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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Brown declares drought state of emergency as protesters urge halt to fracking
“He can’t make it rain, but he can put a moratorium on fracking and he can stop his tunnels project,” said Adam Scow, California Campaign Director of Food and Water Watch. “The Governor’s current water and energy policies will only worsen our current climate and water crisis.”
NOAA satellite photo of the snowpack in California and Nevada on January 13, 2013 compared to January 13, 2014.
Brown declares drought state of emergency as protesters urge halt to fracking
by Dan Bacher
As a crowd of anti-fracking protesters gathered in front of Governor Jerry Brown's San Francisco office this morning to call for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in California, Brown proclaimed a drought State of Emergency and directed state officials to take "all necessary actions" to prepare for the record drought conditions.
“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Governor Brown. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”
In the State of Emergency declaration spurred by the record drought, Brown directed state officials to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted by dry conditions and to ensure the state can respond if Californians face drinking water shortages.
Brown also directed state agencies to use less water and hire more firefighters and initiated an expanded water conservation public awareness campaign. He asked the state's residents and businesses to reduce water use by 20 percent
"We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation," said Brown. "Hopefully, it will rain, but in the meantime we have to do our part."
Adam Scow, California Campaign Director of Food and Water Watch, responded to the Governor’s drought declaration as he rallied with 75 protesters in front of the Governor’s Office, noting that Brown can't make it rain, but he can put a moratorium on fracking and he can stop his peripheral tunnels project.
"While Governor Brown cannot make it rain, he can prevent wasteful and harmful use of our water by placing an immediate moratorium on fracking and other extreme methods of oil and gas extraction that pollute our precious water resources with toxic chemicals," said Scow. "Moreover, fracking pollutes our air with methane and carbon dioxide that will worsen our climate crisis and could promote more droughts in the future."
"The drought underscores the need for reducing and maintaining responsible levels of water exports from the San Francisco Bay Delta," stated Scow. "This can be achieved if the Governor drops his plan to build massive twin tunnels to divert the Sacramento River in order to sustain excessively high water exports from the Delta. This plan, estimated to cost as much as $67 billion, would largely benefit corporate agribusinesses and oil interests in the southwest corner of the San Joaquin Valley at the expense of California taxpayers and households in the southern California and the Santa Clara Valley."
Scow said polls show Californians favor a moratorium on fracking and oppose the BDCP twin-tunnels scheme when told the facts about these destructive projects.
"We need Governor Brown to do more than make declarations," said Scow. "We need Governor Brown to take bold action to protect California's water now and for future generations. Working to ban fracking and dropping the twin-tunnels would be a good start."
Activists from the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, CREDO, Oil Change International, Move On and other members of the statewide Californians Against Fracking coalition at the protest urged Brown to protect the state’s water supply by halting fracking.
Protesters from the coalition have dogged the Governor at his press conferences and other appearances throughout the state in recent months for refusing to halt the oil industry’s use of the highly polluting technique. Fracking involves blasting huge volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock formations and release oil and gas.
"Fracking uses enormous quantities of water, and oil companies are gearing up for a massive expansion of fracking even as California’s water resources are stretched to the breaking point," according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Center said fracking pollution has also been tied to water contamination in Wyoming, Texas and other states. In California, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board on November 15 ordered a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Company, Vintage Production California LLC, to pay a $60,000 penalty for discharging fracking fluid into an unlined sump in violation of the California Water Code.
Proclamation includes 20 points
The proclamation outlined 20 points, including the initiation of a statewide conservation program, the implementation of water use reduction plans for all state facilities, the expediting of the processing of water transfers, and the consideration of modifying requirements for reservoir releases or diversion limitations.
Of note to anglers throughout the state, point 15 states, “The Department of Fish and Wildlife will work with the Fish and Game Commission, using the best available science, to determine whether restricting fishing in certain areas will become necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist.”
The proclamation didn't mention the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels nor anything about "improved conveyance."
Water activist Jerry Cadagan noted, "There are a lot of potential issues in the 20 point proclamation, not the least of which is paragraph 5 which arguably would grease the skids for the Tunnels without CEQA review of the change of point of diversion."
Point 5 states, "The Water Board will immediately consider petitions requesting consolidation of the places of use of the State Water Project and Federal Central Valley Project, which would streamline water transfers and exchanges between water users within the areas of these two major water projects."
The Governor's Office also noted that "the proclamation gives state water officials more flexibility to manage supply throughout California under drought conditions."
California’s river and reservoirs are below their record lows, according to state water officials. Manual and electronic readings record the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of normal average for this time of year.
