Sacramento County opposes plan to build peripheral tunnels

by Dan Bacher Sacramento County has joined other Delta region cities and counties, family farmers, fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmen...

by Dan Bacher

Sacramento County has joined other Delta region cities and counties, family farmers, fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmentalists and Southern California ratepayers in the battle to stop the Governor's plan to build peripheral tunnels to divert more water to corporate agribusiness and southern California.

On July 24, 2012, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the currently proposed draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). "The current plan proposes alternatives and mitigation for the construction of a major water conveyance system in the Delta with little regard to the ongoing concerns expressed by the County of Sacramento," according to a statement from the County.

“Sacramento County has remained engaged through-out the BDCP process and has consistently expressed concerns with the scale of the proposed BCDP project alternatives and the potential lasting and irreversible impacts on this county, our Delta communities, the local economy, and existing water rights," said the Board of Supervisor’s Chairman, Don Nottoli.

"The County is also concerned with improving the health of the Delta ecosystem and maintaining a reliable water supply and has worked cooperatively in efforts to help find solutions to these important issues; however, the BDCP process thus far has done little to address local concerns," he stated. "At this point, the State is offering no enforceable assurances that local needs and impacts will be addressed and instead is poised to forge ahead with a plan which has far too many unanswered questions regarding its viability and long-term impacts on our community and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Importantly, for these and other reasons, Sacramento County opposes the current BDCP.”

Sacramento County has established a new website covering Delta issues, including the county's opposition to the Peripheral Tunnels:

On the day after the County passed the resolution opposing the current BDCP process, Governor Jerry Brown announced his plan for the construction of two peripheral tunnels that would take water from three intakes on the Sacramento River near Courtland and Hood to deliver water to corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California water agencies.

The peripheral tunnels are the latest incarnation of the peripheral canal plan that was decisively defeated by California voters in November 1982.

Brown shocked the Capitol press corp when he stated at the press conference, "I want to get s--t done," in defensively responding to press questions.

"Analysis paralysis is not why I came back 30 years later to handle some of the same issues," Brown said. "At this stage, as I see many of my friends dying - I went to the funeral of my best friend a couple of weeks ago - I want to get s--t done."

The construction of the peripheral tunnels is expected to hasten the extinction of Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species, according to agency and independent scientists.

The construction of the "conveyance" could also dramatically raise rates for Southern California water customers. A groundbreaking economic analysis released on August 7 by Food & Water Watch reveals that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) customers could be on the line for $2,003 to $9,182 per customer to pay for the 37-mile Peripheral Tunnels project.

California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) President Carolee Krieger urges Los Angeles residents to learn from Santa Barbara County’s costly mistakes.

"In 1991, Santa Barbara County voters approved the Coastal Aqueduct at an estimated cost of $270 million," said Krieger. "The aqueduct ended up costing nearly $1.7 billion and has not been necessary to meet the County's water needs. California ratepayers and taxpayers should expect the same bad deal with the Peripheral Tunnels."

The white paper, written by ECONorthwest, a respected professional economics, planning, and financial consulting services firm, analyzes the impacts that the costs of building and operating the tunnels would have on LADWP ratepayers. It outlines a low-cost scenario of $20.6 billion, and a high-cost scenario of $47.2 billion. For each, they evaluate the costs if the state and federal water projects evenly split the costs of the tunnel and related activities, and if the state project paid 100 percent.

View the report here.

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