Payton Perspective: Officials must listen to the people and stop the Delta Tunnels

After watching and listening to the variety of East County and Bay Area residents speak out against the Delta Tunnels at the meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council in Brentwood on Thursday, March 23, 2017, one thing is clear, we don’t want them. All they will do is damage the Delta and the region in which we live. So how is that good stewardship of the Delta?

The proposed tunnels are referred to as conveyances. Well we already have two water conveyances, they’re called the San Joaquin River which flows north into and through the Delta and the Sacramento River which flows south. The two natural, God created conveyances we call rivers, meet at Antioch whose current slogan is the “Gateway to the Delta.”

Plus, there’s another man-made conveyance, known as the California Aqueduct that’s been sending water from Northern California and the Central Valley to Southern California for decades.  We don’t need another two, huge water conveyances to move the water from, around or under the Delta to Southern California.

Speaker after speaker who stood in line in the standing room only meeting – from residents, to activists, to Realtors, to those who fish and others who earn a living off the Delta – opposed the tunnels as the solution to water supply in the state. Instead they suggested more storage, such as maximizing the use of existing reservoirs and building more, and desalination.

One speaker, who said he is a native Californian with three daughters, offered the definition of stewardship which includes “the responsible overseeing of something worth preserving.” Two more speakers challenged the council members on the meaning of stewardship, as well.

“Tell the governor the people in this room know the difference between fresh water and salt water,” said another speaker. “For every gallon of fresh water we divert south, a gallon of salt water comes up the Delta.”

Salt water has encroached all the way to and past Antioch, which has the lowest intakes on the Delta and last year had to purchase 95% of its raw water from the Contra Costa Water District. The city has pre-1914 rights to the river allowing it to pump pretty much whatever amount of water needed for use by residents and businesses in the city. But, during the drought, and it’s believed that if the tunnels are built, those rights no longer mean anything, as there was and will no longer be enough or any fresh water to pump. So, if the salt water has already reached Antioch before the tunnels have been built, it can easily reach other parts of the Delta, if they are.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier had a representative read a letter from him at the meeting, in opposition to the conveyance system, or tunnels.

His letter mentioned the 2009 Delta Reform Act which established co-equal goals of “providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem” and that the proposed conveyance system barely touches on protection of the Delta.

A former Orange County, CA resident said “do the right thing. We want to preserve the Delta for our children.”

One speaker at the meeting got a bit animated. Screenshot from Cal-Span.org website

The final speaker asked “does anyone in this room want the tunnels?”

“No” was the loud reply.

The Council hasn’t yet made their final recommendation on whether the twin tunnels will be the solution to the conveyance of our water. So, there’s still time for the public to give input.

You can provide your comments using the online form at http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/contact-us. All written submissions will be posted on the website at www.deltacouncil.ca.gov. If you were unable to watch or attend the Thursday meeting in Brentwood, the webcast will be available on the website, as well.

Meetings of the Delta Stewardship Council in Sacramento on April 27th and 28th will be the next opportunity to give live, in-person input to the Council and for them to review the progress on the process. It will be held at Park Tower Plaza, 980 Ninth Street, 2nd Floor Conference Center in Sacramento.

In addition, in the future, as was said by Council Member and Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson, the Council needs to hold their meetings for the public at night. They can also be held on a Saturday and in a larger venue, so more people can attend.

We must stand united and continue to fight the Delta Tunnels to keep them from being built and damaging the ecosystem of the Delta and the adjacent region where we call home. Hopefully those charged with the stewardship of the Delta will hear us and recommend against the tunnels.

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