The Governor's Office claimed that the declaration "follows a series of actions the administration has taken to ensure that California is prepared for record dry conditions."
"In December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations, California’s preparedness for water scarcity and whether conditions merit a drought declaration," according to the Governor's Office. "Earlier this week, Brown toured the Central Valley and spoke with growers and others impacted by California’s record dry conditions."
It is worth noting that Brown didn't talk to anybody from the farming and recreational industries on the Delta - nor anybody from the recreational and commercial fishing industries throughout California and California Indian Tribes who are being impacted greatly by the drought.
Tunnels are a flawed "solution" for a drought-plagued state
Anticipating the drought declaration by Brown, Restore the Delta and other opponents of Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels on Monday held a tele-conference calling the tunnels a “flawed solution for a drought-plagued state," in addition to issuing a press release responding to the declaration after the Governor's press conference on Friday.
Six experts on Monday criticized the tunnels as an "outdated, inappropriate solution to California’s water challenges, one that would create no new water, be of no use in dry years, and drain $70 billion that could otherwise be spent on projects that create new water and increase regional water independence."
Barbara Barrigan Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, pointed out the disparity between record low levels in northern California reservoirs, including Folsom, Oroville, Shasta and Trinity, and Southern California reservoirs that are now 93 percent of capacity.
"It is worth noting that presently, reservoirs in Southern California are filled to 93% capacity," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "Yet, water levels are at record lows in the north part of the state, and corporate agribusiness growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are continuing the push for water deliveries, even though the water system is depleted."
On Friday, Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, pointed out that "egregious mismanagement" of the state's water has led to the current crisis.
"The present crisis could have been avoided, and is a direct result of egregious mismanagement of the state’s water supply system by the state and federal water projects," said Jennings. "Excessive water exports and the failure to prepare for inevitable drought have created a decades-long disaster for fisheries, and placed the people and economic prosperity of northern California at grave risk. The State's obsession with tunneling under the Delta does nothing to address drought, or put us on a path to correct the misuse of limited water supplies."
The tunnels will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species, as well as imperil steelhead and salmon populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
To listen to the tele-news conference featuring Jonas Minton, Tom Stokely, John Herrick, Dr. Jeff Michael, Bill Jennings, and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org/drought-tele-news-conference-listen-to-tele-news-conference.
On Thursday at 10 am on the North Steps of the State Capitol, young and diverse community leaders and job developers called upon Governor Jerry Brown to abandon the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
They asked him to invest instead in "clean water supplies for all California communities" and to develop sustainable jobs in alternative water solutions.
"We call upon Gov. Brown to abandon the fatally flawed $70 billion tunnels,” said Javier Padilla Reyes, Latino Outreach Director of Restore the Delta. “Our communities need clean water supplies, not export tunnels for unsustainable cotton and almond mega-growers. The tunnels are a giveaway to a few billionaire absentee farmers, and won’t provide sustainable jobs. Our future is at stake, and we need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges."
He emphasized, "Many farm communities in the San Joaquin Valley do not have access to clean drinking water. Some of these water sources have been polluted by these same growers, who now want us to suspend environmental regulations. Let’s clean up water supplies for families, not ship more water so huge growers can profit from our loss.”
“There is a better solution for California that will protect the Delta and enhance our overall economic opportunities," stated Esperanza Vielma, a job developer with Café, Inc., in Stockton. "Local water projects will actually make more jobs than a large-scale water project like the peripheral tunnels, according to the Southern California Business Roundtable. These jobs pay good wages and would provide new work opportunities for the unemployed throughout California."
Other speakers at the event included Stockton City Councilmember Moses Zapien (Stockton); Stina Va of Restore the Delta; and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla.
For more information, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org
The full text of the emergency proclamation is below:
A PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY
WHEREAS the State of California is experiencing record dry conditions, with 2014 projected to become the driest year on record; and
WHEREAS the state’s water supplies have dipped to alarming levels, indicated by: snowpack in California’s mountains is approximately 20 percent of the normal average for this date; California’s largest water reservoirs have very low water levels for this time of year; California’s major river systems, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, have significantly reduced surface water flows; and groundwater levels throughout the state have dropped significantly; and
WHEREAS dry conditions and lack of precipitation present urgent problems: drinking water supplies are at risk in many California communities; fewer crops can be cultivated and farmers’ long-term investments are put at risk; low-income communities heavily dependent on agricultural employment will suffer heightened unemployment and economic hardship; animals and plants that rely on California’s rivers, including many species in danger of extinction, will be threatened; and the risk of wildfires across the state is greatly increased; and
WHEREAS extremely dry conditions have persisted since 2012 and may continue beyond this year and more regularly into the future, based on scientific projections regarding the impact of climate change on California’s snowpack; and
WHEREAS the magnitude of the severe drought conditions presents threats beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and
WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist in California due to water shortage and drought conditions with which local authority is unable to cope.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the state Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist in the State of California due to current drought conditions.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1.State agencies, led by the Department of Water Resources, will execute a statewide water conservation campaign to make all Californians aware of the drought and encourage personal actions to reduce water usage. This campaign will be built on the existing Save Our Water campaign (http://www.saveourh20.org) and will coordinate with local water agencies. This campaign will call on Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent.
