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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Sierra Club California Condemns Governor's Delta Policy
Based on recently released chapters of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the tunnel proposal “will be disastrous for the environment, the cultural resources and the economy in the Delta,” the letter from Sierra Club California says.
Sierra Club California Condemns Governor's Delta Policy
by Dan Bacher
The campaign by Delta advocates to stop the construction of twin peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta received a big boost today when Sierra Club California called on Governor Jerry Brown to abandon his "out-of-step position" on the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.
“You and your administration are relying too heavily on an old-fashioned approach to resolving California’s water demand challenges at a time when more updated ideas and alternatives are needed,” the organization said in a letter to the Governor delivered on Monday. “Your solution is to build something big before you leave office. Yet, building something big and old-fashioned isn’t going to ensure—especially during a time of climate disruption—that the people of California and the environment will be guaranteed the reliable and essential water supply needed at a time it is most critical.”
Kathryn Phillips, the group’s director, signed the letter on behalf of its more than 380,000 members in the state. She said the letter culminates a month of controversy surrounding the Brown Administration’s proposal to develop two giant tunnels, and massive accompanying infrastructure, to draw water from the Sacramento River before it arrives in the Delta.
Based on recently released chapters of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the tunnel proposal “will be disastrous for the environment, the cultural resources and the economy in the Delta,” the letter says. “Whereas the Delta Reform Act speaks to dual goals of ecosystem restoration and reliability of Delta supplies, in the context of programs for long-term reliability statewide, the documentation released for the BDCP seems intent on maintaining or increasing high exports out of the Delta to benefit the State Water Project and Central Valley Project contractors at the expense of the environment.”
The letter notes that giant water engineering projects developed decades ago - including the damming of the Tuolumne River at Hetch-Hetchy Valley in the 1920’s, the diversion of the San Joaquin River at Friant Dam shortly after World War II, and construction of the New Melones Dam in the 1970s - “have helped delay development of a sustainable water policy in our current era."
"It is critical that the current debate about the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta system not lead us to repeat history’s mistakes," the letter states.
Finally, the letter calls on the Governor to provide leadership on water policy that invests in commonsense conservation and infrastructure improvements that aren’t driven by a few big water user agencies.
"California needs 21st-century leadership on water policy that fully considers a wide range of alternatives that address how we can reduce water loss from existing infrastructure, preserve water quality, improve conservation across the state and across sectors of the economy, and restore watersheds to help California meet its essential public health, economic, and environmental goals. We are asking you for a commitment to fiercely protect and fight for the public trust of surface and groundwater resources, which belong to all Californians," the letter says.
“Rather than rushing to a tunnel solution, we urge you to reconsider your position on the Delta and explore alternative plans to lead California in a bolder, more enlightened and comprehensive direction on water supply policy," the letter concludes.
The letter is available at: https://california2.sierraclub.org/sites/california.sierraclub.org/files/documents/2013/05/Sierra%20Club%20California%20Ltr%20to%20Gov%20Brown%20re%20Delta.5.6.2013.pdf
Sierra Club California is the legislative and regulatory advocacy arm of the Sierra Club’s 13 chapters and more than 380,000 members and champions in California.
A broad coalition of environmental groups, Indian Tribes, fishing groups, family farmers, Delta residents and elected officials opposes the construction of the peripheral tunnels because it would likely lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and other fish populations.
The Sierra Club letter follows the controversy over recent comments by Jerry Meral, deputy secretary at the California Natural Resources Agency, that "BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved."
Meral made his comments while speaking with Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) in a private conversation after a meeting with Northern California Indian Tribes on Monday, April 15, according to Restore the Delta's "Delta Flows" newsletter (http://www.restorethedelta.org/or-is-it-the-point/)
"I was flabbergasted because that's not what we've been told by politicians and state officials," said Stokely after the conversation. "I was surprised at his candor because I've always known that BDCP is not about restoring the Delta."
"It's therefore ironic that the Brown administration is calling this a Bay Delta Conservation Plan," emphasized Stokely. "You can keep the same acronym, but in reality it's the Bay Delta CONVEYANCE Plan. It is and always has been about moving water, not saving the Delta."
"We did not put the statement out for publicity gain or just to try to embarrass somebody," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta Executive Director, who witnessed Meral make the comment. "The reason we let this statement out was to show the true intent of the tunnels project," which she said is to increase pumping Delta water south."
In a May 3 letter in the Sacramento Bee, Barrigan-Parrilla noted, in response to the Bee's May 1 editorial “Flimsy justification to call for a resignation": "Restore the Delta did not call for Natural Resources Agency Deputy Secretary Jerry Meral’s ouster. It is the other Jerry who worries us the most. There is mounting evidence that the Brown administration is trying to force science and all water stakeholders to submit to their predetermined decision to build the Delta tunnel."
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/03/5392712/the-other-jerry-is-the-real-problem.html