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MWD considers purchasing Delta islands in tunnels' path
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Sep 22nd, 2015 8:35 AM
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, questioned why it was necessary for MWD to conduct its purchase of Delta land behind closed doors.

“In secret, it appears MWD is getting into the land management business acquiring properties for a project that is neither approved, nor, as proposed, complies with federal and state water quality and environmental protection laws. Why is it necessary for MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger to conduct such a transaction behind closed doors?” she asked.
noah_cross.png
MWD considers purchasing Delta islands in tunnels' path

by Dan Bacher

In the classic movie "Chinatown," Noah Cross, the villain and the head of the water district who is played by the late John Huston, says, "Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water."

In a scenario eerily reminiscent of "Chinatown" - or when the LA Department of Power and Water bought up land in the Owens Valley in order to seize Owens River water - the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California is considering purchasing land in the imperiled Delta to "bring L.A. to the water."

In a statement, Restore the Delta (RTD) revealed that MWD's executive committee scheduled behind closed doors what appeared to be the purchase of parcels for the proposed massive Delta Tunnels project in its meeting on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 8:30 AM. Since it was a closed door meeting, nothing about the status of the purchase has been reported to the media or the public to date.

The agenda for the MWD Real Asset and Property Management Committee contained the list of these parcels within its public notice. “Delta Wetlands Properties; under negotiation: price and terms of payments; to be heard in closed session...” The item was 5b. on the agenda:
http://www.mwdh2o.com/PDFWWACurrentBoardAgendas/09222015%20%20RPAM%20Agenda.pdf

The parcels consist of four islands - Webb Tract, Bouldin Island, Holland Tract and Bacon Island - that are now in agricultural production. The total acreage of the parcels is 20,000 acres. They are controlled by Zurich American Corporation, the U.S. subsidiary of a swiss insurance company.

Restore the Delta pointed out that a number of these same parcels are listed in Delta Design Construction Enterprise [DCE] eminent domain documents that were obtained through a recent Public Records Act request. They are in the direct path for the construction of the Delta tunnels, as documented in the maps below.

To view the maps, go to:
http://www.restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/tunnel_overlay9-18-15_S-1.pdf
http://www.restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/tunnel_overlay_APNs9-18-15_bouldin.pdf
http://www.restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/tunnel_overlay_APNs9-18-15_bacon.pdf
http://restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/tunnel_overlay_APNs9-18-15_webb-1.pdf

The Westlands Water District, known for irrigating hundreds of thousands of acres of toxic, drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, initially indicated interest in being a party to this purchase of Delta land with MWD, a September 15, 2015 meeting agenda revealed. (http://wwd.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/agendawp.pdf)

This meeting came the same day that the Obama administration and Westlands celebrated a sweetheart toxic soil drainage settlement. The agreement would increase the federal deficit by $340 million through forgiving Westland’s interest-free repayment obligations to the taxpayers for construction of the federal Central Valley Project. It would also effectively convert Westland’s current two-year water contract to a permanent contract for 890,000 acre-feet of water annually.(http://yubanet.com/california/Groups-Slam-Sweetheart-Settlement-for-Westlands-Water-District.php#)

However, Westlands is apparently not going to make an offer to buy the islands. "Westlands hasn't made any offer to acquire the properties 'and it does not anticipate that the district will make such an offer," said Johnny Amaral, the district's genera manager of external affairs, in an email to the Sacramento Bee. (http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article36068055.html)

Bob Muir, press spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District, didn't return my call asking for his comment on the apparent purchase. Muir also declined comment to the Sacramento Bee reporters on Monday.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, questioned why it was necessary for MWD to conduct its purchase of Delta land behind closed doors.

“In secret, it appears MWD is getting into the land management business acquiring properties for a project that is neither approved, nor, as proposed, complies with federal and state water quality and environmental protection laws. Why is it necessary for MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger to conduct such a transaction behind closed doors?” she asked.

These parcels are currently owned by the "Delta Wetlands Project," a public-private partnership for which the Semitropic Groundwater Storage District is the lead agency. Created several years ago, the Delta Wetlands Project included the conversion of two Delta islands, now in the path of the tunnels, for habitat and storage for water that could be sold to San Joaquin Valley growers, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.

According to the Delta Wetlands project description, the project was created to meet the criteria of the "co-equal goals of restoring Delta habitat and creating a reliable water supply as required under the Delta Reform Act of 2009." The project will transform Webb Tract and Bacon Island into two "reservoir islands" and Bouldlin Island and Holland Tract into two "habitat islands." (http://www.deltawetlands.com/index.html)

Barrigan-Parrilla added, “Farmers, communities, and fishing groups that live in the Bay-Delta Estuary region feel like the potential takeover of land and water rights by the Metropolitan Water District of California is akin to what happened to landowners in the Owens Valley who secretly found their communities and water taken secretly by Los Angeles interests.”

She said the Delta Wetlands Project was originally created by "outside interests," and working relationships for water storage exist between Semitropic Groundwater Storage Agency and Metropolitan Water District. The working relationship between MWD and Semitropic is confirmed by a quick review of Semitropic’s website.

The Semitropic Water Storage District is described as “one of eight water storage districts in California and is the largest in Kern County. The District delivers water to nearly 300 customers for the irrigation of approximately 140,000 acres for agricultural uses. Semitropic also supplies energy to a variety of users and provides groundwater banking and storage services."

In the early 90s, Semitropic began its groundwater storage program. Semitropic currently banks 700,000 acre-feet of water in a groundwater storage bank with a capacity of 1.65 million acre-feet. The banking program contributes to “meeting the drought-year needs of more than 20 million people at 15 to 20 gallons per day" - and serves the Metropolitan Water District, along with the Santa Clara County and Alameda County Water Districts and other urban water agencies.

The allocations are 350,000 AF for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; 350,000 AF for the Santa Clara Valley Water District; 150,000 AF for the Alameda County Water District; 55,000 AF for Newhall Land and Farming Company; 30,000 AF for the San Diego County Water Authority; and 65,000 AF for the Zone 7 Water Agency.

As MWD considers purchasing four Delta islands, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) recently announced they have applied for the permits needed to construct the massive Delta Water Tunnels - even before the public comment period is finished on October 30. “They are ready to begin staging, planning and construction of this proposed project - even though the project has yet to be permitted by State and Federal Agencies," said Barrigan-Parrilla

Every scientific panel that has reviewed the project, ranging from the National Academy of Sciences to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, has criticized the so-called "science" behind the Delta Tunnels proposal. This month the Independent Science Panel for the Delta Stewardship Council determined that the project should be withdrawn because it lacked sufficient information to meet federal and state laws. http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/docs/delta-isb-s-review-rdeirsdeis-bdcpcalifornia-waterfix

The tunnels would undoubtedly hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon and a host of other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

The final round of public comments on the California Water Fix, formerly called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) ends on October 30. If you want to stop the tunnels from allowing the words of Noah Cross to become a reality, you need to act now. Go to the Restore the Delta website to submit a public comment, sign their petition to send an automatic letter or create your own using their letter template: http://restorethedelta.org/take-action-oppose-the-delta-tunnels/

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