We believe it's reasonable to assume opponents will tie this up in court as long as they can, and they now are indicating they are willing to take it to the voters as well.
Delta tunnel fight to be long, costly, panelists warn
STOCKTON - Delta advocates rallied the faithful on Monday, warning at a special forum that legislators and the public must be prepared for a water fight that could drag on for years.
Gov. Jerry Brown's $24.5 billion twin tunnels plan is expected to be formally unveiled in December.
The plan is widely opposed in San Joaquin County and around the Delta because the tunnels would siphon away a portion of the fresh water that today flows through the estuary.
One emphasis at Monday's event, held at University of the Pacific, was the need to form partnerships not only within the Delta but elsewhere in the state, where opponents hope to convince water users that the tunnels are unnecessary and unaffordable.
"We certainly have the science and the facts on our side," said state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, one of the state Legislature's most outspoken Delta defenders. "We have the cost and financing and economics on our side. What we're really going to need to do is form alliances and reach out and persuade others. Our success will be dependent on that."
Monday's forum was mostly preaching to the choir, with many of the 150 or so people in attendance already familiar with the project and the arguments against it.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Stockton-based Restore the Delta, talked about the impacts not only on Delta farmers but on the region's broader agricultural economy.
"It's going to affect people who sell tractors on Charter Way, people who sell insurance, people who sell the fuel and seeds, the other things needed to run a farm," she said. "You think (Stockton's) bankruptcy was hard? Between a degraded economy and a degraded environment, I don't see how we could recover (from the tunnels)."
John Herrick, an attorney representing south Delta farmers, said the government has failed to live up to existing water quality standards in the Delta.
"The question posed is, can a freshwater estuary be improved by having less fresh water flow through it?" Herrick asked, to which members of the audience replied, "No."
Herrick said the matter may well be decided by the courts.
Wolk said the struggle will go on for years and is "not for the faint of heart or for sunshine patriots."
And it will require money.
"We're going to have to take (the fight) to Southern California, which means ballots, initiatives, and they're expensive," she said. "Make no mistake -we're going to have to do that."
Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, said that if it wasn't for organized opposition, construction would probably have started already.
"It really is the community engagement that allows us to get as much traction as we have," she said.
Stockton City Councilwoman Kathy Miller called for local communities to "re-engage" with the Delta Coalition, a countywide group of government, business, agriculture and environmental interests. The coalition, which formed in 2011, hosted Monday's event.
"Many cities passed a resolution stating that they continue to support work of the Delta Coalition, but we're not seeing regular attendance by elected officials or staff," she said. "We need that. We need you to be there with us."
In an announcement last week about the upcoming release of the tunnels plan, state officials emphasized that no decision has been made to move forward with the project. Public comments on the upcoming documents, estimated to be 25,000 pages long, will be accepted from Dec. 13 through April 14.
Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or email@example.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/breitlerblog.