Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Delta's water war may have its Erin Brockovich

California’s water war may have its Erin Brockovich 
by Gene Beley, special to CVBT

July 16, 2013 9:27am
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•  Librarian helping lead fight against Jerry Brown’s tunnels
•  “We’re not going away”
Barbara Daly
(Photo by Gene Beley)
Courtland's Masonic Lodge
(Photo by Gene Beley)

Barbara Daly is a librarian and mother of five in the Delta town of Clarksburg. She could also be considered the “Erin Brockovich” of the latest battles in California’s intensifying water war. Ms. Brockovich was instrumental in a lawsuit that ultimately cost Pacific Gas & Electric Co. $333 million for contaminating ground water near its substation in Hinkley.
In opposing Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans for a $54 billion project to build massive, 45-mile-long twin water tunnels beneath the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta, Ms. Daly says there is a lot more involved than farmers needing water to grow food.
She says the state’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan with its tunnel project is a power play for water by mega-rich, politically well-connected people.
She points to U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein and her financier husband, Richard Blum of San Francisco; William Reilly, an original member of the Delta Blue Ribbon Task Force who has many business interests — including being a partner with Mr. Blum, and Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Linda Resnick whose umbrella corporation, Roll Global, owns Paramount Farms in Kern County, Teleflora, Fiji Water, and other companies.
Under the BDCP plans, she says, the Sacramento River will be truncated, ending not with a natural flow into the Delta as it has for eons, but with the inputs for the governor’s twin tunnels before it can enter the Delta.
Ms. Daly says she found a BDCP map that has eliminated the Sacramento River beyond Walnut Grove after bypasses are installed.
“It’s not on the map any more! It stops there!” she exclaimed in delivering remarks to a recent meeting in Walnut Grove.
“The impact to the farmers and the farming community out there is devastating,” she said. “Our way of life will be gone.”
She says the project, ostensibly to ensure fresh water for San Joaquin Valley farmers, the teeming population of the Los Angeles area plus Silicon Valley, is being done “totally the wrong way for all the wrong reasons.”
“Everything where I live in this beautiful legacy community of Clarksburg and the history here in the Delta is involved. My friends whom I grew up with and have young children now — the families that should be inheriting these pear ranch orchards and beautiful land around here are affected. It will all be gone — just gone!” she says.
Ms. Daly and her husband George got involved in opposition to the governor’s plans after getting a flyer stating they were in danger of having their 28 acres taken by eminent domain. The trip behind the curtain to see how politics are done in California has been enlightening – and disturbing.
“The first meeting I went to was the Blue Ribbon Task Force,” she says. The task force, named by then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, started the process that gave birth to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan with its supposedly equal goals of ensuring fresh water for the south while restoring the Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast of the entire hemisphere.
But she says that the more she got involved, the clearer it became that not only was opposition not welcomed by those in power, there seemed to be a low level of understanding by some who would be affected of the scope of the project.
“We went to the Sacramento City Councilman Rob Fong, who was on a committee in charge of Sacramento city water, and they didn’t even know what was going on,” she says. “It was a surprise to everyone. Then we went to the Capitol committee hearings, when they were putting the bills together that created the co-equal goals. But we were told we could only speak for two minutes. Then they told us to sit down and really didn’t want to listen to us.”
And then she learned how the legislative process in California can be less than ideal.
“I was at one of the meetings where the photocopies of the bill were so new that they were still warm!” Ms. Daly recalls. “The legislators sitting there said, ‘We can’t vote on this. We haven’t read it yet.’
“I heard the Legislature’s President Pro Tempore Daryl Steinberg say, ‘You will not leave this room until we vote tonight!’ “That’s the truth!” Ms. Daly says.
It was a sharp lesson for the ad hoc activist.
“Being a mother of five children, all I could think of is that I did not want to see our political process being bastardized like this. It was clearly shameful,” she says. “They did pass it and that bill became a law that they needed water reliability and to restore the eco system in California with ‘co-equal’ goals. They appointed Phil Eisenberg as their Delta Stewardship Council president and six or seven people to be on that council. So I started going to their meetings.”
Next, Ms. Daly and a small but growing number of supporters began going to BDCP and Delta Stewardship meetings. The first Delta Stewardship meeting saw Ms. Daly and her group sitting right in the middle of the front row.
“Phil Eisenberg peered through me, to the side of me, then looked at the other side of him at the appointed people, and said, ‘OK, folks, let’s get down to business. We know what to do. We’ve done this before.’ And off they ran and started making plans for our California water,” Ms. Daly says.
“What’s happening in my opinion is California is the bull’s eye for one-way government. It’s a way to get the can opener into America. California is being targeted. The Delta is the bull’s eye of the bull’s eye and Clarksburg, where I live, and Hood, and Walnut Grove and Courtland is the bull’s eye of the bull’s eye of the bull’s eye,” she says.
Ms. Daly says she and her concerned friends have talked to powerful representatives of Southern California interests who have come to Clarksburg at least twice, speaking to the community in a church meeting room.
“They told us what they would be doing to us and for us. They would like to just give us as much money as we want and have us go away — if they could get away with that,” she says. “They know that’s not going to happen so they have to come out and do some talking with us. But we’re not going away.”

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