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Related Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
State, water contractors move forward quickly with Delta Tunnels construction plans
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday May 16th, 2018 10:35 AM
If the Delta Tunnels are built, project opponents say San Francisco Bay-Delta and West Coast fisheries will be decimated while not one drop of new water will be created.
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Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to build the Delta Tunnels has accelerated at an alarming rate in the wake of the Metropolitan Water District’s vote on April 10 and the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s vote on May 8 to fully support the California Water Fix.

First, as reported in a story broken here on Friday, May 11 (http://www.dailykos.com/...), a memo released by California Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth outlined “organizational adjustments” prompted by the latest developments in Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels project, including a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) tasked with designing and constructing the controversial project.

In the memo, she proclaimed, “Final permitting for WaterFix is on the horizon and implementation is imminent,” apparently assuming that the State Water Resources Control Board will approve the petition by DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to change the points of diversion of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project in order to construct the Delta Tunnels. 

Nemeth said DWR “will adjust its organizational structure to ensure an efficient and effective construction program that protects the State's interests by managing risk and controlling costs.”

The Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE), formed in 2014 to complete the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) planning process, will now sunset. It will be replaced with a “soon-to-be-formed Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Joint Powers Authority (DCA)---a public agency that will be charged with design and construction of the WaterFix facilities according to DWR's specifications,” Nemeth wrote.

Gary Lippner, the Deputy Director of Delta Conveyance who manages the Delta Conveyance Office (DCO), will oversee the new Joint Powers Authority. 

“The DCA will be staffed by individuals from DWR, public water agencies and consultants,” said Nemeth. “Multiple opportunities for DWR staff to participate in this historic project have developed. Participation could be either in DWR's oversight role through the DCO or in the design and construction via the DCA. DWR believes that this partnership with the public water agencies is essential to safely designing and constructing WaterFix while prudently managing risk. We intend to build an organization that becomes an industry model for the safe delivery of large water infrastructure projects on time and budget,” according to Nemeth.”

That memo came just a day after Governor Brown made a surprise appearance at the ACWA Spring Conference, where he aggressively promoted his Delta Tunnels project.

 “The only time you get anything done with water is when a Brown is governor. And there are no more Brown’s coming along so you better get it done,” Brown quipped.

Water contractors announce a Joint Powers Authority to build WaterFix

Then on Monday afternoon, the State Water Project Contractors issued a press release announcing the formation of a joint powers authority for the Delta Tunnels, as mentioned in Nemeth’s memo. 

“Uniting Southern and Northern California in a collaborative water supply reliability vision, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) and Zone 7 Water Agency today announced their partnership and formation of the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Joint Powers Authority (DCA) — the public agency that will be charged with the design and construction of California WaterFix.

“On a parallel path, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has now created the Delta Conveyance Office (DCO), which will oversee the work of the DCA. More information is available here.

“The DCA will hold its first meeting on May 17, 2018. During this meeting, the DCA Board of Directors will consider entering into a management partnership with DWR.”

After the water contractors issued their release, Randy Record, chairman of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District, gushed, “We are taking another important step forward to build California WaterFix and provide much of our state with the water supply reliability it needs in a climate change world."  

The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Joint Powers Authority Board of Directors’ first meeting will be held on May 17 at 2:00 p.m. at the Sacramento Public Library, Tsakopoulos Library Galleria 828 I St. Sacramento, CA 95814.

Barrigan-Parrilla noted that this meeting was NOT publicly noticed to Delta communities. People learned about it only if they are on Metropolitan or California WaterFix email lists. 

“This is why we need as many San Francisco Bay-Delta advocates to attend this public meeting as possible to voice their opposition to the project, and to explain why California WaterFix (the Delta tunnels) are a bad idea for the Delta and California as a whole,” she stated. “Those planning to attend should prepare a 2-3-minute statement to address the DCA board with your concerns regarding the Delta Tunnels.”

“If you can’t attend in person, you can contact the Design Construction Authority support staff at (916) 347-0486 or by email info [at] dcdca.org. Make sure to include that you are against the Delta tunnels and that you would like your statement to be included as a public comment,” she urged. 

Congressional rider would ban lawsuits against Delta Tunnels!

Finally, the Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday that Rep. Ken Calvert of Riverside County has released a 142-page draft spending bill for fiscal year 2019 for the Interior Department and related agencies that includes a provision that would prohibit state or federal lawsuits against Delta Tunnels project environmental documents and agency decision.

On page 141 of the bill is a short provision that would prohibit state or federal lawsuits against "the Final Environmental Impact Report/Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan/California Water Fix ... and any resulting agency decision, record of decision, or similar determination."   

Congressman John Garamendi quickly responded to the news on Facebook:

“Prohibiting federal or state judicial review of environmental documents on the twin tunnels sets a dangerous precedent that will have lasting and negative impacts on water laws across the nation,” Garamendi wrote.

“While Governor Brown and I don’t see eye to eye on the twin tunnels, I hope he will recognize the danger that this proposal presents and work with Congress to prevent it from becoming law,” he said.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, said, “This rider sets a bad precedent for all infrastructure projects in California regardless of whether one supports or opposes the Delta Tunnels. Bypassing due process and violating state rights to progress current and future projects creates a constitutional nightmare that protects the interests of the one percent over Californians.”

“Environmental groups have fought this project for so long that tunnels proponents are now attempting to rewrite the rules of the game so that they can’t lose,” she noted.

Attorney and Manager of South Delta Water Agency, John Herrick, called the effort “totalitarianism,” adding, “Although there are periodic exemptions created for some laws, the notion that a water right petition would be excluded from judicial review is just plain dishonest.” 

The Delta Tunnels project is opposed by a broad coalition of Southern California and Santa Clara Valley Water District stakeholders, family farmers, Tribes, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Delta residents, environmental justice advocates, conservationists, water districts, many elected officials and many Northern California and Delta region cities and counties.

If the Delta Tunnels are built, project opponents say San Francisco Bay-Delta and West Coast fisheries will be decimated while not one drop of new water will be created. The project will not only hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and long fin smelt, green sturgeon and other fisheries, but will imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
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It is a new and ancient wish of the world's people to obtain fresh water from the Ocean.Unity Jack for Mother EarthFriday May 18th, 2018 11:00 AM