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How Enviros Negotiate California Water

Remember, environmentalists work together much better than what we would call 'our' side.

Oct 10, 2013

If you're watching the national debate about Obamacare and the debt ceiling and seeing Republicans get schooled on public relations, you're seeing a mirror image of how environmentalists negotiate with water agencies in the State of California. Water agencies have been negotiating in good faith about all the elements of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The BDCP would build twin tunnels under the Delta that would be able to promise a reliable water supply for the Central Valley and Southern California. Environmental groups have been part of the process and have appeared to agree that the tunnels would also contribute to the overall health of the Delta.

The first indication that there was another strategy from the enviro community was the NRDC's (Natural Resources Defense Council) proposal to support just one smaller tunnel rather than the larger twin tunnels. Remember, environmentalists work together much better than what we would call 'our' side. We are, like the Republicans, generally fighting amongst ourselves. So, when we see environmentalists appear to be on different pages, we need to take into account that it might be an overall strategy coordinated in a comprehensive manner, not a real disagreement.

We believe that the NRDC knows no matter how much they might not like the tunnels, Los Angeles will get water because of their large voter base. The people of L.A. might not know where their water comes from, but as soon as it's not there they will find the political will to get it one way or another. So, the smaller tunnels might not be the NRDC's perfect answer, but it might be their best and only answer.

So, what do we make of the latest opposition to the BDCP by a coalition of over 30 environmental groups calling themselves the Environmental Water Caucus who say they don't want the BDCP (tunnels) because it "will destroy the ecosystem, the fisheries and the agricultural economy of the Delta." Are they fighting with the NRDC? Not likely. More likely that they are introducing a more radical negotiating position that will make the NRDC's position look more reasonable.

Remember, the first rule of negotiating is to ask for more than you think you can get, then back up to the position you really wanted in the first place. The Environmental Water Caucus is asking for more than they can get, so they can back to the NRDC's positiion.

The question for our Valley is that if the NRDC gets one smaller tunnel, and L.A. gets their water, who will get left out? Need we say more?




Environmental Groups Oppose Bay Delta "Conservation" Plan

by Dan Bacher

The Environmental Water Caucus (EWC) says the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the twin tunnels "ignores numerous plans that have been put forth which will solve the Delta’s purported 'crisis' with less costs to ratepayers and the general public and with more ecological certainty."

The construction of the peripheral tunnels would hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, 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 tunnel plan would deliver Sacramento River water to corporate agribusiness interests irrigating selenium-laced, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley while taking vast tracts of Delta farmland, some of the most fertile on the planet, out of production in a hare-brained "habitat restoration" scheme. At its essence, the BDCP is a corporate water grab and green washing scam.
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The Environmental Water Caucus, an organization of environmental, environmental justice, commercial and recreational fishing groups, and Native American tribes, has released a letter to federal and state officials demanding that they abandon their proposed plan to dig a pair of massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta in order to transport Sacramento River water to the existing pumps at the south end of the Delta.


The proposal, called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, has as its two main goals to reliably transport more water to San Joaquin farms and Southern California cities and to restore the fisheries and ecology of the Delta. It will do neither. It ignores numerous plans that have been put forth which will solve the Delta’s purported “crisis” with less costs to ratepayers and the general public and with more ecological certainty.


Here are the issues pointed out in the Environmental Water Caucus’ letter:

· It relies on an economic analysis that has illusionary benefits to justify the $25B cost of the project and its expensive tunnels.

· There is a virtual certainty that the costs of a project this size will be exceeded, and that the ratepayers and the general public will be stuck with the cost overruns.

· The $20B of direct project bond interest costs are not included in any cost estimates reported in public documents, as pointed out by a key state watchdog agency.

· There are earthquake protection alternatives which would cost $10B less than the planned project tunnel alternative.

· The project science is biased and has been “cherry picked” to support the tunnels solution, as pointed out by state and federal fishery agencies.

· Delta habitat restoration proposals are being used that are scientifically questionable as fish recovery actions and are being used in place of increased flows of water through the Delta, which would have more certainty of success for fish and habitat.

· It is a plan that intends to export more water through the Delta at the same time that existing legal water claims and forecasted climate change-caused water supply reductions will not provide the water.

· There are no improvements to the existing fish screening facilities in the South Delta, which are notorious fish killers, and which will continue to be utilized under the current proposal.

· The recovery of threatened or endangered fish species and restoration of damaged habitats in the Delta do not require the construction of the tunnels. In fact the tunnels will be particularly disruptive to the Delta habitats, including the nesting territory of iconic Sandhill Cranes.


Clearly, the current BDCP proposal is unnecessary and will have severe environmental consequences. It will not accomplish the claimed biological and species recovery objectives and would be a costly mistake if implemented. The current BDCP project should be reoriented to reduce exports, increase outflows, and implement the necessary structural changes that will accomplish the goals of Delta recovery, improve water supply reliability, and reduce reliance on the Delta.


The cumulative impact of the above critical flaws, contradictions, and omissions leave no choice for the public but to strongly oppose the current Bay Delta Conservation Plan.


CONTACTS:
Nick Di Croce, Environmental Water Caucus
troutnk [at] aol.com, 805-688-7813

Conner Everts, Southern California Watershed Alliance
connere [at] west.net, 310-829-1229

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta
barbara [at] restorethedelta.org, 209-479-2053

Adam Scow, Food & Water Watch
ascow [at] fwwatch.org, 415-293-9915

The Environmental Water Caucus includes the following groups:
AquAlliance
Butte Environmental Council
California Coastkeeper
Alliance
California Save Our Streams
Council
California Sportfishing
Protection Alliance
California Rural Legal
Assistance Foundation
California Striped Bass
Association
California Water Impact
Network
Center for Biological
Diversity
Clean Water Action
Citizens Water Watch
Desal Response Group
Endangered Species Coalition
Environmental Justice
Coalition for Water
Environmental Protection
Information Center
Earth Law Center
Fish Sniffer Magazine
Food & Water Watch
Foothill Conservancy
Friends of the River
Institute for Fisheries
Resources
The Karuk Tribe
Klamath Riverkeeper
Lower Sherman Is. Duck
Hunters Association
Northern California Council,
Federation of Fly Fishers
Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen's Associations
Planning & Conservation
League
Restore the Delta
Sacramento River
Preservation Trust
Santa Clarita Organization
for Planning & Environment
Sierra Club California
Sierra Nevada Alliance
Southern California
Watershed Alliance
Winnemem Wintu Tribe

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