Interior Secretary Jewell Refuses to Meet With Delta Protesters

By Dan Bacher | March 15, 2014 | During a visit to the federal water export pumping facilities in the South Delta on March 11, Secretar...

By Dan Bacher | March 15, 2014 |

During a visit to the federal water export pumping facilities in the South Delta on March 11, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell affirmed the Obama administration’s support for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels - and failed to meet with Delta advocates protesting the tunnel plan. 

“The Administration is committed to long-term water supply improvements and environmental restoration in California,” claimed Jewell. “We are working closely with the state to complete the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and take other important actions that will achieve the dual goals of a reliable water supply for California and a healthy Bay Delta ecosystem that supports the state’s economy.” 
Photo courtesy of Restore the Delta.

Governor Jerry Brown also used the photo opportunity to promote his Bay Delta Conservation Plan, even though it wouldn’t create one drop of new water. 

“California is working closely with its federal partners to deal with the drought and prepare our state for other extreme weather events,” said California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. “This current drought is just a portent of things to come and it underscores the importance of swift action on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.” 

Secretary Jewell and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird toured water storage and conveyance facilities and met with corporate agribusiness interests who rely on water exported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but refused to meet with family farmers from the Delta who were protesting the tunnels during her visit. 

Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), she was "disappointed" that Jewell refused to meet with tunnel opponents. She called upon Secretary Jewell to not support the tunnels, to let federal scientists do their job without political interference, and to embrace better policies for a sustainable water future. 

“Restore the Delta is disappointed that Secretary Jewell did not stop to speak with Delta protesters yesterday,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “We call on her to meet at a later date with Delta farmers, Delta government officials, fishery experts, Delta water and reclamation districts, and community groups to learn firsthand about the impacts of the drought and water mismanagement by the State on the Delta economy and ecosystem health, and how the BDCP will lead to the destruction of Delta and coastal fisheries, the SF Bay, Delta family farms and the economy for the 4 million Delta residents.” 

“Secretary Jewell should not be misled that the BDCP would provide reliable water supplies nor restore the health of the Delta. This boondoggle benefits mainly a handful of unsustainable mega-growers,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. 

Federal scientists have refused to sign off on the tunnels project, noting that it cannot achieve its goal of restoring the health of the Delta estuary while removing millions of acre-feet of water from the Delta, according to Barrigan-Parrilla. 

Gene Beley of the Central Valley Business Times was one of the lucky few to be able to attend, as a member of the media, Secretary Jewell's visit to the Delta pumps yesterday. Here Gene gives us both a transcript and a video of the press conference.

"Please read or view carefully with a critical eye, and be sure to look at the list of the 'VIPs' who were included in the closed door session with Jewell," said Jerry Cadagan, water activist. "Compare that list to the similar list who met privately with President Obama on February 14, the usual suspects. Big kudos to CV Business Times Editor Doug Caldwell for featuring this kind of hard hitting journalism!" 

Cadagan noted that this transcript is the first indication that Jewell may be having second thoughts about the peripheral tunnel plan, although she and the Obama administration are still officially committed to it. 

The federal pumping facilities that Jewell visited and the state pumping facilities kill more fish, including salmon, steelhead, Sacramento splittail, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass, threadfin shad, largemouth bass, American shad, and other species, than any other government project in California. Millions of fish are slaughtered every year in the "death pumps." 

Between 2000 and 2011, more than 130 million fish were 'salvaged' at the state and federal project water export facilities in the South Delta, according to a fact sheet written in 2013 by Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. 

"Actual losses are far higher," said Jennings. "For example, recent estimates indicate that 5-10 times more fish are lost than are salvaged, largely due to the high predation losses in and around water project facilities.” 

The widely unpopular Bay Delta Conservation Plan would hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other struggling fish species, as well as imperil steelhead and salmon populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. The BDCP would take vast areas of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of agricultural production in order to keep irrigating drainage-impaired, toxic soil on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. 

Food and Water Watch and Restore the Delta, opponents of Jerry Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, on March 4 released a new map that shows that 35-mile long twin tunnels would mainly supply water to the largest agribusiness users of Delta water exports, land impaired by toxic selenium concentrations that make farming unsustainable, and the oil and gas basins where the energy industry could expand the environmentally destructive practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing). 

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