Peripheral Canal Is Not 'almost assured'

by Dan Bacher The San Francisco Chronicle editorial published on June 3, "California Peripheral canal coming soon," poses ma...

by Dan Bacher

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial published on June 3, "California Peripheral canal coming soon," poses many good questions challenging the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build a peripheral canal or tunnel.

However, the statement that "a proposed giant canal to move water from Northern California to the south appears almost assured" is not supported by any facts.

In reality, the plan is even more tenuous now than it was five years ago when Arnold Schwarzenegger resurrected the project, a Nineteenth Century solution to Twenty-First Century problems, in a cynical effort to create a monument to his "environmental" legacy.

Why is this peripheral canal plan destined to fail?

First, a broad coalition of Delta residents, Indian Tribes, family farmers, fishermen, Southern California ratepayers, grassroots environmentalists and elected officials will fight this "new conveyance" through protests, litigation, legislation and other methods to prevent it from ever becoming reality.

Second, for the fishery agencies to issue a permit for a canal or tunnel, the canal would be limited to exports of between 4.5 million acre feet and 5.5 million acre feet per year, according to the editorial. Do we really think that the water contractors will help pay for a canal that might deliver less water than they want?

Third, the canal would lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish populations, in violation of the state and federal Endangered Species Acts and numerous other environmental laws. The canal is not legally defensible because of the immense harm it would cause to fish populations and the estuary - and will face an array of legal challenges.

Fourth, voters will vote overwhelmingly against the $11.14 billion Water Bond that clears the path for the canal's construction just like they voted overwhelmingly against the canal 30 years ago. The taxpaying public and Southern California ratepayers will be extremely reluctant to pay for a huge government boondoggle like the canal in a time of budget deficits and economic crisis.

"The peripheral canal, estimated to cost between $14 and $30 billion, will allow Westlands Water District and the Kern County Water Agency to grab more water at the expense of California taxpayers and the environment," said Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director of Food & Water Watch. "It is incumbent upon the people of California to put an end to this wasteful and unnecessary canal, as they did 30 years ago in June of 1982."

The massive opposition by the voting public to the canal is the reason why Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg rescheduled the water bond vote from November 2010 to November 2012. This is also the reason why Steinberg said in March that the 2012 water bond will "in all likelihood" be delayed until 2014.

Rather than writing about how the canal is "almost assured," the Chronicle editors should be joining with Restore the Delta, Food and Water Watch, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Southern California ratepayers and numerous people from diverse organizations to strongly oppose this corporate water grab.

Governor Brown's campaign to build the peripheral canal comes at a time when Brown is continuing and expanding some of the most odious environmental policies of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor for fish and the environment in California history.

Brown is not only fast-tracking the peripheral canal, but he and his Natural Resources Secretary, John Laird, presided over record water exports out of the Delta and a record "salvage" of nearly 9,000,000 Sacramento splittail in the state and federal death pumps in 2011. Scientists believe that the actual number of fish killed is many times those "salvaged."

While Brown and Laird effectively authorized the massacre of millions of fish including splittail, striped bass, Central Valley chinook salmon, threadfin shad, steelhead, largemouth bass and other species in the Delta pumping facilities last year, they have also forged ahead with Schwarzenegger's privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called "marine protected areas" on the California coast.

In an overt case of corporate greenwashing, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the "marine protected areas" that went into effect on the South Coast on January 1, 2012. Reheis-Boyd, an advocate for offshore oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the Keystone XL Pipeline and the weakening of environmental laws, also served on the task forces for the North Coast and North Central Coast processes.

The "marine protected areas" created under the leadership of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives on the task forces fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, seismic testing, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering. Rather than being the "Yosemites of the Sea" and "underwater parks" that MLPA advocates falsely claim they are, these are in essence "no fishing" zones that fail to comprehensively protect the ocean, in stark violation of the language and intent of the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999.

Read Bill Jennings' excellent response to the Chronicle editorial here.

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