The Big Dig: International Tunneling Conference in LA Promotes Destructive Delta Tunnels

By Dan Bacher | October 9, 2016 | Only in the so-called “environmentally enlightened” state of California would the mainstream media, s...

By Dan Bacher | October 9, 2016 |

Only in the so-called “environmentally enlightened” state of California would the mainstream media, state officials and some NGO representatives praise Jerry Brown as a “climate leader” and “green governor” while he is promoting the Delta Tunnels, the most environmentally devastating public works project in the state’s history.v
Niria Garcia and Hawane Rios, who participated in the entire length 
of the Winnemem Wintu Run4Salmon from September 17 to
 October 1, appear at a press conference against the Shasta Dam raise,
 the Delta Tunnels and new dams at the State Capitol in Sacramento on

 September 19. Photo by Dan Bacher.

In the latest episode in the long saga of the Governor's campaign to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento—San Joaquin River Delta, state agencies are participating in an International Tunneling conference in Los Angeles called “Cutting Edge” from November 6-9. Tunnels proponents constantly claim that the project, the California WaterFix, will create more jobs for Californians.

The conference announcement declares:

“...California’s tunneling industry is booming. In 2016, the fifth annual Cutting Edge Conference will convene in Los Angeles to look at the latest advances in tunneling technology and methodology and how they can be harnessed to assist the region’s major upcoming underground projects.”

The invitation email states: “Among the many organisations [British spelling] in attendance will be: …California Water Fix.”

Why should anybody attend the conference? “This conference is highly focused on urban tunneling and will provide technical sessions to help you grow professionally and personally by learning from the problems others have faced,” the announcement explains.

“Cutting Edge is the must-attend urban tunneling conference of the year. Featuring a wide variety of technical sessions and speakers focusing on key industry events and issues, Cutting Edge will be a professional event you will truly enjoy and remember,” the announcement proclaims.

Companies sponsoring the event include Kiewit, Aldea Service LLC, Brierly Associates, Terratec, Nicholson, Hayward Baker Geotechnical Construction, ASI Marine, HNTB, Traylor Bros., Inc., and BASF, The Chemical Company.

Why is the conference being sponsored in Los Angeles at this time? Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, believes it’s because of the opportunities for international corporations to secure a lucrative contract for the multi-billion dollar California WaterFix.

“A chance to get a contract for a $17 billion project has attracted many international firms to sponsor this conference,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “State and Metropolitan Water District officials will surely get wined-and-dined, but we think their international suitors should know the Delta Tunnels are as real as a day at Disneyland.”

“The Delta Tunnels have received none of the required state or federal permits, and the project has no finance plan. Water ratepayers and California taxpayers don’t want the tunnels, and agricultural districts cannot afford the tunnels. The project lacks a completed biological opinion and has been rejected twice by the EPA,” she said. Barrigan-Parrilla posed the following questions to state agencies backing the Delta Tunnels:

“Why are state agencies seeking international contractors for a project that was supposed to create jobs for Californians?

Are agencies also seeking international funding for a project that was to be paid for by California water districts? Are our water resources for sale on the international market? Californians would like to know.”

These are very good questions. I have contacted a representative from the California Natural Resources Agency regarding these tough questions— and I will publish their response if and when I receive it.

The tunneling conference — and Governor Brown's frantic rush to build the Delta Tunnels as his “legacy” project — take place at a time when the WaterFix is becoming increasingly unpopular with Californians.

In fact, Brown admitted for the first time that his tunnels project is “unpopular” when he lauded former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for focusing on environmental issues at the tenth anniversary celebration of the passage of Assembly Bill 32, the legislation that established the state’s greenhouse emissions reductions, in the California Museum in Sacramento on Wednesday, October 5.

“Arnold, thanks for being for climate change, cap and trade, the tunnels project, high speed rail and all the other unpopular policies that I’m saddled with,” quipped Brown.

You can listen to Brown’s comments at the 1:01:24 mark

The Delta Tunnels project is based on the absurd premise that diverting more water out of the Sacramento River before it flows into the Delta would somehow “restore" its fish populations and ecosystems.

In reality, the construction of the two 35-mile long tunnels under the Delta would hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species. The project would also imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers, a fishery that for thousands of years has played an integral part in the culture, religion and food supply of the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes.

My testimony before the State Water Resources Board regarding the petition by the Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to add three new points of diversion from the Sacramento River for the Delta Tunnels, can be read here

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