2.Local urban water suppliers and municipalities are called upon to implement their local water shortage contingency plans immediately in order to avoid or forestall outright restrictions that could become necessary later in the drought season. Local water agencies should also update their legally required urban and agricultural water management plans, which help plan for extended drought conditions. The Department of Water Resources will make the status of these updates publicly available.
3.State agencies, led by the Department of General Services, will immediately implement water use reduction plans for all state facilities. These plans will include immediate water conservation actions, and a moratorium will be placed on new, non-essential landscaping projects at state facilities and on state highways and roads.
4.The Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) will expedite the processing of water transfers, as called for in Executive Order B-21-13. Voluntary water transfers from one water right holder to another enables water to flow where it is needed most.
5.The Water Board will immediately consider petitions requesting consolidation of the places of use of the State Water Project and Federal Central Valley Project, which would streamline water transfers and exchanges between water users within the areas of these two major water projects.
6.The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will accelerate funding for water supply enhancement projects that can break ground this year and will explore if any existing unspent funds can be repurposed to enable near-term water conservation projects.
7.The Water Board will put water right holders throughout the state on notice that they may be directed to cease or reduce water diversions based on water shortages.
8.The Water Board will consider modifying requirements for reservoir releases or diversion limitations, where existing requirements were established to implement a water quality control plan. These changes would enable water to be conserved upstream later in the year to protect cold water pools for salmon and steelhead, maintain water supply, and improve water quality.
9.The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will take actions necessary to make water immediately available, and, for purposes of carrying out directives 5 and 8, Water Code section 13247 and Division 13 (commencing with section 21000) of the Public Resources Code and regulations adopted pursuant to that Division are suspended on the basis that strict compliance with them will prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the emergency. Department of Water Resources and the Water Board shall maintain on their websites a list of the activities or approvals for which these provisions are suspended.
10. The state’s Drinking Water Program will work with local agencies to identify communities that may run out of drinking water, and will provide technical and financial assistance to help these communities address drinking water shortages. It will also identify emergency interconnections that exist among the state’s public water systems that can help these threatened communities.
11.The Department of Water Resources will evaluate changing groundwater levels, land subsidence, and agricultural land fallowing as the drought persists and will provide a public update by April 30 that identifies groundwater basins with water shortages and details gaps in groundwater monitoring.
12.The Department of Water Resources will work with counties to help ensure that well drillers submit required groundwater well logs for newly constructed and deepened wells in a timely manner and the Office of Emergency Services will work with local authorities to enable early notice of areas experiencing problems with residential groundwater sources.
13.The California Department of Food and Agriculture will launch a one-stop website (http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/drought) that provides timely updates on the drought and connects farmers to state and federal programs that they can access during the drought.
14.The Department of Fish and Wildlife will evaluate and manage the changing impacts of drought on threatened and endangered species and species of special concern, and develop contingency plans for state Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves to manage reduced water resources in the public interest.
15. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will work with the Fish and Game Commission, using the best available science, to determine whether restricting fishing in certain areas will become necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist.
16.The Department of Water Resources will take necessary actions to protect water quality and water supply in the Delta, including installation of temporary barriers or temporary water supply connections as needed, and will coordinate with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to minimize impacts to affected aquatic species.
17.The Department of Water Resources will refine its seasonal climate forecasting and drought prediction by advancing new methodologies piloted in 2013.
18.The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will hire additional seasonal firefighters to suppress wildfires and take other needed actions to protect public safety during this time of elevated fire risk.
19.The state’s Drought Task Force will immediately develop a plan that can be executed as needed to provide emergency food supplies, financial assistance, and unemployment services in communities that suffer high levels of unemployment from the drought.
20.The Drought Task Force will monitor drought impacts on a daily basis and will advise me of subsequent actions that should be taken if drought conditions worsen.
I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this Proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this Proclamation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 17th day of January, 2014.
EDMUND G. BROWN JR.,
Governor of California
Secretary of State
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814