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Restore the Delta calls for more time to respond to Bay Delta Conservation Plan
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Jan 8th, 2014 7:41 PM
"The Brown Administration is drowning the public in propaganda, supported by an army of flacks and state employees," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. "We cannot be expected to provide expert comment in 85 working days to a document of this mammoth size."

Photo of rally against the twin tunnels at the California State Capitol in Sacramento on December 13, 2013 by Dan Bacher.

Restore the Delta calls for more time to respond to Bay Delta Conservation Plan

by Dan Bacher

Restore the Delta, opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s peripheral tunnels, today asked the Brown administration for a 120-day extension of the public comment period for the massive Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

"The Brown Administration is providing citizens insufficient time to respond to its nearly 40,000-page project proposal," said Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. "It is impossible to fully review the massive EIR/EIS documents in just 85 working days. That would require reviewing and analyzing more than 473 pages per workday, every week."

"This is not achievable for public interest organizations. With the tax burden and water resources at stake, it is imperative to take the time to get this project right. We call for an additional 120 days for public review and comment," she said.

“Federal regulations intend that proposals for complex projects be less than 300 pages. The Brown Administration is drowning the public in propaganda, supported by an army of flacks and state employees. We cannot be expected to provide expert comment in 85 working days to a document of this mammoth size," she concluded.

On December 19, the Environmental Water Caucus also sent a letter to federal and state authorities asking for an 120 day extension in the public review and comment period for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan Draft Plan and EIR and EIS, noting that the 40,214 actual pages of the document represent 20% more pages than the 32 volumes of the last printed edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

"You may recall that in a November 21 letter to you, prior to the December 13 release of the BDCP Draft Plan and EIR/EIS, we requested that the public review and comment period be extended beyond the planned 120 days, based on the anticipated 25,000 page estimate of the BDCP documents," wrote Nick Di Croce, Co-Facilitator of the Environmental Water Caucus.

"We have now determined that there are 40,214 actual pages of the released documents and we request that you extend the public review and comment period for at least 120 additional days, due to the extraordinary size of the documents to be reviewed," he stated.

Di Croce, representing the EWC and its 33 grassroots members, requested that the public review and comment period be extended until August 15, 2014, based on the size of the actual documents they released on December 13.

"Without such additional time, the public’s essential role in the NEPA process of commenting on the agencies’ findings contained in the BDCP’s environmental review documents will be severely constrained," he concluded.

Caleen Sisk, Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, strongly supports the extension of the public comment period. She emphasized that California Tribes had their first "informational" meeting the day after the over 40,000 page study was released by the Governor.

"This disrespectful action toward California Tribes left the Tribes with only 118 days of the 120 days to make their comments," said Sisk. "All Tribes should be in agreement with extending the time to respond! Since no tribes were consulted with about the Cultural Resource study, the study does not address the digging up of old village sites and burial grounds, especially of the Miwok."

The controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposes to construct three new intakes in the north Delta along the Sacramento River about 35 miles north of the existing South Delta pumping plants. Two 35-mile long twin tunnels would carry the water underground to the existing pumping plants that feed canals sttetching hundreds of miles to the south and west.

The release of the plan's documents takes place at a time when the enormous cost of the BDCP is coming under increasing scrutiny by water agencies, water ratepayers and the taxpayers who will pay for the tunnels. A total of $240 million has already been spent on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan - and it will take another $1.2 billion to complete the planning for the government boondoggle. (http://www.sacbee.com/2013/12/07/5978184/delta-water-tunnel-project-needs.html#storylink=cpy)

Scientists and tunnel opponents fear that the construction of the twin tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as threaten the salmon and steehead populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

Restore the Delta is a 15,000-member grassroots organization committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. For more information, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org

For more information about the EWC and its Responsible Exports Plan, an alternative to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, go to: http://www.ewccalifornia.org