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

Governor Brown’s water bond will be a referendum on tunnels
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Aug 13th, 2014 6:08 PM
Water law export John Herrick said, "Hence, any proposal for state or federal funding of new habitat for fish rearing or purchased water for fishery flows is a transfer of the projects' contractors' obligations onto the general public. Such a transfer is not just bad policy, it is illegal."

Photo (From left to right): Assemblymember Rendon, Speaker Atkins, Governor Brown and pro Tem Steinberg meeting with their legislative, business, environmental and labor allies on August 12. Photo courtesy of Justin Short, Office of the Governor.

Charging taxpayers $485 million to buy water for Brown's death tunnels is 'nuts'

by Dan Bacher

As Legislators prepared to vote on Governor Jerry Brown's revised water bond to replace the existing $11.14 billion bond on the November ballot Wednesday afternoon, Restore the Delta (RTD) called the proposal to have taxpayers buy water for future fish flows to satisfy exporter mitigation requirements "nuts."

The group also said the controversial bond will be a referendum on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a pork barrel boondoggle that will cost the taxpayers and ratepayers an alarming $67 billion.

In spite of an intensive phone call campaign by tunnel opponents to convince legislators to vote against the bond, Senate Republicans this afternoon announced they had made a deal with Governor Brown and Senate Democrats to approve a new $7.5 billion water bond.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Rancho Cucamonga, told reporters, "We finally have a water bond with water. You are going to see a huge bipartisan support."

"We legislators believe this is a solution for our future and believe you should vote for it," he added.

The Republican legislators were convinced to support Brown's measure after the amount for increased dams and reservoirs in the revised bond was increased to $2.7 billion.

RTD, opponents of Governor Brown’s rush to build water export tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, said the governor’s bond measure is NOT “tunnels neutral,” as the Governor and his collaborators claim, and contains $485 million to buy water to replace what will be pumped into the tunnels.

“Charging taxpayers $485 million to replace water sent through the tunnels to enrich mega-growers in Westlands and Kern Water Districts is nuts,” said RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “With that Ponzi scheme included, this bond will become a referendum on the tunnels.”

She said the governor’s flow language would allow public funds to be used to purchase water that could be diverted into the Delta tunnels.

“The half-billion dollars in funding for purchase of water upstream of the Delta, and later diverted into the tunnels is a massive transfer of wealth from the rest of us to a few mega-growers who hog 70% of the water exported from the Delta,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Water transfers are needed by the BDCP for mitigation -- essentially they can’t operate the new tunnels without putting more water in the River, which BDCP will purchase – at taxpayer expense - from water districts and growers in the northern Sacramento Valley.”

She suggested simple language that could fix the bond measure’s shift of costs from water exporters to taxpayers: "No water purchased under this division can be used directly or indirectly for exports from the San Francisco Bay Delta."

"That’s tunnels neutral," Barrigan-Parrilla said.

Restore the Delta board member and water law expert John Herrick, said, “Legally it is the obligation of the projects to protect these fisheries and return their populations to pre-project or other (see CVPIA fish doubling mandate) levels. Until the projects have undertaken and accomplished this restoration of the fish populations, no public funds should, or can be legally used to recover the fish. Hence, any proposal for state or federal funding of new habitat for fish rearing or purchased water for fishery flows is a transfer of the projects' contractors' obligations onto the general public."

"Such a transfer is not just bad policy, it is illegal," Herrick emphasized.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife would use up to $485,000,000 from Sections 79733 and 79737 to buy water that would be dedicated under Water Code Section 1707 for instream use in waterways upstream of the Delta, according to RTD. However, once that water reached the tunnel intakes it could be diverted into the tunnels.

"The new wording does not prevent that. This water would be available for export from the Delta the same as any other water purchased by the exporters. The public would be paying for that benefit to the exporters," according to Restore the Delta.

On Tuesday, Sierra Club California Director Kathryn Phillips issued an action alert urging Club members and supporters to call Assembly Member Eggman and ask their representatives to VOTE NO on AB 1471 and SB 866 "unless they are amended to make sure that there is a level playing field for all California, no preference for Central Valley dams, and responsible legislative oversight of how the money is spent."

BDCP background: Jerry Brown’s Death Tunnels

Governor Jerrry Brown's Bay Delta Delta Conservation Plan to build the 35-mile long peripheral tunnels won't create one drop of new water, but the project will lead to horrendous environmental degradation, according to tunnel critics. The construction of the tunnels, estimated to cost $67 billion, will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

BDCP opponents say Brown's "legacy" project will lead to the death of the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas that provides a nursery for many species. It will harm salmon, halibut, leopard shark, soupfin shark, sevengill shark, anchovy, sardine, herring, groundfish and Dungeness crab populations stretching from Southern Washington to Southern California.

Under the guise of habitat restoration, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will take vast tracts of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to irrigate toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and provide Delta water to Southern California developers and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations in Kern County.

The tunnels are being constructed in tandem with the federal government's plan to raise Shasta Dam, a project that will flood many of the remaining sacred sites of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe that weren't inundated by Shasta Dam.