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The Peripheral Tunnel

Like a lot of others involved in the water debate we are going to take our time to look at this, see if it makes sense, then take a stand

Jul 26, 2012

Families Protecting the Valley is dedicated to solving the water problems for agriculture in California's Central Valley. In that capacity we would love to be able to come out and say with certainty that Governor Brown's tunnel plan to solve the state's water problem is absolutely good, or absolutely evil. Unfortunately, we don't have enough information at this point in time to come to a sane conclusion. You are all well aware of the fact that farmers in the Central Valley have received less and less water over the past 20-years. We need to find a way to stop the bleeding. Is this the way? Like a lot of others involved in the water debate we are going to take our time to look at this, see if it makes sense, then take a stand. Right now, we can't do that. Here are some of the issues we need to resolve:

1. Water Rights: How will this plan impact existing water rights?

2. This plan doesn't solve anything right now. Even if this were the perfect plan, what do we do until it's built? They say it will be completed by 2026. How many farmers will be out of business by then because of uncertain water supplies in the meantime?

3. How much water will this guarantee? We don't know. Contrary to popular belief, farmers are not necessarily asking for more water, but they would like to get the water they have been contracted to receive for the past 40-years. Of course 100% is more than 50% or 40% or 10%, but it really isn't more water than they're supposed to get. What farmers want is a reliable source of water.

4. How much will water cost? This is kind of critical. Tom Birmingham of Westlands Water District said that at least there is a stationary target that can be number-crunched, helping them to decide whether to invest in the next level of the BDCP process. If water goes to the highest bidder, farmers will be left out.

5. Unintended Consequences.

From the Westlands Water District, this statement by Thomas Birmingham:

“Today marks an important milestone in the effort to achieve the State’s policy of improving and protecting the Delta ecosystem and creating a reliable water supply for the State. The joint announcement by Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar concerning Bay Delta Conservation Plan actions that must be pursued to achieve these co-equal goals, including construction and operation of isolated conveyance facilities, charts a clear path forward to complete the BDCP process and to begin the important task of implementing the plan.

For more than six years, state and federal resource agencies, public water agencies, and numerous non-governmental organizations have spent considerable resources evaluating a full range of alternative proposals to achieve the goals and objectives set out in the BDCP’s original planning agreement; improvement and protection of the Delta ecosystem, recovery of at-risk species, restoration of water supply, and creation of a reliable water supply. The biggest risk to this effort has been a reluctance to make decisions in the face of uncertainty. But one thing is absolutely certain; the status quo is not sustainable for either at-risk species or the water supply on which tens-of-millions of people and the economy of this State rely. Today’s announcement represents important decisions about how we can and must move forward in the face of uncertainty.

It is important to note that today’s announcement does not represent final action. Numerous issues will require further analysis, and there are many details and decisions that we will have to confront. Chief among these issues is how the conveyance facilities proposed by the Governor and the Secretary will be financed and which public water agencies will pay for the facilities. Indeed, some water agencies may decide that there is insufficient benefit to justify their continued involvement in this program. But today’s announcement creates the framework in which these remaining issues can be resolved in the short term.

Westlands greatly appreciates the leadership demonstrated by Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar in reaching this point. They had to know that today’s announcement would not be well received by many interested parties, including some public water agencies that had hoped for more certainty with regard to future water supplies. But leadership involves making difficult decisions with the best information available, and Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar have met that responsibility.”

Here is the statement from Dan Nelson of the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority:

“We commend Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar for their leadership and joint efforts to resolve water supply and Delta ecosystem problems through the development of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. Today’s announcement is yet another major milestone in the development of that plan.

The announcement this morning by Gov. Jerry Brown, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Resources Secretary John Laird underscored the importance of the dual goals of a reliable water supply and restoration of the Delta ecosystem. Today, our Federal and State water and environmental leadership sent a simple but crystal clear message to all Californians that decisions about the future of the Delta can no longer wait. The Governor and Secretary now must direct their Agencies to complete the plan by early next year to immediately fix the Delta.

There is much at stake. The nation’s top producing agricultural regions, top technology and innovation region, and the largest contiguous wetland in California all rely on conveyance of their water through the Delta. We agree with Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar that the status quo is not acceptable.

The San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority looks forward to working with Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar and is committed to the completion of a plan that satisfies both water supply and Delta ecosystem goals.”

From the Kern County Water Agency:

“Today’s announcement by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is a positive step forward in finalizing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The Kern County Water Agency (Agency) greatly appreciates the dedication and efforts of Governor Brown, Secretary Salazar and their staff in advancing the BDCP.

“The BDCP has taken six years, 300 public meetings and more than $160 million to reach this critical point, and Wednesday’s announcement is tangible evidence that the State and federal agencies intend to complete the BDCP in 2013,” said Terry Rogers, Agency Board of Directors President.“Kern County has funded its share of the BDCP with the goal of finding a solution that restores the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s ecosystem while improving our water supply from the State Water Project.”

The joint announcement addressed several issues but left several others unresolved.

“The announcement clarified how science will be used to determine the amount of water that might be available through a new conveyance facility, but it did not provide any certainty that the multi-billion dollar investment in a new conveyance facility will improve water supplies for Kern County,” said Rogers. “In the coming days, the Agency’s Board of Directors and its growers will consider the path presented by the Governor and the Secretary and make a decision about continued participation in the BDCP,” added Rogers.

From the Metropolitan Water District:

“John V. Foley, chairman of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issued the following statement regarding today’s proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan actions by Gov. Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar have shown great leadership in advancing a
proposal for the Delta with real specifics. Metropolitan looks forward to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan producing draft environmental documents as soon as possible and a Record of Decision next year.

“Since our board adopted Metropolitan’s Delta Action Plan in 2007, we have consistently supported moving forward with key water system and ecosystem improvements aimed at restoring the estuary and stabilizing water deliveries. In 2009, Metropolitan enthusiastically supported and sponsored the historic state legislative package that advanced Delta planning efforts and statewide water management. Today marks another important milestone toward achieving the state’s co-equal goals of ensuring water reliability for California and restoring the Delta ecosystem. And it’s important for Californians to know that this proposed project is expected to generate 170,000 new jobs to help grow our economy.”

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