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Restore the Delta calls on Brown to back 'clean water bond'
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Jun 25th, 2014 3:11 PM
“If the governor and Westlands mega-growers insist on including taxpayer subsidies for the tunnels mitigation in the water bond, it will become a vote of the people of California on the mammoth and destructive BDCP Tunnel project, estimated to cost a total of at least $54.1 billion after interest,” said Restore the Delta’s media consultant, Steve Hopcraft.
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Restore the Delta calls on Brown to back 'clean water bond'

by Dan Bacher

Restore the Delta (RTD) called on Governor Brown to back a “clean water bond” for the November 2014 ballot that does not include any taxpayer funding for mitigating the damage from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels.

The group's statement was issued after Brown told legislators in private meetings on Tuesday, June 24 that he opposes the existing $11.1 billion water bond and supports a $6 billion water bond instead, including about $2 billion for storage.

Brown also reportedly told legislators that Republicans “must accept less than their stated priority of $3 billion” for water storage projects, according to Capitol Public Radio. (http://www.capradio.org/articles/2014/06/24/brown-opposes-existing-water-bond,-wants-$6-billion-replacement/)

The Governor’s Office has declined to comment on the specifics of his proposal, including whether any funding in the bond will help pay for mitigation for damage caused by the construction of two massive tunnels under the Delta proposed under Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). "The Governor is concerned about ongoing debt service and its impact on future budgets," according to Jim Evans of the Governor's Office.

However, a draft of Brown's blueprint obtained by the Sacramento and Fresno Bees also "suggests $1.5 billion for water supply and water reliability, encompassing areas like safe drinking water and groundwater cleanup; $1.5 billion for watershed protection; $500 million for flood control; and $500 million for the Delta." (http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/06/25/3996045/capitol-alert-governors-bond-plan.html)

"The document also states a general rule shared by Senate leaders: the bond must be 'Bay Delta Conservation Plan neutral,'" the Bee reported.

In response to the latest water bond developments, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, said, “California desperately needs a new sustainable water policy and a bond measure that invests in conservation policies that have broad and deep support. We call on Gov. Brown to leave tunnels mitigation out of a water bond.”

Barrigan-Parrilla cited records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showing that the BDCP appears to plan to use bond funds to help fund purchases over the next 50 years of up to 1.3 million acre feet of water annually from upstream areas, such as the Sacramento Valley.

"These purchases are supposed to make up for over-pumping for the new water export Tunnels,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “This provision would become a referendum on the tunnels project and would likely doom the water bond to failure, leaving us with no progress on our need for drought resilient water projects.”

“In bond provisions labeled as BDCP ‘restoration’ and ‘habitat’ funding, the public would pay to purchase so called ‘enhanced environmental flow’ water from previously identified districts in the Upper Sacramento River Basin – leading to the devastation of their groundwater supplies. That same water would be diverted into the new BDCP Tunnels before it flows into the heart of the Delta,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.

“Mega-growers within Westlands and Kern County are depending on public subsidies to make the BDCP pencil out. The public purchase of ‘environmental’ water with bond funds has already been shown to be a waste. From 2000-2007, an ‘environmental water account’ was set up and spent nearly $200 million in public funds as the species crashed and the State Water Project over pumped the Delta, creating, huge profits for private landowners like billionaire Stewart Resnick. The voters will not agree to that kind of waste and profiteering again,” Barrigan-Parrilla added.

In addition, BDCP water exporters are relying on the public, through a combination of state and federal funds and two successive state water bonds, to pay $7.824 billion (before interest in today’s dollars) toward the cost of BDCP. The draft BDCP describes how state bond measures would provide $3.759 billion in funds to carry out the project, according to Barrigan-Parilla.

She said taxpayers, through other state and federal funding allocations, would also pay the remaining $4 billion needed for the estimated $25 billion dollar project. With the water exporters paying for the cost of the water export Tunnels through increased water rates to families, the public would pay additionally through taxes for the cost of creating more than 140,000 acres of experimental habitat, on Delta farmland, the largest strip of prime farmland in California.

