Brown’s Twin Tunnels Plan Abandons Fish Protection

In Ecology & Environment, Twin Tunnels by c-win0 Comments

Article by Dan Bacher
April 13, 2015
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/14/1377595/-California-s-Twin-Tunnels-Plan-Abandons-Fish-Protection-Public-Participation?detail=hide#
Governor Jerry Brown has finally admitted what most Californians have known all along – the “conservation” and “habitat restoration” components of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan have been nothing but a “green mask” for the twin tunnels water grab, potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.
On April 13, Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition of anti-tunnels organizations and individuals, and the Center for Biological Diversity responded to the governor’s abandonment of the pretense of “conservation” and “restoration” and move to permit a “tunnels only” Bay Delta Conseration Plan, as reported in the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other media outlets. (http://www.mercurynews.com/…)
According to Paul Rogers in the Mercury News:
“Gov. Jerry Brown has billed his $25 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the Delta as a way to not just make it easier to move water from north to south, but also increase the reliability of water supplies and bring back salmon and other endangered species.
But now the Brown administration is proposing a major and politically risky change: dropping a 50-year guarantee to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s environment. A centerpiece of the project, the environmental plan included $8 billion to preserve 100,000 acres of wetlands and dozens of other restoration efforts.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), noted that for eight years, Californians had been told that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan was going to serve what became law in 2009 – the so-called  “co-equal goals of restoring the Delta and providing water supply reliability.”
“Our position has been that these co-equal goals are irreconcilable because the Delta watershed has been over subscribed five times,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The BDCP planning process culminated in a 40,000-page plan and corresponding EIR/EIS, which cannot be permitted by Federal fish agencies because it failed to meet science-based standards for recovery of fisheries.”
She emphasized, “Proponents of the BDCP are lamenting that, after 8 years and $240,000,000, they do not have a viable project. Even proponents now admit the BDCP was supposed to do something better, but it does not meet the ‘better’ standard,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.
The Center for Biological Diversity also responded to the Brown administration’s revelation that the twin tunnels project to divert water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta to Southern California and industrial agribusinesses “no longer includes provisions to protect habitat for endangered salmon and smelt and more than 50 other imperiled species.”
“The new plan is a giant step backward,” said Chelsea Tu, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.  If it goes through, this massive project’s boosters will be able to build these tunnels without having to do anything to protect our wildlife and waters — and will neatly sidestep input from the public.”
“This backdoor process will waste more taxpayer money and kill more Delta species like endangered salmon and smelt,” she stated.
She noted that since 2007 state and federal water contractors and public agencies have spent more than $240 million just in planning the so-called Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which would “green-light” the water export tunnels in exchange for promised measures intended to “benefit” the Delta environment.
“The new plan would be subject to review only under Section 7 of the federal Endangered Species Act, which could only require federal wildlife agencies to determine whether it will harm 21 wildlife species that are listed or proposed to be listed under the Act,” she added.
“Under the previous approach, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan planned to protect 57 imperiled species. A Section 7 consultation would only take place among federal agencies and would likely not contain mandatory mitigation requirements or a public participation process,” she concluded.
There is no doubt that construction of the giant tunnels will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and numerous other fish species, as well as imperiling salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
Every scientific panel, ranging from the Independent Delta Science Board to the National Academy of Sciences, has criticized the flawed “science” behind the twin tunnel plan.  Last year, the state and federal governments decided to delay the proposed project following the 43-page comment letter by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slamming the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).
The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) said the controversial plan to construct two 35-mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to divert Sacramento River water to “agricultural plantations” in the deserts of southern California “was placed on life support” when the California Department of Water Resources announced that a revised EIR/EIS would be delayed until sometime in 2015.
“BDCP’s friends and family anxiously expressed hope that an infusion of additional millions of dollars and months of treatment would enable the project to recover,” quipped Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director. “However, the EPA comments coming on top of some 4,500 pages of searing reviews by municipalities, counties and water agencies that would be adversely impacted by the project, almost 2,000 pages of highly critical comments by environmental and fishing organizations, hundreds of pages of harsh analyses by government agencies and stinging comments from many thousands of California citizens reveal that BDCP is suffering from a congenital terminal illness. (http://www.indybay.org/…)
The recent abandonment of the pretense of “restoration” and “conservation” under the BCCP is part of a larger pattern by the Brown administration, a regime that has pushed some of the most anti-fish and anti-environmental policies of any adminstration in California history. This is a huge story that the mainstream media and most of the alternative media have failed to cover.

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