Tonight on National Geographic, a look at water and power in California

Big storms and a generous Sierra snowpack indicate that the historic California drought may be coming to an end (though whether it will end with a return to even-tempered weather or be replaced by more climate weirdness remains to be seen).

A new documentary promises to shape our appreciation of how water politics have shaped, and been shaped, by which entities hold power in the state, and it airs tonight on the National Geographic channel at 9 p.m. Eastern. Entitled “Water and Power: A California Heist”  and directed by Marina Zenovich, it looks at how heedless groundwater tapping and secret deals over water rights have endangered the sustainability and safety of California’s water.

The Los Angeles Times praised the film’s long view of policy, from the Monterey Amendments on, and called the film “a Compelling picture of timeless greed.” Hopefully documentaries such as this help bring the era of backroom deals and thoughtless overuse of water to an end.

You can listen to an interview with Zenovich here.

Restore the Delta: Brown Administration Seeks Federal Loans to Pay For Delta Tunnels

Restore the Delta has issued the following press release responding to a list of proposed infrastructure projects sent by Gov. Brown to the National Governor’s Association.

On February 7, 2017, Governor Brown’s Office sent a letter to the National Governor’s Association detailing a list of infrastructure projects totaling $100 billion for the State of California. Included, in the list of targeted projects is a request for low interest loans from the Federal Government to help water contractors pay for CA WaterFix.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta responded to the letter:

“This request for low-interest loans from the Federal Government to help water contractors pay for the Delta tunnels tells us two things. First, the Brown Administration is giving up on getting the Federal Government to pay for a portion of tunnels construction, if they are pursuing low interest loans. Second, as we have always maintained, Californians will be on the hook for repaying loans to build the Delta tunnels, even though we have been told by the Brown Administration that the water contractors would be paying for the proposed project.

“It feels like a bait and switch. The Brown Administration has said to the public for years that California taxpayers won’t be on the hook, while pursuing a funding strategy that will leave California taxpayers on the hook for a project that will cost with interest and operations $60 billion before cost overruns. It seems that California taxpayers are being fooled on what they will pay for the Delta tunnels.”

source: http://www.restorethedelta.org/2017/02/09/brown-administration-seeks-federal-loans-pay-delta-tunnels/

A Rare Legislative Opportunity: Join Restore the Delta on February 28th!

Californians will have a rare legislative opportunity to voice opposition to Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels project. The California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee will be holding an important meeting to hear the public’s thoughts on Tuesday, February 28th. 
 
Restore the Delta’s goal is to fill the seats and the halls with the voices of people and friends of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. The Delta needs as many people as possible to make a powerful statement with our Californian legislators. This may be one of our last public opportunities at the Capitol to oppose the project.

Informational Hearing:
California WaterFix: Perspectives on the Plan
Tuesday, February 28, 2017

9:30 am ~ State Capitol Room 112
Address: State Capitol, 1315 10th St, Sacramento, CA 95814

Please plan to make a one-sentence comment using this format:

Chair Hertzberg and Committee Members, my name is ________________, and I oppose the Delta Tunnels because ____________________________________________________.

We recommend choosing a reason that reflects both your personal and public interest. Costs, environmental protection, agriculture, water quality, public health, fish, wildlife, and drinking water are a few reasons to oppose this plan. For more details on the Delta Tunnels, click here.

An agenda is not yet posted — we will update with the agenda as the date nears.

If you are attending, please RSVP by e-mailing Cynthia@RestoretheDelta.org, or calling Restore the Delta’s office at 209-475-9550. They would like to know how many people are coming for logistical purposes. If you are willing to provide a carpool from your city, please e-mail Stina@RestoretheDelta.org. You can also RSVP by leaving a comment on this Restore the Delta blog post.

source: http://www.restorethedelta.org/2017/02/01/rare-legislative-opportunity-join-us-february-28th/

Single Tunnel Option Not a Quick Fix for the Delta

By Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore The Delta

The twin 40-foot-diameter, 30-mile-long tunnels would harvest Sacramento River water before it flows through the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. A vast majority of this water would be sent to Big Ag operations like The Wonderful Company in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. It will destroy the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.

