Brown administration bars reporter from public meeting on tunnels

By Dan Bacher | September 8, 2013 | On March 2, 2012, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Deputy Secretary of In...

By Dan Bacher | September 8, 2013 |

On March 2, 2012, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Deputy Secretary of Interior David Hayes committed themselves to making sure that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels was an “open and transparent" process. 

“Our agencies are taking actions to ensure a fair, open and transparent process, and the opportunity for input by all interested parties in the development of this plan to address the future of California’s Bay Delta and water supply,” they wrote in a letter to then State Senator Michael J. Rubio, who in February resigned from office in order to take a “government affairs” position at Chevron. 

Yet, the Brown and Obama administrations have gone in the exact opposite direction from the one they committed to on that date, going so far as to bar members of the news media from recording a public meeting to answer Delta residents’ questions and concerns about the controversial project to build twin peripheral tunnels. 

Restore the Delta on Friday released a video shot by a business reporter who attended the BDCP "office hours" the Brown administration held at the Brentwood Library on September 3. 

The "office hours" were public meetings advertised as an opportunity to get answers to Delta landowners’ concerns, according to Restore the Delta (RTD). 

Central Valley Business Times reporter Gene Beley joined local residents at the Brentwood Library public meeting and was told by Department of Water Resources (DWR) personnel that no press was allowed, even though it was a public agency in a public setting! 

Beley stayed and attempted to record the questions and answers in order to report them to the Delta business and landowners who comprise the publication’s audience. 

If that interference with his First Amendment rights wasn’t bad enough, Nancy Vogel from the Public Affairs Office at the Department of Water Resources (DWR) even called Doug Caldwell, owner of Central Valley Business Times and complained about Beley – just for doing his job reporting! 

“Hey, that's almost a badge of honor as good as the days of the Nixon Administration when he had certain press on his Hit List,” Beley quipped. 

“I can’t recall a public relations agency person from any agency calling me to complain about a reporter,” said Caldwell. “When this happens, it usually indicates that a reporter is asking them tough questions that make them uncomfortable.” 

Ironically, Vogel was for many years a reporter at the Sacramento Bee and LA Times who covered water and environmental issues. I have left a phone message regarding the press censorship incident with Vogel and am currently waiting for her reply. 

RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla was alarmed by the heavy handed approach used to deny Beley and other reporters their First Amendment rights, just as she was outraged by Caltrans' recent confiscation of signs opposing the tunnels from private property in the North Delta. 

"The video demonstrates extreme steps the Brown Administration is taking to avoid accountability for their lack of answers to simple questions from residents whose farms, homes and communities would be harmed by this boondoggle," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "First, they confiscate our opposition signs, then they bar the media from reporting on public meetings; their next step is condemning and seizing our land to benefit a few mega-growers." 

The video can be viewed at
DWR-BDCP Refusing to Let Me Film Twin Canal Info Meeting
Discovery Bay area residents were invited to a California Dept. of Water & Power/BDCP meeting in Brentwood on Sept. 3, 2013 to ask questions about the 30 mile long twin canal project. Brian G. Heiland, Supervising Engineer, Delta & Statewide Water Management, California Dept. of Water Resources, said he didn't want any press there. When challenged that the Brentwood meeting was a public meeting, he claimed that was not true, nor covered by the Brown Act. However, this reporter stayed and filmed another moderator with a small group that is also posted on YouTube at

The Brown and Obama administrations are fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The tunnels will be used to export huge quantities of water to corporate agribusiness interests and oil companies seeking to expand fracking operations in Kern County and coastal areas. 

The construction of the tunnels would not only hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, but would will imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. The Trinity is the only out of basin source of water for the federal Central Valley Project. 

For more information, go to 

The barring of a reporter from filming a public meeting is an obvious attempt by the Brown regime to censor Freedom of Speech. This incident occurs in the larger context of the war on the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech and the Constitution by the federal and state governments. 

The draconian provisions of the Patriot Act, NDAA and other repressive laws, the federally-coordinated crackdown on the Occupy movement, the widespread NSA surveillance of personal emails, the IRS targeting of groups that disagree with the Obama administration, and other measures by the federal and state governments serve to criminalize dissent and repress our First Amendment rights. 

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." 

It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, neither the Brown or Obama administrations appear to have much respect for the First Amendment or other Constitutional Rights. 

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