Too bad more people didn't attend Saturday's "People's Equity Summit" at Holy Rosary Church in Antioch -- most of the 400 chairs sat empty -- if for no other reason than to hear Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho share her concerns over the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
The project, which awaits an environmental impact report next month, would tap into the Sacramento River above the Delta with two 40-foot-wide tunnels capable of redirecting 9,000 cubic feet of water per second to the Central Valley and Southern California.
Piepho worries that "political science" will outweigh real science when the time comes to evaluate the conveyance's environmental impact.
Among her biggest regrets are the lack of regional representation afforded the Delta counties -- Contra Costa, Solano, Yolo, Sacramento and San Joaquin -- at the decision-making table in Sacramento and the influence of moneyed stakeholders.
"The costs are estimated at $24 billion," she told the audience. "Those are costs that exporters and Central Valley farmers will need to pay, but we will be expected to pay for mitigation to preserve and protect the environment that the tunnels will devastate.
So don't think it doesn't affect you, because it does."
Piepho, who likened the project to the peripheral canal rejected by voters 30 years ago, holds out hope for an alternate proposal that would utilize smaller pipes and fund more storage facilities for when water is plentiful. There are occasions, she said, when it makes sense to tap into the rivers that feed the Delta.
"There are times when we've seen floods in our communities when we've had great snowmelts," she said. "I'm happy to share water when there's excess, but don't take it when we need it."
Plus, 68 percent of respondents think the best way to remedy the deficit is to attract new businesses, but the No. 1 worst thing about the city is excessive traffic. So new businesses are welcome to generate new revenues in Walnut Creek as long as they don't generate new traffic.
Aren't surveys fun?
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.