But as the San Francisco Chronicle recently editorialized, “The tunnel project, now marketed to Californians as WaterFix, lacks community trust and political will and is saddled with a $16 billion (and growing) price tag that appears much larger than water agencies are willing to pay.

”Water districts, rural users, and entire cities like San Diego and Santa Monica are starting to question the wisdom or affordability of such a big project that does not deliver one new drop of new water.

This November, a coalition of conservation and public interest organizations sent a letter to the Obama administration asking them to terminate the proposal so his legacy isn’t dragged down by a financial and environmental nightmare. The groups explain how the next administration will blame the boondoggle on Obama. They will say:

“We inherited the WaterFix from the previous administration and presumed that they knew what they were doing and had fully evaluated the project in good faith when they determined it should go forward.”

As environmental and financial obstacles continue to mount for the proposal, California water policy wonks are now scrambling for a viable Plan B.

The influential Public Policy Institute of California recently took a step back from support for the Twin Tunnels and offered a scaled back, Plan B. In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee they offer, A Grand Compromise for the Delta.

PPIC now proposes a smaller plan they believe can settle the water wars over the Bay-Delta. Their proposal includes one-tunnel, managing water flows for entire ecosystems not just specific species, strengthening Delta levees, and letting communities tap into tunnel water supplies where local water is salty.

Restore the Delta is certainly encouraged the Public Policy Institute of California has backed down from support for the highly destructive Twin Delta Tunnels proposal. But the scaled-back project the PPIC now proposes is a completely different and new project. Before it can be analyzed, we still need to figure out how much water the Delta needs to maintain ecological health for the communities who live there and the species who depend on a healthy estuary.

The State Water Board’s flow hearings for the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers must be completed before any project can be analyzed.

Independent fishery experts now say that the San Joaquin River needs at least 50 percent unimpaired flows to stop extinction and achieve legally required doubling goals for salmon.

Any new tunnel proposal would, we hope, include a more comprehensive public scoping process so as to include Delta environmental justice communities, made up of hundreds of thousands of residents. We would also hope for a more transparent environmental and economic review process with better science and better public debate than what was put forth for the current Delta Tunnels proposal. CA WaterFix touts hundreds of meetings over the last ten years, but most were never properly noticed to Delta communities for meaningful participation.

If, indeed, support for the Big Twin Tunnels project is fading, let’s kill that proposal once and for all. Californians who voted in 1982 against the Peripheral Canal assumed we had made that decision long ago.

In an era of climate change and shrinking snowpack in the Sierra, less snowmelt means that by the time the expensive Twin Tunnels project would be finished, it may sit empty most of the time. The same may be true for one tunnel. We don’t know yet.

Instead, we should invest in California’s water future. Southern California already taking the lead on the cutting edge of a water technology. Stormwater harvesting, conservation, water recycling, and groundwater recharging are reducing the need for imported water to the Southland. Many of these ideas can be found in a report titled A Sustainable Water Plan for California by the Environmental Water Caucus.

The Delta Tunnels, even a scaled back version, may not be the best use of limited funds. Let’s kill off the big Delta Tunnels plan once and for all. Then we can redirect those funds to create local jobs that build water sustainability by adding new water into the system. That is the path to provide real security for California’s future.

Source: https://www.kcet.org/redefine/single-tunnel-option-not-a-quick-fix-for-the-delta; published December 19, 2016

Last chance to call on drought bill

Our friends at Restore the Delta are drawing our attention to another drought bill authored by Resnick-backed Congressman Valadao under the guise of “drought relief” for California. It is being pushed in Congress and the goal is to pass the bill by the end of the week. It has already passed the House and a Senate vote may take place today, so please call both Senator Boxer and Feinstein right away, if you haven’t already.

There is operational language in the bill that will take away Bay-Delta protections in order to over pump the Delta and the latest reports state that a “last minute poison pill rider” is intended to be included that will kill thousands of fishery jobs and rollback the Endangered Species Act.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says this “backroom deal” may threaten thousands of fishing jobs on the West Coast and harm water quality.

