Friday, September 4, 2015

Stop Jerry Brown's Delta Tunnels

Take Action Now to Stop Jerry Brown's Delta Tunnels by Dan Bacher If you want to save the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, and Pacific Coast fisheries, it's time to take action against Governor Jerry Brown's Delta Tunnels Plan. The pork barrel project, if constructed, would hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. The last round of public comments on the California Water Fix, formerly called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP, ends in just 65 days, October 30. That's why it is essential that you submit a public comment to go on record opposing the Delta tunnels/CA WaterFix/BDCP. This will be your last chance to submit a public comment -- federal agencies may attempt to permit this plan as early as 2016! Go to the Restore the Delta website to submit a public comment, sign their petition to send an automatic letter or create your own using their letter template: "Let's get our neighbors, friends and family members to submit as many public comments as we can opposing the tunnels," according to an action alert from Restore the Delta (RTD). "Together, Californians can stop this insane project. We have done it before and we can do it again!" Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, emphasized what is at stake if the tunnels are built. "I believe that the Delta should stay the same for future generations of salmon and people," said Chief Sisk. "The tunnels will kill the Delta by diverting all the Sacramento River, the tunnels are being build large enough to divert the entire river. This will be a irreversible water tragedy affecting our air and food sources and clean waters!" According to RTD, "The impact on wildlife and plant species in the Delta that depend on freshwater include the Delta smelt, chinook salmon, steelhead, San Joaquin kit fox, and tricolored blackbird, protected species already on the brink that will face decimation due to a diminishing food-web." On the ocean, the ESA-listed South Pacific Puget Sound Orca Whales depend on migrating Central Valley salmon that will be harmed by less water flowing through the Delta. The tunnels plan also appears to ignore Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits federal agency actions that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or that “result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat of [listed] species.” The problem is that the Brown administration refuses to consider any other options to the tunnels to solve our ecosystem and water supply problems, such as the Environmental Water Caucus' responsible exports plan that sets an annual cap on Delta water exports of 3 million acre-feet. RTD said our tax and ratepayer dollars would be much better spent on: • More aggressive water efficiency program statewide that would apply to both urban and agricultural users. • Funding water recycling and groundwater recharging projects statewide that would be billions of dollars less expensive for rate payers than constructing a new version of the Peripheral Canal or major new surface storage dams. Meanwhile, these projects move communities towards water sustainability. • Retiring thousands of acres of impaired and pollution generating farmlands in the southern San Joaquin Valley and using those lands for more sustainable and profitable uses, such as solar energy generation. • Improving Delta levees in order to address potential earthquake, flooding, and future sea level rise concerns at a cost between $2 to $4 billion and is orders of-magnitude less expensive than major conveyance projects that are currently being contemplated. • Increasing freshwater flows through the Delta to reduce pollutants so ecosystems and wildlife can be restored. • Installing modern, state-of-the-art fish screens at the south Delta pumps to reduce the "salvage" of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Sacrament splittail, Delta and longfin smelt, striped bass, threadfin shad, American shad and a host of other fish species. The Delta smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, reached a new record low population level in 2014, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's fall midwater trawl survey released this January. Department staff found a total of only eight smelt at a total of 100 sites sampled each month from September through December. Since then, the Delta surveys have revealed the continuing march of Delta fish species to the edge of extinction. ( The surveys were initiated in 1967, the same year the State Water Project began exporting water from the Delta. The surveys show that population indices of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, American shad and Sacramento splittail have declined 97.80%, 99.70%, 99.98%, 97.80%, 91.90%, and 98.50%, respectively, between 1967 and 2014, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). Fortunately, people throughout California strongly oppose Jerry Brown's salmon-killing tunnels. Outside the plush Los Angeles headquarters of agribusiness tycoon Stewart Resnick on August 19, 25 protesters chanted, "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Corporate Greed has got to go" and “Mayor Garcetti, have some will. Don’t let Resnick raise our bills.” The protesters, including Los Angeles ratepayers, community leaders and representatives of water watchdog groups, demanded that Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti protect LA water ratepayers from funding the massive Delta tunnels project promoted by Governor Jerry Brown to export more water to corporate agribusiness interests and oil companies on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

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