By Dan Bacher
Proponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels plan constantly claim that the project, called the “California WaterFix,” is the “solution” to addressing California’s water supply and ecosystem needs, while tunnels opponents say it will do nothing to address either.
As a sustainable counter proposal to the environmentally destructive and enormously expensive California WaterFix, Restore the Delta (RTD) on March 14 released a survey of water projects and proposals that improve California’s regional water sustainability and provide good-paying jobs.
“California’s Sustainable Water Plan highlights projects in communities statewide that are far smarter investments than Jerry Brown’s controversial and expensive Delta Tunnels (CA WaterFix) proposal,” according to a news release from RTD.
“The Oroville Spillway crisis this winter was a loud warning siren,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “The evacuation of 180,000 Californians for two days has brought into sharp focus the need to invest in California’s water infrastructure,. Rather than building out Jerry Brown’s massively expensive Delta Tunnels to serve large corporate farms, we should invest in projects that create good jobs and water sustainability in communities statewide.”
She said federal agencies now considering change in point of diversion permits for the Delta Tunnels “remain unconvinced the proposal can meet clean water standards to protect the San Francisco Bay-Delta,” the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas. The State Water Resources Control Board continues to conduct its permitting review process.
RTD said cost-effective solutions outlined in the California Sustainable Water Plan “help address California’s emerging water needs while protecting the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary in the process.” These projects improve urban and agricultural water conservation, reuse and recycle water, and capture and store local rainwater.
The American Society of Civil Engineers last week estimated that needed repairs to California’s water infrastructure amount to over $50 billion.
“The expensive and ecologically suspect Delta Tunnels would starve California cities, counties, and local water agencies of resources that could fund local and regional water projects that deliver a far bigger bang for the buck and create long-term jobs for each region of the state,” the group said.
The introduction to the plan proposes the document as a counter to the controversial California Water Action Plan that supports the Delta Tunnels project:
“This evolving document is offered as a counter to the 2014 California Water Action Plan. While that plan includes many projects that are not controversial and should receive full funding, the plan does not prioritize needed flood control projects which can help to restore groundwater basins and make supply; ignores the multitude of small projects that we need in California to augment regional self-sufficiency; ignores repairing the 678 dams that need repair to sustain our present water supply; fails to plan for upgrading water mains to increase by our urban water supply by 15 percent; and does little to address floodplain restoration.”
The plan points out: “Our infrastructure is failing. The Oroville Dam spillway crisis has shown how far California has fallen behind in essential upkeep of our existing water infrastructure. Recent urban water main breaks, like the one near UCLA, also illustrate California’s water infrastructure maintenance deficit.”
The solutions to California’s water problems discussed in the document include urban water conservation, agricultural water conservation, toxic farmland retirement, floodland restoration, water recycling and stormwater capture. These solutions are spelled out in considerable detail, with examples of current projects and potential sustainable water projects throughout the state listed.
The report cites data from University of the Pacific Center for Business and Policy Research Director Jeffrey Michael, who has said that the investments in water conservation create 15 to 20 jobs per million dollars of spending, “as opposed to the five jobs per million dollars of investment that is touted for the Delta Tunnels.”
The report concludes:
“With so many needs and opportunities for investment in California’s water infrastructure, we believe the Tunnels Project (WaterFix) should neither be approved, financed, built, nor operated. The Tunnels will accelerate deterioration of the Bay-Delta Estuary by starving it of freshwater flow.
The expensive and ecologically suspect Delta Tunnels would starve California cities, counties, and local water agencies of resources that could fund local and regional water projects that deliver a far bigger bang for the buck and deliver long-term jobs for each region of the state.”
For more information, read California’s Sustainable Water Plan.
Governor Brown continues to push for the construction of the Delta Tunnels. After claiming that California would lead “the Resistance” against Donald Trump in his State of the State Address on January 24, Brown later praised the president for his plan to spend $1 trillion in infrastructure funding. Delta advocates fear that Brown will try to make a deal with the Trump administration to approve the permits to build the California WaterFix.