Please call Washington DC offices and your state offices to get the message through! Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer are in an angry split over this bill. It is critical to call both of them.

Senator Barbara Boxer:
Washington D.C.: (202) 224-3553
Bay Area: (510) 286-8537
Los Angeles: (213) 894-5000
Sacramento: (916) 448-2787

Senator Dianne Feinstein:
Washington D.C.: (202) 224-3841
San Francisco: (415) 393-0707
Los Angeles: (310) 914-7300

Thank you for taking action today!

How to Revive a Dying Delta

By Peter Drekmeier

Scientific reports published over the past several years have been unambiguous. The delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast, is on the brink of collapse.

Starved of freshwater inflow due to dams and water diversions, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s health has faced a precipitous decline over the past few decades. The recently released Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan offers our last best hope to revive the estuary that defines our region. The new plan calls for requiring more water to be released from dams into rivers, such as the Tuolumne, to help bring the bay-delta ecosystem and rivers that feed it back to life.

Unfortunately, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which owns and operates the Hetch Hetchy Water System, and its wholesale customers appear to want to weaken the plan by scaring the public with inflated economic impacts.

The socioeconomic study was flawed, and recent real-world experience proves its conclusions are baseless. Had the study been accurate, the Bay Area’s economy would have lost $7 billion and 24,510 jobs last year. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Flaws in the study included obvious things, such as confusing water demand with supply, treating local water supply as if it would be reduced by a plan to restore the Tuolumne River, and failing to sufficiently analyze the important role storage replenishment plays in our water system. For example, even after five years of drought, with one year of normal precipitation, total SFPUC storage is now close to 80 percent of capacity. We have enough water stored to last more than four years.

Currently, only 20 percent of the Tuolumne River’s natural flow reaches its confluence with the San Joaquin River, and salmon populations have suffered as a result. Before the Tuolumne was dammed, an estimated 130,000 salmon spawned in its waters. Last year, fewer than 500 of the iconic fish returned.

And it’s not just about salmon. The entire river ecosystem is facing collapse. Healthy salmon populations transport tremendous amounts of nutrients from the ocean to upland habitats where they fuel an entire food web, from hawks and eagles, to aquatic insects that feast on dead carcasses and in turn provide food for the next generation of salmon.

Of the more than 100 species that depend on salmon, humans have historically been at the top of the list. And the beautiful thing is that a healthy salmon population can rebound quickly while supporting a fishery.

In 2010, a report released by the State Water Board determined that 60 percent of natural flow from the San Joaquin River and its tributaries would be necessary to fully protect fish species. The current Bay Delta Plan proposes just 40 percent of unimpaired flow, with the flexibility to increase it up or down by 10 percent, depending on whether fish population and other goals are met.

We have proved we can use water more efficiently. In 2008, the SFPUC estimated it would need an additional 25 million gallons of water per day from the Tuolumne to meet future demand. Conservation groups were staunchly opposed to increasing diversions, arguing the demand projections were inflated and the potential for water conservation was underestimated. It turned out we were right.

To their credit, the SFPUC agreed to cap water sales until at least 2018. We then all worked together to promote water conservation, and even before the drought kicked in, system demand had dropped significantly. Last year we used 32 percent less water than the sales cap.

The big question with the new Bay Delta Plan is how much of the increased flow will the SFPUC be responsible for providing. If its obligation is proportional to the amount of water it diverts, it would be 20 percent (agriculture uses 80 percent of the water diverted from the Tuolumne). Under such a scenario, the SFPUC would have easily met its obligation over the past seven years due to exceptional water conservation efforts.

We must work together to protect our economy while reviving our rivers and the bay-delta. Accurate information, not scare tactics, will be critical.

Peter Drekmeier is the policy director for the Tuolumne River Trust.

Source: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/How-to-revive-a-dying-delta-10337267.php

Jerry Brown Admits Delta Tunnels is “unpopular” as legislators slam project

by Dan Bacher, Daily KOS

On the same day that Governor Jerry Brown jokingly praised former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for saddling him with the Delta Tunnels and other “unpopular policies,” four Northern California Congress Members and twelve state legislators issued letters strongly opposing the tunnels project.

