CSPA and allies battle Delta exports and bad science

Submitted: Jun 12, 2014
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Press Release

11 June 2014

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Barbara Vlamis, AquAlliance: 530-895-9420; cell 530-519-7468

Bill Jennings, CSPA: 209-464-5067; cell 209-938-9053

 Lawsuit Filed to Protect North State Farms, Fish and Communities 

On 11 June 2014, AquAlliance and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) filed a lawsuit in federal District Court against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation USBR over its inadequate disclosure, avoidance of impacts, and mitigation of major water transfers from the Sacramento Valley through the Delta to the San Joaquin Valley. USBR proposes to transfer up to 175,226 acre-feet (AF) of Central Valley Project (CVP) surface water to San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA). As much as 116,383 AF of that water may be in the form of groundwater substitution. Coinciding with the USBR transfer, the State Water Project (SWP) and private parties are proposing to transfer another possible 305,907 AF or more of water. The lawsuit asks the court to declare that USBRs Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was arbitrary and capricious, ignored relevant new information and failed to meet minimum requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

Depleting already stressed aquifers so that special interests can sell and export their surface water to the San Joaquin Valley directly threatens the environment, human health and economic wellbeing of the communities, businesses, and farms of the Sacramento Valley. Exporting massive quantities of water during periods of negligible Delta outflow draws the low salinity zone into the central Delta and exposes endangered delta smelt to lethal temperatures and entrainment in Delta pumps. This is especially critical as Delta flow and water quality standards have been weakened six times in less than 90 days and plaintiffs have discovered that state and federal agencies are grossly overestimating actual Delta outflows. USBR refused to consider the new information and revise the EA and FONSI. 

AquAlliance Executive Director Barbara Vlamis explained, Selling surface water and pumping groundwater places an extraordinary strain on the groundwater basins and streams of the North State that are already taxed by the very dry conditions, past transfers, and local agricultural demand. For years, USBR has relied upon quick-&-dirty Environmental Assessments and Findings of No Significant Impact instead of the required and long-promised full Environmental Impact Statement that would fully examine the adverse impacts of water transfers on the area of origin and Delta. Its past time for USBR to comply with the law and factually analyze the enormous impacts caused by their water transfers to agricultural interests that chose to plant permanent crops in a desert. 

CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings observed, Last year, excessive water exports and low outflow drew delta smelt from Suisun Bay into the central Delta where they were butchered by lethal water temperatures. This year, with population levels hovering at historic lows: excessive transfers and exports, relaxed flow standards, high temperatures and negligible outflows may catapult the species into the abyss of extinction. On top of these threats, we were astonished to discover that the estimates of Delta outflow that state and federal agencies have reported and regulators have relied upon for years are wrong and significantly overestimate outflow in low flow conditions. Indeed, last month there was actually a minus 45 cfs net outflow to the Bay while DWR and USBR were reporting a plus 3805 cfs. 

The Net Delta Outflow Index (NDOI) used to assess compliance with required flow standards is based upon a formula of both actual and estimated data. Examination of tidally filtered outflow data from the U.S. Geological Surveys state-of-the-art UVM flow meters on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and Three-mile and Dutch Sloughs reveals that actual Net Delta Outflow (NDO) in low flow conditions are considerably lower. These USGS sites capture all outflows from the Delta to the Bay. Incredibly, the states own evaluation of NDO with the NDOI, as reported on DWRs Dayflow website and the Dayflow 2013 Comments, reveals that the NDOI significantly overestimates outflow in drier periods. 

Any new water transfers will be in addition to the 1500 cfs of water exports already allowed by State Water Board emergency orders. The total amount of water transfers by the USBR, SWP and private parties is unknown. The State Water Board has been routinely approving virtually all transfer requests without environmental review.[1] This present transfer project is the fourth in a series of water transfers for which the USBR has issued a FONSI and refused to prepare an EIS. Other FONSIs were issued in 2009, 2010-2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2010, USBR issued a notice of its intent to prepare an EIS for a long-term water transfer but, after three scoping meetings, never issued a draft EIS. 

The failure of USBR to conduct a full environmental review means that there has never been a comprehensive analysis of the potential adverse impacts of water transfers on surface water, water quality, groundwater, fisheries, vegetation and wildlife, special status species, geology and soils, land use, air quality, climate change, cultural resources, noise, recreation, energy, visual resources, socioeconomics, and Indian trust assets, as well as environmental justice and cumulative impacts associated with water transfers.

AquAlliance and CSPA are represented by:

Tom Lippe, Law Offices of Thomas N. Lippe APC: 415-777-5604 x 1

Michael Lozeau of Lozeau/Drury LLP : 510.836.4200 ext 103 


Bill Jennings, Chairman
Executive Director
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
3536 Rainier Avenue
Stockton, CA 95204
p: 209-464-5067
c: 209-938-9053
f: 209-464-1028
e: deltakeep@me.com
www.calsport.org

 

6-12-14

Stockton Record

Lawsuit targets Delta water shipments

By Alex Breitler

http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140612/A_NEWS/406120325/-1/A_NEWS14

Environmentalists sued Wednesday to block proposed water transfers from Northern California to the drought-plagued south San Joaquin Valley, arguing that the plan fails to protect the fragile Delta.

