies to disclose the amounts of water they use in all operations, not just fracking.

“If we combine the fracking and the drought question together, it’s just making a bad situation worse,” says Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine.

Full article can be read here: http://blogs.kqed.org/science/audio/with-drought-new-scrutiny-over-frackings-water-use/

Hundreds of Tribal representatives and water activists join huge rally to oppose fracking

Based on an original article by Dan Bacher

Hundreds of indigenous people from California and across the country as well as water activists involved in fighting the Delta Water and other water infrastructure projects gathered with a crowd of over 4000 activists at the State Capitol in Sacramento on March 15 to send a clear message to Governor Jerry Brown: ban fracking, an environmentally destructive oil extraction practice that pollutes groundwater, rivers and the oceans.

Many of the speakers at the mass protest emphasized the direct connection between fracking and the Shasta Dam raise and the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan, which will provide water for fracking.

“Brown is setting aside all the environmental rules in order to ship water south,” said Chook Chook Hillman, a member of the Karuk Tribe Hillman. “Fracking will take good water, put chemicals in it and then it will come out toxic forever. Fracking will affect all us – fracking is a terrible use of water, water that could be used for people and fish.”

Hillman, who held a banner proclaiming, “Stop Fracking Around – Undam the Klamath,” attended the protest with other members of Klamath Justice Coalition, a group that has organized many direct action protests to remove the Klamath dams and stop the Westlands Water District legal attempt to raid Trinity River water.

Chief Carleen Audrey Sisk, Tribal Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu, who led the opening ceremony and prayer, took aim at the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan – the “Brown Water Plan,” as she calls it.

She emphasized, “Here at the Capitol a lot of Brown water planning is going on. This water is our medicine – it comes from the sacred places where the medicine comes from. We struggle to continue to take care of our waters – there is no other place we can go to practice our religion.”

The anti-fracking protest, organized by the Californians Against Fracking, featured diverse speakers including environmental justice advocates, farmers, student activists and other groups opposed to fracking. Hundreds of organizations, ranging from grassroots groups to large NGOs, helped to organized the rally.

“Fracking” is a method of oil and gas production that involves blasting millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, under high pressure deep into the earth to extract oil and gas but it can also pollute local air, water, and endanger the lives of people and wildlife, according to Corine Fairbanks, director of American Indian Movement Southern California Chapter.

Barbara Daly and Nancy Price in Sacramento at Anti-fracking protest on March 15

Barbara Daly and Nancy Price in Sacramento at Anti-fracking protest on March 15

Fracking exposes people to radioactivity and numerous toxic chemicals such as lead, arsenic, methanol, and benzene. The chemicals used in fracking have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer. The pollution to California groundwater supplies, rivers and the Delta that will result from fracking and acidization could devastate already imperiled populations of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

Fracking has been documented in 10 California counties — Colusa, Glenn, Kern, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Kings and Ventura. Oil companies have also fracked offshore wells in the ocean near California’s coast, from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel. Fracking may have been used elsewhere in California, since state officials have monitored neither or tracked the practice until recently, according to Fairbanks.

After the rally was over Carleen Sisk led a group of Winnemem Wintu and their supporters down to the Sacramento River at Miller Park take the “Water Challenge” to defend waters, rivers and fish population. Around 20 people cautiously waded into and then swam in the muddy waters.

“When we accept the winter water challenge and go down to our rivers, springs, lakes and oceans to make a heartfelt commitment and challenge others to do the same it makes the waters happy,” she said. “All over California the water ways are waking up with good blessings! Now accept the challenge to take the message you got to the Capitol and tell the world…no fracking chance will your Brown Water Plan destroy our sacred waters.”

Gary Mulcahy, a member of the Winnemen Wintu Tribe, stressed the need to educate and mobilise popular anger against all aspects of California water management policies:

“It is interesting how fracking would bring out 4,000 to 5,000 people to a demonstration because this fracking, one way or the other, will hurt the water supply,” he noted. “But when you talk about agribusiness taking water drip by drip and drop by drop by building canals, raising dams or building more dams supposed to supply more water than the system can deliver in the first place, only a few voices are heard like a candle in the darkness.”

“Fracking involves your water from north to south, from east to west, water that is ultimately controlled by big corporations, including agribusiness and oil companies. If fracking is bad, then so is raising dams, building new dams and building the tunnels,” he concluded.

Hopefully, this highly successful rally will be followed by even bigger rallies and demonstrations in Sacramento and throughout the state opposing fracking, the peripheral tunnels, the Shasta Dam raise and the building of new dams.

Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch, one of the co-founders of Californians Against Fracking, said anti-fracking activists will keep building the movement to put pressure on Brown to ban fracking.

“Water is a human right and fracking is a violation of that human right, as are the twin tunnels,” Scow concluded.

For more information, go to: http://www.californiansagainstfracking.org

California can’t tunnel its way out of drought

Crossposted from Restore the Delta. Opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today called the tunnels a flawed solution for a drought-plagued state. The experts criticized the tunnels as an outdated, inappropriate solution to California’s water challenges, one that would create no new water, be of no use in dry years, and drain $70 billion that could otherwise be spent on projects that create new water and increase regional water independence.

“The governor’s tunnels are based on flawed and outdated assumptions that there is ‘surplus’ water to export,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of RTD. “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. We need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges, not this $70 billion mega-project that would misspend the billions needed for sustainable water solutions. Continue reading