Brown lauded Schwarzenegger for focusing on environmental issues at the tenth anniversary celebration of the passage of  Assembly Bill 32, the legislation that established the state’s greenhouse emissions reductions, in the California Museum in Sacramento on Wednesday, October 5.

“Arnold, thanks for being for climate change, cap and trade, the tunnels project, high speed rail and all the other unpopular policies that I’m saddled with,” quipped Brown. (You can listen to Brown’s comments here 1:01:24:)

Restore the Delta (RTD) responded to Brown’s quote, noting that “ Jerry Brown thanked former Governor Schwarzenegger for saddling him with unpopular issues such as the Delta Tunnels—even though, since he was first elected, he’s been pursuing the tunnels like Captain Ahab pursuing Moby Dick!”

As an acknowledgement of the growing resistance by Californians to the WaterFix, Brown for the first time recognized the Delta Tunnels as “unpopular, according to RTD.

Of course, neither Schwarzenegger nor Brown mentioned the many other controversial  neo-liberal environmental policies that they are responsible for.

These include authorizing record water exports out of the Delta; driving Delta and longfin smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and other fish species closer and closer to extinction; overseeing the creation of faux “marine protected areas” under the oil industry-lobbyist overseen Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative; appointing Big Oil executives, Big Ag lobbyists, and other corporate officials with numerous conflicts of interest to numerous state agencies and regulatory bodies; and doing everything they can to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other environmental laws.

Nor did Schwarzenegger and Brown mention one of the least discussed issues in California environmental politics—and one of the most crucial to understanding the Delta Tunnels Plan—the clear connection between the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative and the California WaterFix, formerly called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). In spite of some superficial differences, the two processes are united by their leadership, funding, greenwashing goals, racism and denial of tribal rights, junk science and numerous conflicts of interest.

To read my  report, Deep Regulatory Capture Exposed: The Links Between Delta Tunnels Plan & MLPA Initiative, go to: www.dailykos.com/

Congress Members ask for responses to Dr. Jeffrey Michael’s cost-benefit analyis
As Brown, Schwarzenegger and other state officials were delivering their comments at the AB 32 anniversary commemoration, Representatives John Garamendi, Jerry McNerney, Mike Thompson and Doris Matsui (D-CA) sent a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) calling for responses to a recent cost-benefit analysis of the California WaterFix Tunnels project conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Michael at the University of the Pacific (UOP).

Michael’s analysis raises “key questions” about the plan, according to a joint news release from the Representatives. The letter also raises a number of questions based upon another recent and unofficially released cost-benefit analysis prepared by David Sunding for the California Natural Resources Agency.

“Both reports confirm what we’ve long suspected—WaterFix doesn’t make good financial sense for California,” said Rep. Thompson. “Under these analyses, water users and even federal taxpayers would be on the hook for investments in a project that can’t promise better water deliveries. State and federal water agencies must not be allowed to squander taxpayer dollars on infrastructure that would devastate the Delta without any guaranteed benefit.”

“The analysis done by Dr. Michael shows that the advertised benefits of the Twin Tunnels simply don’t hold water,” said Congressman Garamendi. “Both cost-benefit breakdowns of the WaterFix that have been released to the public raise major questions about the viability of the project, and its funding sources.”

“The numbers don’t pencil out for farmers south of the Delta,” said Congressman McNerney. “Delta farming operations could be severely disrupted, and endangered species are at risk of not surviving the consequences of this massive project. The WaterFix plan’s costs do not outweigh the alleged benefits and would require a large federal subsidy, while causing irreparable harm to Delta and Northern California communities who have not been adequately included in project negotiations.”

McNerney urged the state to “move away” from Governor Brown’s flawed WaterFix plan and “implement the cost-effective policy solutions already outlined in the California Water Action Plan—like conservation, recycling, increased efficiency, and storage—that will ensure sustainable water supplies for a healthy Delta ecosystem and California’s farmers and communities statewide.” You can view the letter here.

