Governor's Bay Delta Conservation Plan Point Man Resigns

By Dan Bacher | December 17, 2013 | Jerry Meral, Deputy Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency and Jerry Brown's poin...

By Dan Bacher | December 17, 2013 |

Jerry Meral, Deputy Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency and Jerry Brown's point man for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, announced his retirement from "state service," effective December 31.

The resignation was announced the day after over 400 people, including fishermen, Tribal leaders, farmers, Southern California water ratepayers, and environmentalists rallied at the state capitol against the proposed water export tunnels.
Jerry Meral.

In spite of a rapidly accumulating pile of evidence against the project, including the $54.1 billion estimated total cost and the scathing criticism of the plan's "science" by federal scientists, Meral forecasted that the plan's implementation is "virtually certain."  
"With the publication of the BDCP and the EIR/S in the federal register on December 13, the Plan should be completed and approved in 2014. While additional permits will be required, it is virtually certain that the plan will be implemented," Meral said in his letter to Brown.

“I look forward to doing whatever I can in the future to support completion and implementation of a Bay Delta Conservation Plan which will achieve the co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability, while fully respecting the values treasured by those who live, work, and recreate in the Delta," Meral concluded. 

Jane Wagner-Tyack of Restore the Delta noted that the Brown administration won't have any difficulty in finding somebody to replace Meral.

“Of course, we are speculating about whom Governor Brown will find to replace Dr. Meral," said Wagner-Tyack. "But what we know for sure is that the Governor will not have any difficulty finding someone else willing to push his Peripheral Tunnels agenda. After all, we’re talking here about the heady cocktail of California water and political power.”

“It is also worth remembering that Governor Brown is responsible ultimately for pushing the BDCP boondoggle onto Californians, as part of the special 50 year relationship between each and every California Governor and specific moneyed water interests in California,” she said. “ It’s a shame that Governor Brown cannot help himself, but instead continues operating within this less than honest status quo.”

Deputy Director Meral became the focus of a huge controversy this spring when he acknowledged on April 15 that 'BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved.'"

He made his controversial comments while speaking with Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) in a private conversation after a meeting with Northern California Indian Tribes, according to Restore the Delta's "Delta Flows" newsletter

After Meral made the revealing, candid comment, five Congressional Democrats - George Miller, Mike Thompson, Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui and Anna Eshoo - called for Meral's immediate resignation.

"Meral’s statement, if accurately reported, suggests the Brown Administration intends to explicitly violate the established statutory co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration in the Bay-Delta and water reliability throughout the state," according to the Representatives' statement. "This fuels speculation that the Administration’s plan, if unchanged, will devastate the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the communities that rely on it, a concern that Northern California Lawmakers and other stakeholders have voiced throughout the process."

The widely-criticized plan proposes to construct three new intakes in the north Delta along the Sacramento River about 35 miles north of the existing South Delta pumping plants. Two 35-mile long twin tunnels would carry the water underground to the existing pumping plants that feed canals sttetching hundreds of miles to the south and west. 

The release of the public review draft of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its corresponding Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) triggers a 120-day period for the gathering of public comments, from Dec. 13, 2013 through April 14, 2014. 

The construction of the twin tunnels will likely hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as threaten the steelhead and salmon populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

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