Date: December 9, 2013
A Separate Reality: BDCP EIR/EIS Runs Rough-Shod Over the Facts
Draft Analysis Scamps Impacts to Ratepayers, Farms, Fisheries and Delta Ecosystems
Today’s release of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan promotes the pork barrel fantasies of Governor Jerry Brown, the state Department of Water Resources and corporate agriculture at the expense of urban ratepayers, family farms, commercial and sport fisheries and the ecological integrity of the richest estuary on the West Coast of the United States.
California is in a state of permanent water crisis, but the Twin Tunnels will only exacerbate the problem – and saddle ratepayers with billions in debt in the process. The Brown administration’s blandishments aside, the Twin Tunnels will do nothing to procure extra water for the state – they are merely a means of conveyingwater. As always, the state’s consumptive water will be limited by the annual amount of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Shasta-Trinity Mountains – a supply that all reliable computer models indicate will diminish significantly in coming decades.
“There will be some beneficiaries of this project, however,” said Carolee Krieger, the executive director of the California Water Impact Network. “The Twin Tunnels will allow a few hundred corporate farms in the western San Joaquin Valley – corporations with junior water contracts – to increase their control over the state’s developed water. “
Krieger noted the Twin Tunnels will assure steady deliveries of subsidized water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta to the selenium-impaired croplands of the western San Joaquin, depriving urban ratepayers of reliable supplies, greatly exacerbating the state’s already serious selenium and salt pollution problem and degrading Delta agriculture and fisheries.
“What’s even worse is that DWR is disingenuously lowballing the true cost of this boondoggle,” continued Krieger. “State officials maintain the Twin Tunnels project will ‘only’ cost $25 billion. But the California Legislative Analyst’s Office notes that this figure does not include the interest costs of the project’s bonds. Independent analyses put the final price tag at around $70 billion – and even this is optimistic, if we consider recent history.”
Krieger observed that DWR estimated costs for the Coastal Branch – the state aqueduct that delivers water to Santa Barbara County – at $270 million.
“But by the time the dust settled, it ended up costing $1.76 billion,” Krieger said. “In 1997, Cal-Trans estimated the cost of the new span of the Bay Bridge at $1.3 billion. Taxpayers wound up shelling out $6.4 billion. Cost overruns for state public works projects typically are extreme – and the Twin Tunnels won’t be any different.”
In another specious rationale, Twin Tunnels proponents insist the Delta is at perilous risk of levee failure in the event of a major Bay Area earthquake; such an event could disrupt water deliveries from the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project to the south state. The Twin Tunnels, advocates claim, are the only way to obviate this threat.
Not true. The seismic risk to the Delta can be mitigated simply by strengthening existing levees.
“We can buttress the Delta’s levees to withstand major quakes from any nearby fault for $2 billion to $4 billion,” said Jim Edmondson, a C-WIN Director. “This is a public works project that makes real sense. The price tag is reasonable, and the Delta’s water infrastructure and croplands would be protected at a fraction of the cost of the Twin Tunnels.”
Edmondson noted that California needs to reach beyond the Delta when considering future water policy.
“The Delta isn’t a bottomless well,” he said. “It can’t meet all of California’s water demands. Consumptive water rights claims already exceed the amount of developed water in California by a factor of five. If we want to avoid crushing ratepayer debt and the ecological collapse of the Delta, we have to move in other directions. That includes conservation, recycling, development of local sources, rainwater harvest, groundwater desalinization and possibly marine desalinization. We can’t solve our water problems with clunky, prohibitively expensive and environmentally destructive engineering solutions that speak more to the 1950s than the 21st Century.”
Carolee Krieger, C-WIN President: 805-969-0824 email@example.com
Jim Edmondson, C-WIN Director: 818-451-8864 firstname.lastname@example.org