From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Resources Agency official says tunnel plan documents won't be translated
by Dan Bacher
Friday Jun 6th, 2014 12:08 PM
"Stapler mentioned the 'prohibitive cost associated particularly with translating technical language, if it’s even possible to translate some of that technical language,'" said Jane Wagner-Tyack of Restore the Delta. "So all those languages that aren’t English just don’t even have the words to explain the BDCP? And all those people who don’t speak English wouldn’t understand anyway? What arrogance."
The Brown administration has violated the rights of non-English speaking Californians by refusing to publish the 40,000 pages of Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels and the BDCP EIS/EIR in any other language than English.

This failure to abide by numerous state and federal civil rights laws occurs in a state where 20 percent of the residents, including many people on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta where the tunnels will have the most severe environmental impacts, are non-English speakers.

Neither the BDCP itself, the BDCP EIS/EIR or the Implementing Agreement will be translated into languages other than English, according to a Natural Resources Agency officlal at a press conference on Friday, May 30 announcing the release of the plan's draft implementing agreement and an extension on public comment period on the plan.

In response to my question of whether or not any of the documents would be translated into languages other English, Richard Stapler of the Natural Resources Agency told reporters that the cost of translation would be "prohibitive" and questioned whether it would be possible to translate some of the technical language:

"We’ve had the comment period open for BDCP now for just about six months. We’re extending it now for another two months, so of course we appreciate that input this late in the comment period on this issue. That said, for the entire time and for the entire process, we have actually have had an 800# where all of those languages, people can ask questions in all of those languages and get answers.

There is a prohibitive cost associated particularly with translating technical language, if it’s even possible to translate some of that technical language, so that is a significant issue. But we are extremely sensitive to those populations and any suggestion otherwise is more just political rhetoric than anything else.

So we do have some materials that are available in different languages. We are currently translating some other fact sheets and such for those populations, making extra additional well above and beyond what is necessary under CEQA to reach out to the groups that represent those communities to be sure that they are being properly educated and have the opportunity to ask questions about those impacts."

I then asked Stapler, "So you’re not going to translate either the IA or the BDCP documents?

Stapler replied: "The 35,000 page BDCP document, no."

I find it extremely ironic that Stapler describes the cost of translating the BDCP documents into languages other than English as "prohibitive" when the tunnel plan will cost over $67 billion, according to the estimate of an economist at a Westlands Water District Board of Directors meeting last year.

Jane Wagner-Tyack of Restore the Delta responded to Stapler's response to my question in her article in the June 5 RTD newsletter, pointing out the arrogance of Stapler's response:

"Resources Agency Deputy Director for Communications Richard Stapler said that for the entire process, they’ve had an 800 number where people can ask questions about BDCP in various languages and get answers. Which is fine if people know there is as project they should be asking questions about. But BDCP hasn’t done that kind of outreach to non-English language communities.

Stapler mentioned the 'prohibitive cost associated particularly with translating technical language, if it’s even possible to translate some of that technical language.' So all those languages that aren’t English just don’t even have the words to explain the BDCP? And all those people who don’t speak English wouldn’t understand anyway?

What arrogance.

Said Stapler, they (the Resources Agency? DWR? BDCP?) are 'extremely sensitive to those populations.' They are 'currently translating some other fact sheets and such for those populations,' going beyond what CEQA requires. But they aren’t going to translate the 35,000 plus pages of draft BDCP and draft EIR/EIS."

Then Wagner-Tyack points out the refusal of the Brown administration to publish the BDCP documents in other languages besides English in the larger contest of the rush to build the tunnels without proper public and scientific input and support. Rather than a well thought plan, the BDCP amounts to a "data dump":

"The question everyone should be asking is: How should the State explain to ALL citizens what it plans to do, or allow to be done, with public resources and public funds?

Reviewers are calling for reissued documents to address dozens of inadequacies in BDCP and the EIR/EIS. But that doesn’t mean that anyone wants more of the same. More of the same wouldn’t clarify anything. At least one reviewer has called the BDCP and its EIR/EIS a 'data dump'– bloated with details, short on usable analysis of those details. Native English speakers, even those with technical science training, have trouble understanding it.

The Delta Science Program conducted an independent science review of the BDCP Effects Analysis, which should explain how implementing BDCP will impact covered species (the point of a habitat conservation plan). The review panel looked at the Effects Analysis chapter, which is 745 pages long, but also at eight technical appendices with about 4500 additional pages.

Reporting to the Delta Stewardship Council for the review panel, panelist Dr. Alex Parker said they found a disconnect between the Effects Analysis chapter and the technical appendices with regard to scientific certainty. The panel also found that the document lacked structure and was therefore hard to interpret.

Said Dr. Parker, '[The] Effects Analysis needs to provide clear guidance about what [the] uncertainties are, where our information gaps [lie], and then also inform adaptive management in terms of what information should we be monitoring along the way, what are the appropriate triggers so that we know when we are on the wrong track and then course correct – move in a different direction. That was largely lacking.'"

To read the complete RTD newsletter, go to:

There is no doubt that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan won't add one drop of new water, will cost Californians over $67 billion, will hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations, violates the civil rights of millions of Californians, violates the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and has little public support. Yet Governor Jerry Brown won't back down on his insane plan to build the twin tunnels and new water pumping facilities as bizarre monuments to his "legacy."

