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Congressman McNerney Leads Charge Against Peripheral Canal
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Oct 5th, 2011 8:38 PM
Representatives Jerry McNerney, Mike Thompson and George Miller on October 4 slammed state and federal plans to build a peripheral canal through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
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Congressman McNerney Leads Charge Against Peripheral Canal

by Dan Bacher

Washington, D.C. – On October 4, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) continued the charge against a new peripheral canal that would divert water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to corporate agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley and southern California water agencies.

Representatives Mike Thompson, George Miller, Doris Matsui, John Garamendi, and McNerney met with Jerry Meral, the Deputy Secretary of the California Natural Resource Agency to express their grave concerns over any Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) that would adversely affect the Delta Region, according to a news release from McNerney's office. Meral, a strong supporter of the peripheral canal for over three decades, is the senior state official who oversees the BDCP.

“I will continue to be a strong advocate for the people of the entire Delta region to ensure that the water resources and their quality remain in place,” said Congressman McNerney. “Steps must be taken now to ensure that the BDCP serves the best interests of our region, and I insisted that the voice of the Delta be heard.”

The meeting took place at a time when the Brown and Obama administrations are fast-tracking the construction of the peripheral canal to export more Delta water. A coalition of Delta residents, family farmers, fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmental justice communities and elected officials is opposing the canal's construction because it would likely result in the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon and other imperiled species.

Since 2007, Rep. McNerney has spearheaded the fight against a new conveyance system-- such as a peripheral canal or tunnel-- that would take large amounts of water from the Delta, according to the release. Last month, he sent a letter to the Department of the Interior insisting that the final BDCP benefit the Delta region. The letter strongly opposed any aggressive measures that would adversely affect the Delta.

“Agriculture is the life blood of the Delta region, and I will fight to protect the livelihood of our farmers, families and small businesses. I thank my colleagues in the region for once again joining me in fighting for the well-being of the people in the San Joaquin Delta region,” said Rep. McNerney. “As I made clear to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan officials, we will not accept a new canal that does not have the buy in of the Delta communities.”

Representatives Miller and Thompson echoed McNerney’s dedication to fighting for the residents of the Delta region.

“Needlessly rushing the scientific review of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is simply irresponsible, and that is what I told the Bay Delta Conservation Plan officials today," said Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-01). "We know all-too-well the consequences of bad water policy combined with impractical deadlines."

"In Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, expedited review of the Klamath River project resulted in the death of 68,000 Chinook Salmon in September 2002. Are we really considering walking down the same road again? We need sound, science-based solutions that don't harm our wildlife or environment," explained Thompson.

“This was a much-needed meeting, but it doesn’t yet solve the problem," said Rep. George Miller (CA-07), the author of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA). "We are very concerned that Bay-Delta interests are not being treated as equal partners – despite clear direction from the state legislature that a restored Bay-Delta and a reliable water supply must be co-equal goals."

"The state of California, the federal agencies, and the exporters who are seeking the Bay-Delta’s water have stumbled badly over the way that this Bay-Delta Conservation Plan is being put together -- behind closed doors, and without full and fair participation,” Miller concluded.

The meeting took place several days after two disturbing records were set on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta as the water year ended.

First, a record 9 million Sacramento splittail were "salvaged" at the state and federal Delta pumps near Tracy in 2011. The previous record salvage number for the splittail, a native minnow found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River system, was 5.5 million in 2006 (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/09/09/over-11-million-fish-salvaged-in-delta-death-pumps-since-january-1).

Second, the water projects pumped a record 6.5 million acre-feet of water from the Delta in 2011, according to government data compiled by Spreck Rosecrans at Environmental Defense. The previous record was 6.3 million acre-feet in 2005.

For more information and action alerts, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org.