Finally, the taxpayers will have a chance to go on record about the state’s plan to build two-story-high twin tunnels, so they can capture fresh water just below the city of Sacramento to be piped away from the San Francisco Bay-Delta and shipped down to the 40 or 50 corporate farmers, who happen to receive more than 70 percent of Delta water.
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The plan is presented by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement and the public comment period ends June 13.
Most people in Northern California do not know what to think about these tunnels because they don’t know enough about the project to feel qualified to make a comment.
The public already said no to a similar plan, the Peripheral Canal, back in the 1970s.
Now with the same plan and path as the Peripheral Canal, the tunnels project will separate the water consumer from any environmental responsibility for taking too much water and leave the taxpayer to clean up the mess.
What kind of impact would this project have on the communities around the delta?
No one really knows because there are no other projects to compare it with. This is the largest tunnel project in the whole world.
Unlike the Peripheral Canal, the Delta Tunnel plan was “never” brought before the voters.
California legislators submitted the Delta Reformation Act, the beginning of the Delta Tunnels project, after the 2009 election in a lame duck session and within 10 days the governor signed it. It had no committee hearings, no floor discussions, no public discussions, just a quick floor vote on one to the biggest and most expensive projects in the state.
The legislation says it has co-equal goals: reliable water for farmers who get “surplus water” and protecting the delta’s community and businesses.
On the reliable water side, the tunnels, at a starting cost of $25 billion, will be for and paid by the contractors. Now they won’t start paying that bill for possibly 40 to 50 years, so the taxpayer will pay the upfront money to get the project built.
The second part of the co-equal goal, the Delta’s health, will be paid by the “Water Bond,” which won’t be voted on until long after the tunnels have started. Every citizen from the Imperial Valley to Crescent City will be saddled with that bill.
On top of that, the BDCP Draft EIR/EIS document uses the most confusing science, leaving the experts confused. The paper says the state will buy land and use flood plains (fill with water the Yolo bypass which was built to reduce flooding), that way the Delta can hold water for the fish and wildlife that will be affected by the missing fresh water in the delta.
Back in 1930, the state set up a “State Water Plan” after a disastrous drought and restricted river flow that allowed ocean water to move deep into the Suisun Bay.
The Delta communities and businesses, back then, saw their water pipes destroyed by the salt intrusion. Boring worms that live in ocean water moved deep into the Delta, destroying equipment piers and pilings along the river. Plants and animals were dying.
To prevent this from happening again, the State Water Plan called for the construction of the Shasta Dam, to keep fresh water flowing past Suisun Bay in lean times. The state at that time could not afford to have hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses impacted by the destruction of the Delta, nor can it afford to have that happen today.
With this year’s drought, the ocean water has already pushed past the safe zone established in 1930. Our Delta communities and Delta farmers, who produce fruit, wine and vegetables, are already seeing salt water in their water supplies.
The BDCP Draft EIR/EIS document admits that the tunnels sucking up fresh water before it reaches the delta will only aggravate this ocean water problem, but they believe the problem will be resolved as soon as California voters approve the “Water Bond.” With that money, the state can fix the environmental mess left behind by the tunnels.
State officials are banking on the fact that the general public is too confused or not interested to voice any comment on this boondoggle until it’s too late. The public cannot sit quietly and watch this happen without at least voicing our concerns.
To make a comment, visit baydeltaconservationplan.com/publicreview/howtocomment.aspx.
Pat Snelling ran for the board of the Georgetown Divide Public Utility District and is a resident of Garden Valley.