Background: Brown administration violations of Non-English speakers' civil rights

Restore the Delta (RTD) and environmental justice advocates on May 28 charged the Brown Administration with violation of the civil rights of more than 600,000 non-English speakers in the Delta by its agencies' failure to provide for “meaningful access to and participation” in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) public comment period.

The groups said the state and federal agencies failed to make the EIR/EIS available in any languages other than English. Restore the Delta, the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Asian Pacific Self-Development and Residential Association, Café Coop, Lao Family Community Empowerment, Environmental Water Caucus, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network (C-WIN), and Friends of the River released a letter calling on State and Federal officials to restart and extend the public comment period for the BDCP and its EIR/S, and to do adequate public outreach to limited English speakers.

“In particular, we request that the agencies hold public hearings and provide interpreters; translate vital documents such as, at the very least, the Executive Summary of the draft EIS/EIR; and provide affordable access to documents to allow the thousands of low-income and limited English speakers to have meaningful participation in the process,” the letter stated.

Colin Bailey, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, said, "While a very limited amount of outreach material can be found on the BDCP website in Spanish, the plan itself and its corresponding Draft EIS/EIR have not been translated into Spanish. In particular, the EIS/EIR identifies forty-seven adverse and unavoidable impacts (Chapter 31 EIR/EIS) that will have a direct impact on residents of the five Delta counties."

"The majority of Spanish, Cambodian, and Hmong speakers have not been made aware of these impacts, let alone that there is presently an ongoing comment period regarding the BDCP, or that the project exists," he said.

According to the letter from the groups, the violations of the state and federal laws by BDCP officials include but are not limited to the following:

• CEQA participation requirements— CEQA requires a process that provides an opportunity for meaningful participation of the public. According to Public Resources Code Section 21061: “The purpose of an environmental impact report is to provide public agencies and the public in general with detailed information about the effect which a proposed project is likely to have on the environment; to list ways in which the significant effects of such a project can be minimized; and to indicate alternatives to such a project.”

• NEPA participation requirements, and Equal Justice Executive Order 12898: Federal Executive Order (EO) 12898 (1994), Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, requires Federal agencies to make environmental justice part of their mission and to develop environmental justice strategies.

• Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides: “No Person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

• California Government Code section 11135 (a) and implementing regulations in the California Code of Regulations Title 22 Sections 98211 (c) and 98100. Government Code 11135(a) provides: “No person in the State of California shall, on the basis of race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, genetic information, or disability, be unlawfully denied full and equal access to the benefits of, or be unlawfully subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity that is conducted, operated, or administered by the state or by any state agency, is funded directly by the state, or receives any financial assistance from the state.”

• The Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act—Government Code Sections 7290-7299.8 which requires that, when state and local agencies serve a “substantial number of non-English- speaking people,” they must among other things translate documents explaining available services into their clients’ languages.

Not only does the Brown administration violate the civil rights of non-English speakers, but the BDCP process violates the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigeous Peoples and numerous state and federal laws protecting California's indigenous nations.

"The Delta Tunnel plan violates the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights!" said Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. "These twin tunnels will kill the largest Estuary that keeps California….CALIFORNIA! When that happens it will bring changes no one can imagine right now….it will as Mother Nature wants."

To read the letter from the groups charging civil rights violations, go to:

Comments  (Hide Comments)

I think someone who doesn't speak English should sit on that 800# and have every last page read to them in their native language! THEN they can ask all the questions they'd like, in their native tongue...more than one way to skin a pole cat.
by Beeline
Friday Jun 6th, 2014 10:47 PM
Considering what Los Angeles did to the Owens Valley could anyone really expect fair play from an obviously scheming bureaucracy? In gross terms 75% of the people in California live south of Sacramento and a little over 21 million of them live in the southern most counties. About 75% of the water in California falls north of Sacramento. The L.A. basin gets 40% of its supply from ground water sources but has to import 60%. They forecast an increase in population of 5.6 million people by 2030 and they want to increase job opportunities and development which is ecologically insane but who pays any attention to ecologists these days. The south wants the water in the north very badly and I have no doubt that if they get what they want they will not shed any tears when the north turns into a desert.

Kind of ironic. Turning the southern desert into a sub-alpine meadow land and turning the northern area into a desert. Not a good trade for the north.

20 years ago the northern folks got really active and pissed off about sending more water south. Now they don't seem to care much and neither do the state representatives who parrot the conservative propaganda about fish versus people.

It is also ironic that the closest small water district to the source up north (Clear Creek Water District near Whiskey Town Lake) has had its water supply (CVP) cut severely even though Whiskey Town and Lewiston Lakes were at nearly 100% of their average levels a few weeks ago. I also hear that a lot of businesses are closing down in Redding. It does not look good at all.

So it seems that both the federal government and state government don't mind sacrificing the fisheries, the last of the Wintu culture, and the north state itself if it serves their corporate buddies down south.

At the least Governor Brown should be recalled and Obama should be asked to resign but it seems that the will of the northern folks has evaporated just like the water.
by CEQA/NEPA Practitioner
Saturday Jun 7th, 2014 4:40 PM
Environmental documents are not translated into other languages. In over 26 years of preparing environmental compliance documents and reviewing several thousand documents prepared by others in California I have yet to see a translated document. However, it is not unusual to provide public notices, fact sheets and public hearing materials in other languages. There is NO legal requirement in either CEQA or NEPA statute or regulations, or the EJ rules to provide any translated materials at all. Lead agencies may chose to do so.