Twelve Delta/Bay Area legislators slam proposed California Water Fix diversions
Also on Wednesday, twelve state legislators representing the Delta and Bay Area regions urged the State Water Resources Control Board to reject a petition to change water rights that would reduce fresh water flows to the Delta as part of the controversial WaterFix proposal, a move the lawmakers say will “cause catastrophic damage to the environment and economies of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay region.”

The letter by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and 11 other legislators denounced the proposed water diversions, citing evidence that doing so will cause “serious and potentially irreparable harm to hundreds of plant and wildlife species, and also significantly damage the agricultural, fishing, tourism and recreation industries that rely upon the Delta.”

“Contrary to its name, the WaterFix fixes nothing,” said Wolk, who represents four of the five counties in the Delta, in a press release. “The project won’t provide any additional water supply or increase water deliveries, and will only exacerbate conditions in the Delta. Further reducing fresh water flows to the Delta will cause serious and potentially irreparable harm to the Delta’s fragile ecosystem, as well as its communities and economy. That includes the Delta’s $5.2 billion agricultural economy, as well as the iconic Delta and Coastal fishing industries, which are worth billions annually.”

The Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the principal backers of the California WaterFix Project, submitted the petition to the Water Board to add three new points of diversion from the Sacramento River. This controversial Water Fix is opposed by a diverse and growing coalition of recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Tribal leaders, family farmers, conservationists, environmental justice advocates and elected officials.

Wolk, a long-time opponent of the Tunnels project, was the lead author of the letter to the Water Board. The letter’s other authors include Senators Mark Leno, Loni Hancock, Jerry Hill, Cathleen Galgiani, Steve Glazer, Dr. Richard Pan, and Bob Wieckowski, and Assembly Members Bill Dodd, Susan Eggman, Catharine Baker, and Ken Cooley.

Wolk and the other legislators urged the Water Board to consider the impacts of diverting up to two-thirds of the Sacramento River from the Delta, including increased salinity that would contribute to further declines in species including the critically endangered Delta Smelt, the endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, and the Greater Sandhill Crane.

Wolk said the letter notes the “widespread concern from scientific bodies including the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Delta Independent Science Board that flawed science is being used to advocate for the WaterFix’s proposed benefits to the Delta environment and water quality.” In August 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a scathing 43-page comment letter slamming the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).

The EPA diagnosis revealed that operating the proposed conveyance facilities “would contribute to increased and persistent violations of water quality standards in the Delta, set under the Clean Water Act,” and that the tunnels “would not protect beneficial uses for aquatic life, thereby violating the Clean Water Act.” (www.dailykos.com/…)

“Current water diversions are already overtaxing the Delta ecosystem. Reducing stress on the Delta by reducing reliance on fresh water exports is a fundamental and necessary step to ensure the sustainable and resilient water supplies needed by the economies, communities and ecosystems in the Delta and throughout the state. It’s time for a Plan B that can succeed where the WaterFix has failed, a plan that help us achieve the coequal goals established by The Delta Reform Act, while protecting the Delta as a place,” Wolk stated.

Winnemem Wintu: Shasta Dam Raise, Sites Reservoir and Delta Tunnels are one project
While the state and federal governments and mainstream media try to portray the Shasta Dam raise plan, Sites Reservoir proposal, and Delta Tunnels as “separate” projects, Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, believes they “need to be considered as one project.”

“Without one, you can’t have the others,” Chief Sisk told me during the historic Run4Salmon prayer journey from Vallejo to the McCloud River from September 17 to October 1. “If the tunnels are built, there will be no water to put in them. You need Sites Reservoir to provide the water for the tunnels and the Shasta Dam raise to provide water for Sites.”

“Although the state and federal governments are saying they are separate projects, they are all really one project,” noted Sisk. “Why do you think Westlands Water District, the Resnicks, Metropolitan Water District and other water districts are all pushing for the Shasta Dam Raise, Sites Dam and the Delta Tunnels?”