Under the federal government's plan, willing sellers in the north would allow water to flow down the Sacramento River into the Delta, where the giant export pumps near Tracy would deliver it to southland farms, where very little water is available this summer.

But the Stockton-based California Sportfishing Protection Alliance warns that the extra pumping could draw tiny, threatened Delta smelt from the west Delta into the central Delta, where they could be harmed by warmer water temperatures or by the massive pumps themselves.

The alliance, along with another plaintiff environmental group, AquAlliance, also argues that groundwater in the north will be overdrawn in order to provide for arid lands in the south that should never have been planted in permanent orchards.

The lawsuit was filed at U.S. District Court in Sacramento. It asks a judge to stop the transfers or order more intensive environmental review. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is named as a defendant.

Bill Jennings, head of the sport-fishing alliance, said drought-related emergency actions to weaken water quality standards in the Delta this summer make the transfers even more dangerous. He said a new analysis shows the amount of water allowed to remain in the Delta and flow out to San Francisco Bay is even lower than reported.

"We ought not to be exporting water this year if we don't have Delta outflow," Jennings said.

The amount of water to be transferred south could be as much as 175,226 acre-feet, the lawsuit says. By way of comparison, that's more than half the capacity of New Hogan Lake, east of Stockton.

A bureau spokesman in Sacramento said he could not comment on pending litigation.

Mike Wade, head of the California Farm Water Coalition, said the lawsuit is "extremely harmful" to water users in the south.

"One region of the state has some supply they can share with another region and help balance some of the water supply challenges in a year like this," Wade said. "These transfers need to go through."

 

6-12-14

Indybay.org

Environmental Water Caucus Shreds 'Misleading' Bay Delta Conservation Plan 

 

“The plan is an omelet of distortion and half-truth intended to mislead and deceive," according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. 


by Dan Bacher 

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/06/12/18757262.php

The Environmental Water Caucus, a diverse coalition including conservation, fishing and environmental justice groups and the Karuk and Winnemem Wintu Tribes, on June 11 responded to Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its associated Environmental Impact Report with a stinging 250-page critique of BDCP’s inadequacies and multiple failures to conform to state and federal laws. 

“The plan is an omelet of distortion and half-truth intended to mislead and deceive," said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). 

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), characterizes the BDCP as “a construction project masquerading as a habitat conservation plan." 

The core of the plan is the construction of two underground twin tunnels 35 miles long and 40 feet in diameter to deliver Sacramento River to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations in Kern County. 

Among the criticisms detailed in the Caucus’ review are that it is contrary to the Delta Reform Act of 2009, it fails to provide adequate ecological assurances under state and federal endangered species laws, it fails to assure funding for the project, and it fails to analyze reasonable alternatives to the preferred plan for huge tunnels under the Delta. Other points highlighted by the Caucus include: 

• Exporting more water out of the Delta was a foregone conclusion for the main proponents of the plan, which are the powerful water districts south of the Delta. BDCP has cherry picked the science to support that objective and has created 40,000 pages of biased analytical findings to support that predetermined goal, trying to hide the real intent in the process. 

• Federal and state laws require that a permissible project must contain a solid financing plan – precisely the kind of plan that BDCP lacks. Even after seven years of planning and debate, BDCP fails to spell out who will be responsible for the $50 to $60 billion cost. Tax payers can expect to pick up most of that tab. 

• The Bay Delta “Conservation” Plan has little to do with conservation. In an effort to mislead the public, BDCP disingenuously characterizes the eight-lane expressway sized tunnels that will drain the Delta of life sustaining freshwater as a “Conservation Measure." 

• Purporting to restore Delta ecosystems and protect its most vulnerable fish species, BDCP would instead further reduce natural Delta flows to San Francisco Bay, helping push listed, vulnerable salmon and resident fish species into oblivion, and officiate at the demise of California’s salmon industry. 

• BDCP proffers the snake-oil hypothesis that physical habitat can substitute for water flows, while ignoring the fact that water is aquatic habitat. While BDCP analyzes the tunnels at a specific project level, habitat is only analyzed at a conceptual level. BDCP only promises to restore some acres of habitat somewhere at sometime in the future, if funding can be secured, while ignoring that most habitat restoration efforts in the past have failed to achieve predicted results. 

• BDCP will degrade water quality and harm beneficial uses of water in the Delta, along with promoting wasteful and unreasonable uses of water south of the Delta, contrary to numerous state and federal water quality laws and the California Water Code. 

• While BDCP trumpets the risks to California’s water supply from massive Delta levee failures due to earthquakes, BDCP lifts not a finger to address these supposed seismic levee issues. 

The Environmental Water Caucus proposes an alternative that reduces water exports to a more sustainable level, in order to permit recovery of the Delta while maintaining water supplies for both Delta and south of Delta water users. The plan, the "Responsible Exports Alternative," sets a cap on water exports of 3 million acre feet. 

The construction of the peripheral tunnels will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperiling the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers. 

