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Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense

Brown celebrates John Muir Day as he pushes twin tunnels and fracking
by Dan Bacher
Monday Apr 21st, 2014 7:06 PM
The construction of the twin tunnels will only spread the carnage of fish that takes place daily at the Delta pumps from the South Delta to the Sacramento River, the main migratory path for chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass, American shad and other fish.

Photo of Jerry Brown courtesy of http://www.stmarys-ca.edu
jerry-brown-california-seal.jpg
jerry-brown-california-se...

Brown celebrates John Muir Day as he pushes twin tunnels and fracking

by Dan Bacher

Governor Jerry Brown issued a proclamation on April 21 celebrating "John Muir Day" - at the same time he is fast-tracking the construction of the environmentally-destructive peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento -San Joaquin River Delta and promoting the expansion of fracking in California.

"John Muir (1838-1914) was a giant of a man," Brown proclaimed. "His vision of the pristine landscape as a source of spiritual renewal has become central to our understanding of the relationship between humanity and nature."

"In addition to his scientific discoveries, engineering innovations and writings that still inspire us today, Muir’s advocacy was instrumental in the creation of the National Park System, one of the world’s great ecological treasures," Brown continued.

"Today, as a way to honor Muir’s teachings and help keep his legacy alive, I suggest a visit to one of California’s public open spaces—national park, state park or any other unspoiled wilderness—which he strived so zealously to preserve," said Brown.

While Brown celebrated Muir's legacy, the record to date in his third term as governor is hardly one that Muir would approve. Brown has signed several good environmental bills, including a bill limiting the number of crab pots used by commercial fishermen and the Human Right to Water bill package, both bills that Arnold Schwarzenegger repeatedly vetoed.

However, on the biggest and most controversial issues regarding our oceans, estuaries and freshwater resources, including water exports, fish restoration, the peripheral tunnels, marine protection and fracking, Brown has been firmly on the side of corporate interests that seek to privatize and exploit public trust resources.

First, the Governor presided over record water exports out of the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, and a record fish kill at the state and federal pumps in 2011. The export total was 6,678,000 acre-feet of water in 2011, 208,000 acre-feet more than the previous record of 6,470,000 acre-feet set in 2005.

A record number of 8,989,639 native Sacramento splittail were "salvaged" in the Delta pumps in order to ship these record amounts of water to southern California and corporate agribusiness. The average annual splittail “salvage” number is 1,201,585 fish, according to the Bay Institute’s report, Collateral Damage, http://bay.org/publications/collateral-damage

By comparison, the average salvage total for all species combined is 9,237,444 fish, including splittail, striped bass, threadfin shad, largemouth bass, American shad and largemouth bass, as well as imperiled Sacramento River chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon, and longfin smelt.

“Salvage numbers drastically underestimate the actual impact,” the report emphasized. “Although the exact numbers are uncertain, it is clear that tens of millions of fish are killed each year, and only a small fraction of this is reflected in the salvage numbers that are reported.” One study of “pre-screen loss” estimated that as many as 19 of every 20 fish perished before being counted (Castillo, 2010).

Brown has continued to pursue water export policies that resulted in the second lowest population levels of Delta smelt and American shad on record in the DFW’s 2013 fall midwater trawl survey, as well as the third lowest striped bass, eighth lowest longfin smelt, and fifth lowest threadfin shad indices.

Populations of Delta smelt are down 98.9%, striped bass 99.6%, longfin smelt 99.7%, American shad 89.1%, threadfin shad 98.1% and splittail 99.4% from 1967, the first years that the survey was conducted, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA.) Steelhead and winter-run salmon are down 91.7% and 95.5%, respectively. (http://calsport.org/news/delta-fish-hammered-yet-again-fall-midwater-trawl-results-reveal-continued-biological-collapse/)

These fish have declined dramatically because of massive water exports out of the Bay-Delta Estuary, combined with poor management of upstream dam operations, declining water quality and invasive species.

Killing record numbers of fish, exporting record amounts of water from the Delta, and driving steelhead, winter-run Chinook salmon and Delta and longfin smelt to the edge of extinction are actions that John Muir would vociferously condemn, not celebrate.

Second, the Governor has fast-tracked the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels to export more water to corporate agribusiness, oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations and Southern California water privateers. If built, this canal will likely result in the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

The project will devastate the Bay-Delta Estuary, the most significant estuary on the West Coast, resulting in tremendous damage to coastal halibut, striped bass, leopard shark, anchovy, sardine, herring, halibut, leopard, rockfish, lingcod and other fish populations.

The construction of the tunnels will only spread the carnage of fish that takes place daily at the Delta pumps from the South Delta to the Sacramento River, the main migratory path for chinook salmon, steelhead, striped bass, American shad and other fish.