“We consider Shasta Dam a weapon of mass destruction,” said Chief Sisk.  “It has already taken our homes, sacred sites, burial sites, and stopped the salmon from returning to their historical spawning grounds. If these tunnels are built, Governor Brown’s so called ‘California WaterFix’, they will not only cause more death and destruction to the already endangered salmon, but they will encourage and motivate plans to enlarge Shasta Dam. An enlarged Shasta Dam will flood what remaining sacred sites, and cultural sites that we still use today.”

Source: http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/10/6/1578495/-Jerry-Brown-admits-Delta-Tunnels-is-unpopular-as-legislators-slam-project

Brown to Water Board: Fast Track River Flows Settlement to Fill Delta Tunnels

Additional river flows necessary to make Delta tunnels pencil out economically and environmentally

Restore the Delta’s executive director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla has released the following statement in response to Governor Jerry Brown’s September 19, 2016 letter to Chair Felicia Marcus of the State Water Resources Control Board regarding the need for comprehensive agreements on environmental flows for both the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers. To read the Governor’s letter, click here.

“While Restore the Delta has pushed for a comprehensive update to the Delta water quality plan for the both the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers before moving forward with any further processes for permitting the Delta Tunnels, Governor Brown’s request to the State Water Resources Control Board to now fast track flow agreements is disingenuous at best. The water needed to fill the tunnels will have to come from the watersheds of both rivers upstream of the Delta. Without additional water from these river systems, the tunnels do not pencil out economically, requiring the multi-billion dollar Federal and State tax subsidies reported on recently.

“Moreover, the tens of thousands of pages of testimony that have been turned in to the State Water Resources Control Board for the first part of the hearings on permitting the Delta tunnels, even before later hearings on fisheries and wildlife begin, elucidate the breadth of environmental damage the project will inflict on the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary—from construction impacts to drinking water quality degradation for the City of Stockton.

“The governor’s letter to Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Board, continues a long and problematic tradition of governors interfering with State Water Board deliberations and decisions. Pete Wilson rejected a draft water rights decision in 1993 after water contractors complained about its effects on them. A voluntary agreement to promote salmon friendly flows on the San Joaquin River for 12 years failed to protect salmon.

“On the surface, Governor Brown seems to be gaining an understanding that Delta flow and water quality objectives should be considered as a unitary whole, unlike what the Board has proposed. On this narrow point, Restore the Delta actually agrees with the governor. But our agreement ends there.

“Yet, the governor’s motivations to accelerate agreements go beyond his stated wish to urgently ‘improve our aquatic ecosystems’ and are truly a mechanism to benefit his treasured tunnels project, the beleaguered California WaterFix. Chair Marcus and Boardmember Tam Doduc have stated their willingness to consider voluntary agreements for appropriate flow objectives in the Tunnels proceeding now under way—but only after all the evidence submitted by all parties to the proceeding is in and has been vetted. The outcome of this process is of grave concern for the water contractors, the Department of Water Resources, and Governor Brown on their behalf.

“Clearly, Governor Brown hopes to short-circuit the water board’s vetting process with this letter as have California’s governors before him. It is a Hail Mary pass on behalf of the water contractors in which ‘voluntary agreements’ become a water grab from all the rivers of the Central Valley. It is a shame that Governor Brown does not recognize the true environmental and economic value of a healthy San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, and only the value of water exported for profit.”

Source: Restore the Delta, http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=06887fa70084fef8e939fef63&id=8295887c8f&e=2842261f7e

Restore the Delta: Unreleased Analysis Shows Delta Tunnels Will Require $6.5B Subsidy from State and Federal Taxpayers

Note: You can scroll down to media coverage at the bottom of this post.

A recent Public Records Act request from the CA Department of Water Resources, delivered to Restore the Delta, uncovered a draft economic analysis for Governor Brown’s Delta tunnels project authored by Dr. David Sunding of the Brattle Group from Fall 2015.

Read the PRA documents here.

The state’s cost benefit analysis calls for a $4.6 billion Federal taxpayer subsidy for the project to cover expenses for Central Valley Project water users, and additional subsidies to be paid for by California taxpayers. In total, CA WaterFix will require a $6.5 billion taxpayer subsidy.

