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California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections

Fishing, environmental, farming groups will sue to halt Delta Plan
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Jun 13th, 2013 5:53 PM
The peripheral tunnels will divert a large portion of the flow of the Sacramento River for use by corporate agribusiness and oil companies. Photo of Sacramento River in the city of Sacramento by Dan Bacher.
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Fishing, environmental, farming groups will sue to halt Delta Plan

by Dan Bacher

In the latest escalation of the California water wars, a statewide coalition of fishing, environmental and farming groups on Monday, June 17 will announce the filing of a lawsuit to stop the Delta Plan, a document that lays the groundwork for the Delta water export tunnels.

The details of the lawsuit will be released to the media through a press release and 10:30 am conference call. The groups filing the litigation include the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, AquAlliance, Restore the Delta, Friends of the River and Center for Biological Diversity.

"The Delta Reform Act gave the Delta Stewardship Council a historic opportunity to remedy 40 years of water policy failures,” said Santa Barbara resident Carolee Krieger, executive director of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), a statewide water advocacy organization.

"The council instead failed to use the best available science – biological or economic - and adopted a status quo program that fails to fix the Delta or the water supply problem. The Council failed to honor its own mandate: the adoption of an effective strategy for the distribution of water and the preservation of the Delta,” Krieger stated.

The conference call will feature Carolee Krieger, representing C-WIN; Bill Jennings, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance; Barbara Vlamis, AquAlliance; Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta; Michael Jackson, Attorney for several groups; Bob Wright, Attorney for Friends of the River; Adam Lazar, Center for Biological Diversity.

Attorney Mike Jackson said the lawsuit’s purpose is to rectify the Delta Stewardship Council’s ignoring of the requirements placed on them by the Delta Reform Act.

Jackson explained, “As an example, the Delta Reform Act told the State Water Resources Control Board to do a water flow investigation to find out what it would take to protect the estuary. The state board turned in a flow recommendation and the Council didn't use the flows in the plan.”

“The Delta Reform Act also instructed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to report to the Council what the biological goals and objectives should be for species in the Delta. The CDFW wrote hundreds of pages in a report and turned it in to the Council. The Council not only did not use it, but didn't even mention the goals and objectives in the plan,” he said.

“Finally, the Delta Reform Act instructed the Delta Protection Commission to write a report about economic sustainability. The Commission wrote the report and turned it in to the Council - and again, they didn't use it,” said Jackson.

The common thread?

“In all three cases, the documents were inconvenient to the approval of the tunnels," Jackson emphasized.

Jackson said the Delta Plan also violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in ten different ways.

For more information, contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve [at] hopcraft.com Twitter: @shopcraft.

The litigation by Delta advocates follows the lawsuit filed by the Westlands Water District and San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority on May 24 to require the Delta Stewardship Council to revise the Delta Plan "to be consistent with the 2009 Delta Reform Act, which created the Council." (http://yubanet.com/california/Dan-Bacher-Westlands-Water-District-Files-Lawsuit-Against-Delta-Plan.php)

"In particular, the action asserts that the Delta Plan fails to achieve the co-equal goals of Delta ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability established by the Act," the district said.

“The Delta Plan may be the most incomplete environmental document I’ve ever seen and, in that regard, I do agree with Westlands,” said Jackson.

In other Delta news, a group of over 30 organizations from across the political spectrum have formed Californians for a Fair Water Policy. This statewide coalition is working to defeat the $54.1 billion peripheral tunnels project that will “unfairly and unnecessarily burden California’s taxpayers, ratepayers, and the environment.” (http://www.fishsniffer.com/reports/details/statewide-campaign-launched-to-defeat-governor-browns-50-billion-water-tunn/)

Besides being enormously expensive, the construction of the peripheral tunnels is likely to hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species and would take vast areas of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to provide massive amounts of water to irrigate drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The Delta Plan lays the groundwork for the construction of the salmon-killing tunnels.

The tunnel plan also threatens the Trinity River, the largest tributary of the Klamath River and the only out-of-basin water supply diverted into the Central Valley. The legendary salmon and steelhead river flows though the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation and Humboldt County before joining the Klamath at Weitchpec.

To my knowledge, no river system or estuary has ever been restored by taking more water out of it.

More information about the battle to fight the tunnels is available at http://www.restorethedelta.org.