How can we expect the state water contractors, who have failed to fund the installation of state-of-the art fish screens on the current Delta pumps as required under the CalFed decision, to fund state-of-the-art fish screens for the new intakes for the canal/tunnel to reduce fish mortality?

And who is going to pay for the project, a pork barrel boondoggle that could cost over $67 billion?

Would Muir support the "Brown Water Plan," as Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of Winnemem Wintu Tribe describes it? Would Muir, or any authentic environmental leader for that matter, back a budget-busting and Delta-draining project that would cause enormous environmental devastation? I don't think so!

Third, Brown has forged ahead with the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in California. These “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, military testing, pollution, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The so-called "marine protected areas" that went into effect on the Southern California coast on January 1, 2012 and on the North Coast on December 19, 2012 were created under the helm of a big oil lobbyist. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and a relentless advocate for new offshore drilling, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the weakening of California's environmental laws, served as the Chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast that oversaw the implementation of these alleged "Yosemites of the Sea."

Again, you can bet that John Muir wouldn't support a privately funded greenwashing process, overseen by an oil industry lobbyist and other corporate operatives, that fails to provide comprehensive marine protection. Muir would undoubtedly be appalled by the use of the term "Yosemites of the Sea" to describe these "no fishing" zones.

Fourth , Governor Brown backs the expansion of fracking in California. On September 20, 2013, he signed Senator Fran Pavley’s “green light for fracking” bill, Senate Billl 4.

Right after Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator Pavley's Senate Bill 4 on September 20, 2013, the same Reheis-Boyd who oversaw fake “marine protection” in Southern California praised the legislation for providing an "environmental platform" for the expansion of fracking in California (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/09/23/18743678.php)

"With the signing of Senate Bill 4, California has the toughest regulations of hydraulic fracturing and other energy production technologies in the country," said Reheis-Boyd. "While SB 4’s requirements went significantly farther than the petroleum industry felt was necessary, we now have an environmental platform on which California can look toward the opportunity to responsibly develop the enormous potential energy resource contained in the Monterey Shale formation." (http://www.wspa.org/blog/post/statement-wspa-president-catherine-reheis-boyd-signing-sb-4)

Governor Jerry Brown has become known as "Big Oil Brown" because of his subservience to the oil industry. Robert Gammon, East Bay Express reporter, revealed that before Governor Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 4, Brown accepted at least $2.49 million in financial donations over the past several years from oil and natural gas interests, according to public records on file with the Secretary of State’s Office and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/fracking-jerry-brown/Content?oid=3726533)

And these aren’t the only abysmal environmental policies that Brown has pursued.

Brown has also backed the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation+) that allows Northern Hemisphere polluters to buy forest carbon offset credits from the global South. Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, urged Brown to reject REDD+ carbon trading credits, which allow corporations to grab huge swaths of land in developing countries in order to keep polluting at home, usually in low income neighborhoods populated by people of color.

“Governor Brown is moving ahead with a policy that grabs land, clear-cuts forests, destroys biodiversity, abuses Mother Earth, pimps Father Sky and threatens the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples,” said Goldtooth. “The policy privatizes the air we breath. Commodifies the clouds. Buys and sells the atmosphere. Corrupts the sacred.” (http://www.ienearth.org/press-statement-tom-goldtooth-behind-the-backs-of-the-people-of-california/)

Finally, Brown has is doing nothing to stop Sierra Pacific Industries from clear cutting forests, destroying wildlife habitat, and contributing to climate change.

For more information on Governor Jerry Brown's 10 worst environmental policies, including his administration's plan to bulldoze a section of the Ballona Wetlands in Southern California under the guise of "habitat restoration," go to: http://www.alternet.org/environment/governor-jerry-browns-10-worst-environmental-policies?page=0%2C1

Governor Jerry Brown is fast-tracking the peripheral tunnels, continues to drive salmon and Delta fish towards extinction, embraced Schwarzenegger's corrupt MLPA Initiative and is promoting many other environmentally destructive policies. Yet he hypocritically issues a proclamation honoring "John Muir Day."

Hey Jerry, why don't you really honor Muir's legacy by abandoning the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels - and by forcing the water contractors to pay for state of art fish screens on the Delta pumps that that were mandated by the CalFed process over 10 years ago? And how about backing a ban on fracking in California?

A proclamation and visiting a state park is nice, but action on these and other issues is what we really need.

For the complete John Muir Day proclamation, go to: http://cert1.mail-west.com/c7rmtLyjgY/21tLgtmyuzjanm/rz8/vnqtLyemy3jl8ho/821tLq/m3cbz/xu5zkrcwbe?_c=d%7Cze7pzanwmhlzgt%7C128mop3zpexm5hk&_ce=1398127957.a0151c13ee2f9a025b0f4760613a0e84