The Central Valley Project water users who are proponents of the Delta tunnels project include the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority, and their member Westlands Water District, who in July had its credit rating upgraded by Fitch Ratings from “Negative Watch” to “Negative.”

In a memo reviewing the Brattle Group’s analysis of CA WaterFix, Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific, notes, “Clearly, this huge subsidy is in stark contrast to ten years of public statements that all construction and mitigation costs would be paid by water users.”

Dr. Michael’s review finds that WaterFix, “passes a cost-benefit test in aggregate,” but when the results are disaggregated by urban and agricultural uses, the report finds “benefits fall short of allocated costs for most agricultural water users.”

Dr. Michael says, “Because costs exceed benefits for agricultural users, the report actually finds that the tunnels are not economically feasible as this requires benefits to exceed allocated costs for all users. Thus, much of the rest of the report attempts to rationalize public subsidies to lower the costs for agricultural contractors.”

Even more troubling in the Brattle Group’s draft economic analysis is the assumption that water yields (the difference in export water delivery with and without the tunnels) are four times higher than in official WaterFix documents including its RDEIR/SDEIS and petition to the State Water Resources Control Board.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta said, “As we have suspected, the economic planning for the tunnels is forecasting a water yield far higher than what proponents are telling the State Water Resources Control Board at hearings on permits for the project. Because drought is the new normal, the only way for CA WaterFix to deliver four times more water within the calculated difference is to deplete the Bay-Delta estuary and the upstream watersheds.”

Additional emails in the PRA request show that the next version of the economic analysis will contain only aggregated economic results, meaning the public version of the report will cover up all the negative results about the project not penciling out for agricultural users, even with a subsidy.

“In addition to providing no evaluation of the economic harm that will be inflicted on Delta communities, it is clear CA WaterFix planners have no qualms about Californians paying for the project through higher water rates, property taxes, and state and federal income taxes — all for the benefit of big agricultural growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, and special interest water districts, like Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Southern Californians and Silicon Valley water ratepayers should be very concerned as they will end up subsidizing big agriculture four different ways,” added Barrigan-Parrilla.

Source: http://us3.campaign-archive2.com/?u=06887fa70084fef8e939fef63&id=d591f562fd&e=2842261f7e

For media coverage see this story from the Associated Press, or this story on Daily KOS.

Run 4 Salmon seeks to protect fish, habitat, and tradition

It’s a dire time for wild Chinook salmon in California. Climate change, dam operations, watershed clear-cuts and the diversion of rivers for irrigation all threaten the survival of this keystone species.

To highlight the peril and demand action, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and a collective of Indigenous women, activists and allies are embarking on a 300-mile trek from the California Bay Delta to Mt. Shasta, re-creating the upstream swim of the salmon’s return to its native spawning grounds. They are inviting supporters to participate in this historic march.

Join Run 4 Salmon, a series of trek segments and events taking place from September 17 to October 1, 2016. The mission is to raise awareness about the policies threatening Winnemem Wintu waters, fish and indigenous lifeways. The journey will start in the Bay Delta city of Vallejo and continue through Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Colusa, Woodson Bridge, Cow Creek, Shasta Lake and Redding, ending in McCloud, the winter-run Chinook’s historic spawning ground, where they have been missing since the construction of Shasta Dam.

The dam flooded over 90 percent of the Winnemem Wintu village, burial and sacred sites, and the winter-run Chinook salmon have been missing from their spawning grounds ever since. Now their fragile ecosystem is under attack once again, threatened by the $17 billion Delta Twin Tunnels project, designed to funnel water to thirsty agribusiness and fossil fuel corporations conducting fracking.

Earthjustice, representing Restore the Delta in ongoing hearings before California’s State Water Resources Control Board, is submitting detailed testimony from communities such as the Tribe that will be most affected by the project.

Do your part. The Run for Salmon event includes segments that you can walk, run, boat, bike and even ride on horseback. Sacred ceremonies and benefit concerts will be held along the way. Visit Run4Salmon.org for a full list of events open to public participation.