Delta tunnels opponents: Gov. Brown’s water bond will be referendum on tunnels
Sacramento, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build water export Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today called Governor Brown’s water bond proposal to have taxpayers buy water for future fish flows to satisfy exporter mitigation requirements “nuts.” RTD said the governor’s bond measure is not “tunnels neutral,” and contains $485 million to buy water to replace what will be pumped into the tunnels.
“Charging taxpayers $485 million to replace water sent through the tunnels to enrich mega-growers in Westlands and Kern Water Districts is nuts,” said RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “With that Ponzi scheme included, this bond will become a referendum on the tunnels.”
The governor’s flow language would allow public funds to be used to purchase water that could be diverted into the Delta tunnels. “The half-billion dollars in funding for purchase of water upstream of the Delta, and later diverted into the tunnels is a massive transfer of wealth from the rest of us to a few mega-growers who hog 70% of the water exported from the Delta,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Water transfers are needed by the BDCP for mitigation — essentially they can’t operate the new tunnels without putting more water in the River, which the BDCP will purchase – at taxpayer expense – from water districts and growers in the northern Sacramento Valley.”
Here is simple language that could fix the bond measure’s shift of costs from water exporters to taxpayers: No water purchased under this division can be used directly or indirectly for exports from the San Francisco Bay Delta. That’s tunnels neutral.
Restore the Delta board member and water law expert John Herrick, said, “Legally it is the obligation of the projects to protect these fisheries and return their populations to pre-project or other levels. Until the projects have undertaken and accomplished this restoration of the fish populations, no public funds should, or can be legally used to recover the fish. Hence, any proposal for state or federal funding of new habitat for fish rearing or purchased water for fishery flows is a transfer of the projects’ contractors’ obligations onto the general public. Such a transfer is not just bad policy, it is illegal.”
The Department of Fish and Wildlife would use up to $485,000,000 from Sections 79733 and 79737 to buy water that would be dedicated under Water Code Section 1707 for in stream use in waterways upstream of the Delta. However, once that water reached the tunnel intakes it could be diverted into the tunnels. The new wording does not prevent that. This water would be available for export from the Delta the same as any other water purchased by the exporters. The public would be paying for that benefit to the exporters.
Restore the Delta is a 15,000-member grassroots organization committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. www.restorethedelta.org.