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Related Categories: California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Legislative Budget Committee Postpones Committee Hearing on Funding for Delta Tunnels
by Dan Bacher
Friday Aug 10th, 2018 7:41 PM
The 35 mile long Delta Tunnels would devastate West Coast salmon and other fish populations by diverting Sacramento River water before it reaches the estuary, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead on the Trinity River, the major tributary of the Klamath River, that is diverted via a tunnel through the Trinity Mountains into the Sacramento River watershed at Whiskeytown Reservoir.
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California’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee announced Thursday, August 9, that they have postponed indefinitely a hearing on extending State Water Project contracts to fund Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels, despite pressure from Brown and the Department of Water Resources.

That hearing would have cleared the path for the DWR to force ratepayers to assume the $17-$25 billion cost for the project without legislative oversight over future contract amendments, according to Brenna Norton, senior organizer of Food & Water Watch, in a statement. 

"We are thankful to Senator Mitchell and California's legislative leaders for postponing a hearing that could have resulted in Californians shelling out billions for the wasteful Delta tunnels,” said Norton. “This project won't provide any additional water, but would force higher taxes and water bills on millions of Californians. The state already has costly water infrastructure priorities such as fixing the crumbling and leaking pipes under our cities. California families should not be burdened by a tunnels project that does not benefit them.” 

Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) also thanked the Joint Legislative Budget Committee for postponing the hearing on State Water Project contract extensions and amendments that has implications for the proposed Delta Tunnels project.

“As I said in my letter last week to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, and the co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, it is far too early to hold hearings on State Water Project contract extensions and amendments," said Frazier in a statement. 'This was another attempt to ram the proposed tunnels disaster through the process by the Department of Water Resources and the governor. Getting the hearing postponed indefinitely is a victory for the Delta.”

“We have a win to celebrate today,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, after hearing the news of the postponement. “Your calls, tweets, and emails have successfully POSTPONED the Joint Legislative Budget Committee hearing indefinitely!  This small victory is a testament of what we can achieve when we work together for a common goal (and the power of an impending deadline).”

“Our coalition of NGO's, activists, and supporters demanded that key legislators involved in this hearing do not proceed until AFTER the tunnels financial plan is available to the public. You can count on us to hold them accountable.  Though we may have won this battle, it’s on to the next,” she noted. 

While Brown portrays himself as a “green governor,” he has in fact pushed the Trump administration to collaborate with him in granting the necessary permits for construction of the Delta Tunnels, considered by opponents to be the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.

The 35 mile long tunnels would devastate West Coast salmon and other fish populations by diverting Sacramento River water before it reaches the estuary, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead on the Trinity River, the major tributary of the Klamath River, that is diverted via a tunnel through the Trinity Mountains into the Sacramento River watershed at Whiskeytown Reservoir.

State Water Board meeting will consider adoption of Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan

The next battle in the war to save the Delta and West Coast fisheries looms on August 21, when the State Water Resources Control Board will hold a public meeting for their  Bay-Delta Plan updates in Sacramento.

“Unfortunately, the period to receive written comments via email, snail mail, or over the phone is over—this means that we need as many activists as possible to deliver public comments in-person on August 21,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Depending on the volume of comments, this meeting is anticipated to continue on Wednesday August 22, but it is of the utmost importance that we have a large turnout on the first day of the meeting (August 21).”

The public meeting is being held to consider the adoption of proposed amendments to the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary. The meeting notice can be viewed here.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, August 21, 2018, 9:30 a.m; Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 9:30 a.m. at the Joe Serna Jr. / CalEPA Headquarters Building, Coastal Hearing Room (Second Floor); 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.  

PRO-TIPS FOR THE SWRCB BAY-DELTA PLAN UPDATES MEETING

1. VERY IMPORTANT: Your comment CANNOT mention the Delta tunnels due to ex parte communications related to the SWRCB change petition hearing. Though the Bay-Delta Plan updates and the tunnels are undeniably interconnected, if your comment includes concerns about the tunnels, you run the risk of being interrupted by the Board and told that your comment is irrelevant. The purpose of this meeting is to determine flow criteria the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. Please keep your comments focused on San Joaquin River flows and Delta water quality WITHOUT discussing the tunnels. An example of an acceptable comment would be:

“In order to restore declining salmon and steelhead populations, and to preserve south Delta water quality, the best available science shows that between 50-60% of the San Joaquin River’s winter-spring runoff must flow to the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary. Ensuring adequate flows is the best way to protect the Delta, its peoples’ basic public health needs, and its economies.”

More talking points for the meeting will become available in the days ahead. Until then, you can get more ideas for your comment from a coalition letter RTD signed on to at the end of July: https://bit.ly/2OlZmvk

2. These meetings are LONG. We advise activists to pack a lunch and snacks, bring plenty of water, bring a book, bring knitting, or bring your smart devices to keep you occupied until it is your turn to speak. 

3. Please arrive at the meeting 40 minutes early so that you can fill out a speaker card in time.

We thank you for your relentless efforts to protect the Delta and water quality for all Californians. Your continued vigilance and activism will carry us through the final months of Brown’s last term. Now is the time to make moves that will render Brown’s beloved tunnels as a pipedream deferred.