The 'changed' Delta tunnel plan: like the Owens Valley again

by Dan Bacher  | August 17, 2013 | The California Department of Water Resources today announced “changes” to the proposed Bay Delta C...

by Dan Bacher  | August 17, 2013 |

The California Department of Water Resources today announced “changes” to the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels – but Delta advocates weren’t fooled by the so-called improvements, saying, "It is like the Owens Valley again." 

Proposed changes announced include shrinking of the intermediate forebay surface area from 750 acres to 40 acres - and realigning a segment of the proposed tunnels to the east to utilize more public lands and avoid the Delta communities of Courtland and Walnut Grove. 
Natural Resources Secretary John Laird

The changes outlined by California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird in a news conference also include: 

• shortening the main tunnels from 35 miles to 30 miles; 

• using DWR-owned properties south of Hood as a construction staging area and DWR-owned properties near Interstate 5 as a re-usable tunnel material storage area; 

• decreasing from 151 to 81 the number of structures affected by the project; 

• working with landowners and stakeholders to use excavated material to improve and preserve wildlife habitat on Zacharias Ranch on Glanville Tract and on Staten Island; and 

• modifying and strengthening the existing Clifton Court Forebay for improved operations of north and south Delta conveyance. 

Laird also claimed that the proposed project analyzed in the documents has changed significantly in the last two years in response to concerns from state and federal wildlife agencies. He said the capacity of the proposed north Delta intakes has been downsized from a maximum of 15,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 9,000 cfs and the number of intakes along the Sacramento River has dropped from five to three. Laird also noted that the proposal has been modified to flow by gravity from the intermediate forebay to main forebay, rather than by pumping, to reduce the "carbon footprint." 

Laird claimed the BDCP was a “transparent” process, just like he alleged the corrupt, privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create questionable “marine protected areas” on the California coast was. (

“We are committed to transparency. We are releasing the documents in stages, with more transparency than has traditionally been done in these processes,” Laird said. 

Laird, who presided over record water exports and a record "salvage" of nearly 9 million Sacramento splittail in 2011, claimed that the BDCP would meet the co-equal goals of “ecosystem restoration” and water supply, in spite of arguments by critics who said the project would fail to accomplish either goal. 

“The administration supports whatever it takes to be successful at this," said Laird, summarizing Governor Jerry Brown’s commitment to building the tunnels, in spite of the enormous economic cost to Californians and the catastrophic impacts it would have upon the Delta ecosystem and central Valley salmon populations. 

“We take seriously the effects our proposal would have on the property and daily lives of Delta residents,” claimed DWR Director Mark Cowin in a news release. “We have worked hard to find ways to eliminate or modify some of the construction activity and permanent infrastructure in ways that minimize disruption to local residents. We’ll keep working to reduce impacts wherever possible, and we’re committed to mitigating those that are unavoidable.” 

Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of the peripheral tunnels, described the changes outlined today as “a failed attempt by Jerry Meral to show that he and the other architects of the BDCP are sensitive to Delta communities." Meral, the Deputy Resources Secretary, is the point man for Governor Jerry Brown and Laird on the BDCP. 

“It does not change the fact that 48 significant and unavoidable impacts that are identified in the BDCP will be inflicted on Delta communities, fisheries, farms, and boaters,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “This new proposal does not even consider the significant harm that would come to Sandhill Cranes that nest on Staten Island.” 

“These magnificent birds will do even worse than Delta residents with around the clock construction noise, traffic, and tunnel muck, disrupting their nursing areas," she emphasized. “Jerry Meral refuses to acknowledge these 48 significant and unavoidable impacts publicly; he directed Dr. David Sunding to ignore these impacts in the incomplete economic analysis released last week; and this latest attempt to sell the plan as improved points to new disasters in the making." 

“Meral thinks we are supposed to be satisfied that he has lessened some of the impacts on a few of our neighbors while continuing to sacrifice the entire region. It is like the Owens Valley all over again,” Barrigan-Parrilla concluded. 

The construction of the $54.1 billion peripheral tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Klamath and Trinity rivers. The water destined for the peripheral tunnels will be used by corporate agribusiness to irrigate drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley - and by oil companies to expand the environmentally destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in California ( 

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