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Brown and Obama administrations set Oct. 1 deadline for draft tunnel plan
by Dan Bacher
Thursday May 9th, 2013 5:18 PM
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, responded to the state-federal announcement by stating, “The governor’s new Oct. 1 deadline is an attempt to thread the needle between pressure from the water-takers, who are threatening to stop paying for the BDCP, and the delay he faces because the science stubbornly still shows his tunnels would kill the Delta."
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Brown and Obama administrations set Oct. 1 deadline for draft tunnel plan

by Dan Bacher

As the campaign against the peripheral tunnels builds momentum, the Brown and Obama administrations on May 8 set a formal deadline of October 1 for the release of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and accompanying environmental documents for public review and comment.

The centerpiece of the proposal is two massive tunnels, 35 miles long and 40 feet in diameter, that will divert water from the Sacramento River to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. A coalition of fishing groups, Indian Tribes, environmentalists, family farmers and Delta residents oppose the construction of the peripheral tunnels because they say the project will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt and other fish species.

A joint statement from the two administrations claimed the BDCP will "enable the state to make significant progress toward achieving the co-equal goals of securing California’s water supply and restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem."

“One calamitous storm or natural disaster—driven by climate change—could jeopardize the entire Delta, destroy its ecosystem and cut off water to 25 million Californians,” said Governor Jerry Brown. “This agreement with our federal partners moves us another step closer to being more prepared for an uncertain future in California.”

The Brown administration said the completion of the proposed plan and accompanying Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) is the "culmination of more than six years of user-funded water planning and study." After considering public comment, the state and federal agencies will complete the review process and determine "the most appropriate ecosystem conservation and water conveyance plan for adoption and permitting."

“It’s important that we continue to take an open and transparent approach as we evaluate this proposal to strengthen California’s water security and restore the health of the Delta,” claimed U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“This is an aggressive deadline to issue the environmental analyses for public review and comment that will require a great deal of important work from both our state partners and the Administration. But with California’s water system at constant risk of failure, and the continuing impacts to imperiled fish, we can’t afford the dangers or costs of inaction," Jewell said.

On July 25, 2012, Governor Brown and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced their renewed commitment to the fast-tracking of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan in a press conference in Sacramento as fishermen, environmentalists, tribal members and Delta residents held a protest rally at the State Capitol protesting the plan.

"In the past two months, several revised and updated chapters of the BDCP have been made public. This week, state and federal agencies will provide a preliminary, consultant draft of the EIR/EIS in an unprecedented commitment to transparency," the statement concluded.

According to the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), Brown made a brief appearance at the 2013 ACWA Spring Conference & Exhibition this week, where he briefly discussed BDCP and told attendees, “I'm going to do everything humanly possible to get it done. We're going to get it done with your help."

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, responded to the state-federal announcement by stating, “The governor’s new Oct. 1 deadline is an attempt to thread the needle between pressure from the water-takers, who are threatening to stop paying for the BDCP, and the delay he faces because the science stubbornly still shows his tunnels would kill the Delta."

The campaign by Delta advocates to stop the construction of twin peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta received a big boost Tuesday 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 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

To find out more about the real story behind the peripheral tunnels being proposed to divert the majority of water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, here's the link to Restore the Delta's new video/TV/YouTube ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV_cm-UnxKA&feature=youtu.be