From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
More Bay Delta Conservation Plan Documents Released
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Mar 28th, 2013 10:49 AM
"Now, the Brown Administration magically declares that the peripheral tunnels will end this wholesale destruction," said Bill Jennings, Exective Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. "But there is no evidence to support this wild claim. The peripheral tunnels will destroy our fisheries."

Burt Wilson of Public Water News Service asks Deputy Director Jerry Meral a question about the water to used for fracking by the oil industry, water that will be delivered through the peripheral tunnels. Meral refused to answer Meral's question in the meeting where the Bay Delta Conservation Plan crashed and burned. (
BDCP effects analysis: justification for a corporate water grab

by Dan Bacher

The Brown administration Wednesday unveiled three additional chapters of the preliminary draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, including chapters on ecological effects, implementation, and governance.

The document release drew fire from Delta and fish advocates, who said the ecological "effects analysis" was nothing more than a "rationale for conveyance."

California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird, who presided over record fish kills and water exports at the South Delta pumping facilities in 2011 and the fast-tracking of the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act Initiative to create oil industry-backed “marine protected areas,” claimed that the effects analysis was based on "science."

“At the beginning of the Brown administration, we made a long-term commitment to let science drive the Bay Delta Conservation Plan,” claimed Laird. “Today, with the public unveiling of the effects analysis, we make that a reality. Science has and will continue to drive a holistic resolution securing our water supply and substantially restoring the Delta’s lost habitat.”

“This project relies on 40 years of scientific study of the Delta’s ecosystem,” echoed California Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. “It aims to change the way we divert water from the Delta to better protect fish, and it ties future water deliveries to the health of the Delta’s fish and wildlife populations.”

The draft chapters released Wednesday describe the anticipated ecological effects and proposed governance structure of the BDCP. "The 50-year plan seeks the recovery of native fish and wildlife species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta while also stabilizing water deliveries for 25 million Californians and three million acres of farmland," according to a news release from the agency.

The widely contested project proposes to divert a large proportion of the Sacramento River's flow into 35-mile long two tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San River Joaquin Delta. The water would be diverted at three massive new intakes proposed near Courtland in the North Delta.

The released BDCP chapters are available at:

Plan pretends to “restore” Delta by draining it

Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition opposed to the Brown regime's rush to construct massive peripheral tunnels to take millions of acre-feet of water from the Delta, said the revised BDCP proposal for the tunnels “pretends you can restore the Delta by draining it.”

Delta advocates, including fishermen, tribal leaders, family farmers, grassroots environmentalists and numerous elected officials, believe the tunnel plan is a corporate water grab by agribusiness, oil companies and Southern California water agencies – with the "habitat restoration" in the plan added as an afterthought by state officials to green wash the destruction of the largest estuary on the West Coast.

“Between 2000 and 2011, more than 130,000,000 fish were 'salvaged' in the massive state and federal pumps diverting water to corporate agribusiness, oil companies and southern California developers," said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). (

"Recent studies have shown that 5 to 10 times more fish are killed than salvaged, so the actual number of fish lost could be 1.3 billion or higher," Jennings stated. "The massive diversion of water under the Brown administration resulted in 2011's ‘salvage’ of nearly 9 million Sacramento splittail and over 2 million other fish."

"Now, the Brown Administration magically declares that the peripheral tunnels will end this wholesale destruction. But there is no evidence to support this wild claim. The peripheral tunnels will destroy our fisheries," said Jennings.

Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, exposed the ridiculousness of Brown administration claims that massive diversion tunnels will "save" fish.

“The Brown Administration is trying to save the fish by removing them from the water," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "The proposed peripheral tunnels would have disastrous effects on the fish populations of the Delta, yet the Brown sdministration dubs the tunnels a ‘conservation measure.’ That is ludicrous and shows the entire BDCP is set up to approve draining the Delta,”

Countering Laird and Cowin’s wild claims that the BDCP is based on “science,” Restore the Delta agreed with the National Academy Science’s 2012 judgment that the effects analysis is still “nothing more than a rationale for a conveyance.”