See the detailed Caucus comments at: http://www.ewccalifornia.org 

The Environmental Water Caucus includes the following organizations and Tribes: 
AquAlliance 
Butte Environmental Council 
California Coastkeeper Alliance 
California Save Our Streams Council 
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance 
California Striped Bass Association 
California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) 
Clean Water Action 
Citizens Water Watch 
Desal Response Group 
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water 
Environmental Protection Information Center 
Earth Law Center 
Fish Sniffer Magazine 
Foothill Conservancy 
Friends of the River 
Food & Water Watch 
Institute for Fisheries Resources 
The Karuk Tribe 
North Coast Environmental Center 
Northern California Council, Federation of Fly Fishers 
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations 
Planning & Conservation League 
Restore the Delta 
Sacramento River Preservation Trust 
Sierra Club California 
Southern California Watershed Alliance 
Winnemem Wintu Tribe 

CONTACTS: 
Conner Everts, Environmental Water Caucus 
connere [at] west.net, 310-804-6615 
Bill Jennings, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance 
deltakeep [at] me.com, 209-464-5067 
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta 
barbara [at] restorethedelta.org, 209-479-2053

 

5-28-14

Indaybay.org

Brown makes three pro-BDCP appointments to water posts 

Governor Jerry Brown continues to "stack the deck" for the peripheral tunnels fiasco when making appointments to key water and environmental agency positions. 

by Dan Bacher 

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/05/28/18756521.php

Governor Jerry Brown has appointed three people to key water policy positions in his administration in an apparent effort to bolster his efforts to promote the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels. 

He appointed Karla Nemeth, 43, of Sacramento as deputy secretary for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency. "She will serve as the Governor’s senior advisor on water policy," according to a news release from the Governor's Office on May 27. 

Nemeth has served as Bay Delta Conservation Plan project manager at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2009. She was environmental and public affairs director at the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Zone 7 from 2005 to 2009 and community affairs manager at Jones and Stokes from 2003 to 2005. 

Nemeth was a legislative assistant at AESOP Enterprises from 2001 to 2003 and held multiple positions for King County, Washington from 1998 to 2000, including legislative assistant and program manager. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Washington. 

This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $150,000. Nemeth is a Democrat. 

The Governor's Office also announced that Kristopher Tjernell, 32, of Sacramento, has been appointed special assistant for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency. Tjernell has been a policy consultant at the Conservation Strategy Group since 2007, in the areas of integrated water management, water supply, ecosystem conflict resolution and public finance. 

The Conservation Strategy Group’s clients include the Nature Conservancy and other corporate environmental groups that support the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, which has funded the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) studies promoting the construction of the tunnels. 

This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $114,456. Tjernell is a Democrat. 

Susan Tatayon, 55, of Rocklin, who has worked at the pro-BDCP Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources, has been appointed to the Delta Stewardship Council. 

Tatayon has been an associate director at the Nature Conservancy since 2006. She was supervising resource planner at the Schlumberger Water Division from 2001 to 2005 and special assistant to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific regional director from 2000 to 2001. 

Tatayon served in multiple positions at the California Department of Water Resources from 1996 to 2000, including research program specialist and special assistant to the chief deputy director. She is a member of the Floodplain Management Association Board of Directors. 

This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $40,669. Tatayon is registered without party preference. 

Delta advocates see the recent appointments as part of Brown's desperate strategy to boost support for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan at a time when opposition to the plan is mushrooming throughout the state. 

“The governor is circling his wagons and appointing proponents of BDCP to every vacant water policy in his administration,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). 

The appointments were made less than three weeks after this reporter exposed a May 6 memorandum sent to Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff from DWR Director Mark Cowin revealing that two new organizations will be established within the agency to implement the Bay Delta Conservation Plan - a DWR BDCP Office and the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE) - beginning June 1. (http://www.fishsniffer.com/blogs/details/dwr-creates-two-new-divisions-to-implement-tunnel-plan/) 

The DCE will constitute a new joint powers authority overseen by a Program Manager under contract to the Department of Water Resources and staffed by representatives from DWR, the Metropolitan Water District and other water agencies, and private contractors. It will give water contractors who would benefit from the tunnel plan a key role in the construction planning for the project. 

The hollowness of Brown administration claims that the BDCP is founded on "science" was also exposed on Monday, May 19 when the Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) criticized the science in its review of the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement. 

"We find, however, that the science in this BDCP effort falls short of what the project requires...Our concerns raise issues that, if not addressed, may undermine the contributions of BDCP to meeting the co-equal goals for the Delta," the Delta ISB scientists wrote. 

That report followed numerous scathing criticisms of the plan's science from an array of federal and independent scientists and scientific panels over the past few years, who have said the construction of the tunnels may hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelta, green sturgeon and other fish species. 

The tunnel project, estimated to cost over $67 billion, would divert Sacramento River water for use by corporate agribusiness interests and Southern California water agencies. Under the guise of habitat "restoration," it would take vast tracts of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of agricultural production in order to irrigate toxic, drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. For more information, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org. 

To read the Delta ISB review, go to: http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/Attachments 

 

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