“According to independent scientific reviews, BDCP habitat is unlikely to yield the benefits assumed by BDCP, in part because the Tunnels will starve the Delta of needed fresh water flows. The BDCP water export Tunnels will remove life-giving flows of high quality water through the Delta. The massive acquisition of farmland for habitat is a ruse to justify building the BDCP Tunnels, and the water exporters are planning to stick the taxpayers with that bill,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Restore the Delta calls on Governor Brown support the following three principles in the 2014 water bond:

• Remove all funding for Delta habitat and water purchases tied to the BDCP. Funding actions needed by the still draft, unfinished BDCP will take away funding from other crucial water projects that will make California drought resilient. Taxpayers should not be expected to pay to restore habitat or purchase paper “environmental” water to make the Tunnels appear to be an environmental project.

• Support levee improvement funding in order to upgrade Delta levees to the minimum PL194-99 standards. The Governor needs to recognize that if there is a catastrophic event in the Delta, one hundred percent of the loss of life and 80% of the economic loss will fall on the Delta region. Levees protect statewide water supplies and provide local flood protection. Regional infrastructure worth billions of dollars (roads, railroads, electric transmission lines, gas lines) is also at risk.

"The State claims to be worried about an earthquake in the Delta, yet inexplicably is focused not on shoring up the Delta’s earthquake defenses, but on building Peripheral Tunnels to “protect” the water exported. The State has forgotten that 4 million people live in the five Delta Counties and need to be protected from a catastrophic flood event," she said.

• Support conservation and local water supply and treatment projects throughout California to make the state more water resilient and less dependent on Delta exports.

"We are calling on Governor Brown to support principles that will actually lead to more secure water supplies for all Californians, rather than endorsing a water exporter driven bond that will deliver only for certain special-interest water districts to the detriment of the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas," she summed up.

“If the governor and Westlands mega-growers insist on including taxpayer subsidies for the tunnels mitigation in the water bond, it will become a vote of the people of California on the mammoth and destructive BDCP Tunnel project, estimated to cost a total of at least $54.1 billion after interest,” said Restore the Delta’s media consultant, Steve Hopcraft.

The current water bond on the November ballot was created as part of a water policy/water bond package passed by the Legislature in a special session called by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in November 2009. The water bond was rescheduled twice, first in 2010 and then again in 2012, due to strong opposition to provisions in the bond that facilitate the construction of the twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Brown is a relentless advocate for the widely-criticized Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels - and looks at the tunnel plan, estimated to cost up to $67 billion, as a "legacy" project.

On Monday, June 23, Senator Lois Wolk’s new water bond, SB 848, failed to gain required two-thirds vote “due to Republican opposition and demands that the measure include more funding to enable the construction of two tunnels underneath the Delta to divert water to farming interests in the Southern San Joaquin Valley,” according to a statement from Wolk’s Office.

The vote was on party lines, with the Senate Democrats supporting the measure and the Senate Republicans voting against it.

The 22 yes votes were Beall, Corbett, Correa, De León, DeSaulnier, Evans, Galgiani, Hernandez, Hueso, Jackson, Lara, Leno, Lieu, Liu, Mitchell, Monning, Padilla, Pavley, Roth, Steinberg, Torres, and Wolk, all Democrats.

The no votes were Anderson, Berryhill, Fuller, Huff, Knight, Morrell, Vidak, Walters, Wyland, all Republicans.

No votes were recorded by Block, Calderon, Cannella, Gaines, Hancock, Hill, Nielsen, Wright and Yee.

Three of those recorded not voting - Leland Yee of San Francisco, Ron Calderon of Montebello and Rod Wright of Inglewood - were suspended from the State Senate with pay this March. Senators Yee and Calderon were indicted in separate federal corruption cases, while Senator Wright will be sentenced on July 21 on criminal charges that he lied about where he lived when he ran for office in 2008. (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/rod-wright/#storylink=cpy)

“Yesterday’s vote was a missed opportunity,” said Senator Wolk. “It was especially disappointing to see my Republican colleagues from Northern California tie their horses to the Delta Tunnels and support the current bond written in 2009 rather than the tunnel neutral approach in SB 848 that was before them. The 2009 bond promotes the tunnels and is doomed to be rejected by the voters.”

“We are in a drought," she said. "The voters want real solutions, not the tunnels. There is no better time than now to act. SB 848 includes water solutions for every region of the state that reflect local needs and priorities. This bond doesn’t hurt any region and, critically, it avoids investments in controversial projects like the Delta Tunnels that will result in opposition at the ballot. SB 848 is the only proposal that doesn't provoke a North-South water war and meets Republican core demand for surface storage."

For more information, go to: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/06/25/18757859.php