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) identified fresh water flow as a critical variable affecting the health of the Delta. “Statistical evidence and models suggest that both flows (amount of fresh water) and flow paths (route through the Delta) are critical to population abundance of many species in the Bay-Delta.” (page 105).

Restoring the Delta and fish populations requires that “exports of all types will necessarily need to be limited in dry years," the NAS panel concluded.

“The peripheral tunnels are incompatible with restoring the Delta and fish populations," Barrigan-Parrilla emphasized. "Water contractors can't prove that moving the point of diversion would help threatened fish species. The BDCP’s own February analysis showed that the amount of water they want to take would doom the species they intend to save, including Delta smelt."

Tunnels would let less water flow into Delta, increasing pollution

Jane Wagner-Tyack, policy analyst for Restore the Delta, pointed out that the tunnels would divert Sacramento River water away from the Delta, leaving a larger percentage of polluted water flowing into the Delta from the San Joaquin River, designated as an impaired water body by the State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The project would let less water flow into the Delta and would concentrate and increase the residence time of Delta pollution," noted Wagner-Tyack. "Because the Bay-Delta estuary contains several important fish species, including salmon and steelhead, the negative effects on the Delta that the project could create would have a devastating impact on these fish species and associated fishing and recreational jobs.”

“The Brown administration’s latest attempt to justify its peripheral tunnels adds another to three previous failed Effects Analysis studies, which were savagely trashed by the National Science Academy as "nothing more than a rationale for a conveyance," Wagner-Tyack continued.

She said the BDCP is leaving out the ‘$9 billion’ ecosystem cost that will also be largely paid for by water ratepayers, through their taxes.

"They should say the plan also depends on $9 billion in ecosystem costs paid for with tax dollars, crowding out investments in local schools, health and welfare programs, or requiring a general tax increase,” said Wagner-Tyack. “Divide that $9 billion by roughly 40 million Californians and you get $225 per capita, about $700 per household.”

Inexplicably, the BDCP is not considering alternatives for meeting the “ coequal goals” of ecosystem restoration and water supply. These proposals include the Environmental Water Caucus Plan, endorsed by dozens of environmental organizations, that could be evaluated.

Rather than “save” imperiled Delta fish populations, the BDCP will spread the carnage of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead and other fish north to the Sacramento River while the massive fish kills at the state and federal water pumps in the South Delta will continue.

“Make no mistake,” emphasized Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “The peripheral tunnels will destroy river ecosystems, destroy fisheries and sentence us to a future where clean water is a luxury rather than a right.”

Restore the Delta is encouraging people to attend a public meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 4, 2013 to discuss BDCP Chapters 4-7. The meeting will be held at the Red Lion Woodlake Conf. Center, 500 Leisure Lane, Sacramento from 12-6 p.m.

Project staff will be available to review Chapter 1-7 materials and discuss comments and questions beginning at 12 p.m. and continuing until 6 p.m. The presentation portion of the meeting will run from 1-5 p.m.

The meeting will be available via live video webcast and conference call.

Peripheral tunnel water could help expand fracking

As Laird and Cowin continue to promote the destruction of the Delta through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, Delta advocates are alarmed about the role the water planned for export in the peripheral tunnels could play in increased fracking in California. (

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial, environmentally destructive process of injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at high pressure in order to release and extract oil or gas, according to Food and Water Watch.

The oil industry, represented by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, is now pushing for increasing fracking for oil and natural gas in shale deposits in Kern County and coastal areas.

"The Westlands Water District and Kern County Water Agency import water for the biggest agribusinesses and oil fields in the Central Valley," explained Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director at Food & Water Watch. "Now they've gotten Governor Brown to approve a massive tunnels project to bring them even more water, which they will sell for an enormous profit. Even worse, much of this water will go to oil companies who will pollute our groundwater with fracking.”

For information about Restore the Delta, go to