Monday, December 16, 2013

Delta Tunnels Protest

by Dan Bacher 

Over 400 people organized by Californians for a Fair Water Policy, a statewide coalition opposing Gov. Brown’s massive water export tunnels, on Friday attended a rally at the State Capitol protesting the Bay Delta Conservation Plan as the 120 day comment period for the BDCP and environmental documents began. 

"So, on this Friday the 13th the BDCP public comment period begins," said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). "They give us 40,214 pages of documents – that’s a nine-foot high stack containing 20% more pages than the 32 volumes of the last printed edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. We’re asked to provide comments within 85 working days – that’s 473 pages a day. You can purchase a printed copy for only $3,000." 

"Turn the pages and you’ll discover what William Burroughs meant when he observed that, 'a paranoid schizophrenic is simply someone who’s discovered what’s going on,'" quipped Jennings. 

Besides Jennings, speakers included Conner Everts, Southern California Watershed Alliance; Chambers of Commerce; and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta among others. 

Speakers representing Indian Tribes included Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe; Jessica Lopez, Chair of the Concow Maidu Tribe; and Johnny Bob, the Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Western Shoshone. 

Over 25 members of the California Striped Bass Association; over 20 American Indian activists who have walked across the country on the Fourth Longest Walk that will arrive on Alcatraz Island on December 21; and a contingent of over a dozen people from the Winnemem Wintu Tribe participated in the rally. Delta farmers, environmental activists and community and labor activists also showed in force. 

“The end of salmon would also mean the end of Winnemem, so the BDCP is a threat to our very existence as indigenous people," said Sisk. 

Tunnel opponents pointed out “fatal flaws” of the tunnels they said would be too costly, create no new water and do nothing to increase regional water self-reliance. Experts identified many impacts from the tunnels that would damage water quality, harm the environment, destroy fisheries and sustainable farming, and impose billions of dollars of increases on water ratepayers. Two-thirds of the water would go to huge corporate agribusiness operations on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, engaged in unsustainable agriculture, growing permanent crops on arid land. 

The opponents assailed the failure to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the proposal, in addition to the lack of a finance plan, and said the costs would fall on water ratepayers to subsidize unsustainable mega-growers. 

Ironically, Jerry Meral, Deputy Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency and Jerry Brown's point man for the peripheral tunnels, announced his retirement from "state service," effective December 31, on the day after the rally. 

“I look forward to doing whatever I can in the future to support completion and implementation of a Bay Delta Conservation Plan which will achieve the co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability, while fully respecting the values treasured by those who live, work, and recreate in the Delta," Meral said in his letter to Brown.

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