Contra Costa County, whose leaders have been fending off a peripheral canal for more than three decades, reacted swiftly and negatively to a joint federal-state announcement today of a new Delta water diversion proposal.
“We need science before size,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, who also sits on the Delta Protection Commission, Delta Conservancy and helped found the Delta County Coalition. “Science should drive the capacity of any project, not the other way around. It is completely unacceptable.”
(ADDED 5:29 P.M. East Bay congressional representatives also blast plan. See full statements below.)
Smaller options must be evaluated, and science and the economic impacts of any pipeline must be more than “considered, as the announcement today said,” Piepho added.
“It’s easy to ‘consider’ something for 3 seconds, then shove it off the table and go back to your primary objective, which is to pipe massive amounts of Delta water into Southern California,” she said.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff echoed her colleague’s dismay via a text message from Sacramento, where she watched the announcement.
“If people believe what (Gov. Jerry Brown) and (Interior Secretary Ken) Salazar said today, I think there’s still a bridge available for sale,” Mitchoff said. “The plan will sacrifice the interest of one part of the state for the interests of others.”
The county, the Contra Costa Water District and others say the diversion will degrade both the environment and drinking water quality for tens of thousands of East Bay residents. The county board of supervisors formally opposed the plan in early July.
In contrast, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wholeheartedly endorsed the pact, calling it a “major step toward a real solution in the Sacramento-Delta.” Feinstein led the federal legislation mandating completion of a Bay-Delta Conservation Plan by February 2013. See her press release issued today below.
Feinstein: Path Emerges to Implement Bay Delta Conservation Plan
Washington—The state of California and two federal agencies today announced a revised strategy to complete and implement the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the comprehensive proposal to ensure water supply reliability for millions of Californians and guide Delta ecosystem restoration for the next 50 years. State and federal regulatory agencies are expected to complete the draft plan and initiate the formal environmental review process this fall.
“This new approach is a major step toward a real solution in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “For the first time since this effort began six years ago, we now have the basis of a coordinated, consolidated plan to achieve the joint goals of ecosystem restoration and reliable water supplies for the 25 million Californians who rely on Delta water. I remain committed to the BDCP process and fully support this action.”
In 2011, Senator Feinstein passed legislation requiring completion of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan by February 15, 2013. The bill also established the federal commitment to the co-equal goals of Delta ecosystem restoration and California water supply reliability, paralleling state law.
The agreement was announced today in Sacramento by California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Assistant Administrator Eric Schwaab.
The plan reduces the number of intake facilities necessary to convey water through the Delta from five to three and reduces the total conveyance capacity from 15,000 to 9,000 cubic feet per second to minimize potential environmental impacts.
Improvements to the BDCP planning process include a commitment to developing clear biological objectives that protect species, independent scientific review, sustaining Delta communities and protecting upstream water users from adverse impacts. The revised proposal and a full range of alternatives will also be considered in the environmental review process.
california representatives condemn the bay delta conservation plan
Cite lack of scientific support, devastating consequences for northern California
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, several U.S. Representatives from northern California responded to the unveiling of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The representatives have been vocal in their opposition to any BDCP agreement that is not based on sound science and will likely cause economic and environmental harm to the Bay-Delta and northern California.
The coalition of representatives have repeatedly called on the U.S. Department of the Interior to include the input of the Bay-Delta communities, demanding a seat at the table as the BDCP has moved forward. Today, Governor Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that they intend to move forward with construction of a massive tunnel system underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, ultimately shipping water south and economically and environmentally devastating the region. The members of Congress rejected the proposal by criticizing the void of scientific support as well as the utter lack of regard for current and future water rights for northern California.
“For years, I have been fighting against water exportation that would hurt our community. This BDCP plan is a travesty for northern California and will decimate our region, costing millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. This development is a huge breach of the public trust. Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar have shown today that they have little regard for the people of San Joaquin County. The families, farmers, and small business owners in northern California stand to have their livelihoods destroyed. This will have ruinous consequences for our local economy at a time when we already struggle with record unemployment,” said Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton).
“Today’s proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan missed a golden opportunity to develop sound water policy, instead choosing politics over science. It will cost jobs, harm our environment and is a bad deal for Northern California,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena). “All that we’ve insisted on is that any BDCP be based on sound science. Given the announced preferred alternative, this was apparently too much to ask. Before making irreversible decisions, we need a transparent, comprehensive and impartial discussion, with all stakeholders at the table, on how this would impact the farmers, fishers and businesses that depend on the Delta for their livelihoods. Today’s announcement ignores the needs of Northern California and will devastate our economy.”
“I am troubled by the tone of today’s announcement,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez). “If ‘getting it done’ means cutting corners, leaving out details, and getting ahead of the science, we’re not actually getting anything done – we’re just getting into a trap. There are parts of this proposal that are encouraging and are a step forward from previous efforts, but even after this morning’s announcement there’s a lot of work left to be done before any final decisions can be made. This process has to engage in the hard work of science – not just leap ahead before we know the impacts of this plan on the health and economy of the Bay-Delta and the communities that depend on it. Keep in mind what is at stake here – a badly designed plan can harm drinking water supplies, further endanger California’s salmon runs, and ruin the economic livelihood of tens of thousands in the fishing and related industries up and down our coast.”
“To solve California’s water issues, northern California must be part of the decision making process. Unfortunately we were not. Imagine if San Francisco decided to build the Golden Gate Bridge without consulting Marin County? The 9,000 cfs facility being proposed is simply not acceptable. It will cause massive impacts in the Sacramento area and suck our river dry. There are still a lot of unaddressed issues, and it is my sincere hope they will be addressed before any BDCP moves forward,” said Rep. Doris O. Matsui (D-Sacramento). “This proposal will also put at risk Senior Water rights that Sacramento County and the Delta region hold. As the member of Congress that represents the Sacramento region, ‘home’ of the project’s massive infrastructure, I can tell you there are no benefits to Sacramento, only negative impacts.”
“If the State rushes to build a 9,000 cfs water project without doing the science on how it would divert the river, then the Delta will suffer, and farming and fishing jobs that depend on it will be lost. California fishermen and fisherwomen are just recovering from three years of disaster, and now a 50-year permit is being rushed for water contractors for a project that would sell Northern California communities down the river. A plan this reckless will not succeed,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo).
“Today I flew back to California to make it clear to state and federal lawmakers where I stand: the 9,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) conveyance facility being proposed could wreak havoc on the Delta and the jobs it sustains and put existing water rights in the Delta and Northern California at risk,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Fairfield). “It is possible for California to solve its water problems, but the Delta and Northern California counties must be at the table, and it will take a comprehensive, multifaceted approach, not just a piece of plumbing in the Delta. We must address the needs of all Californians by prioritizing storage, conservation, recycling, levee improvements, and habitat restoration. A BDCP without these elements is incomplete at best.”
Link to video footage of today’s press conference: http://youtu.be/01AwRfzEajo.