Moonbeam's Ditch

Edmund Gerald "Jerry" Brown Jr."s father, Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, once said to a group of supporters in Plumas County in the far north of the state that the state would take all the water in that region for Southern California. Realizing the gaff, he covered himself by saying he meant that a huge pipeline would be built from Canada to LA instead. Pat Brown was a true believer in dams, aqueducts and the whole panoply of water development for "this Great Big Number One State of Ours," particularly if the infrastructure had his name on it.
Gov. Jerry Brown (both a former governor and a present governor) waffled as much on the peripheral canal as he did on Prop. 13, the property tax initiative. His choice of Gerry Meral as assistant secretary of Natural Resources in charge of the Bay-Delta conservation planning and an advocate for a peripheral canal indicates the governor is for a peripheral canal.
Let us suggest a name for the peripheral canal as worthy of Jerry Brown as his father's name is worthy of  the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown California Aqueduct. Let's call the new "Delta conveyance," a peripheral canal by another name, "Moonbeam's Ditch."
Badlands Journal editorial board
Switchboard…Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog
Why We Work to Protect California's Bay-Delta Estuary…Doug Obegi’s Blog
Over the past several years, fights have raged in the Courts and Congress over protections for salmon and other endangered species in the Bay-Delta estuary. Much of the media coverage has focused on a small set of vocal critics of environmental protection.
On Hannity and on signs on I-5, the message is clear – we must choose between fish and people. But we all know that’s a false choice, that a healthy economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand.
The Bay-Delta is a great example of this; it is a place where farmers, fishermen, and local communities have deep roots and understand that a healthy environment sustains the economy. They know that their past and their future are linked to California’s largest
aquatic ecosystem.
But few people in California (and even fewer across the country) know where the Bay-Delta is located or are familiar with the communities that live there.
This is why NRDC today released this short film about farmers and salmon fishermen working together to protect California’s Bay-Delta estuary.
In the film, farmers and fishermen explain in their own words why protecting the Bay-Delta and its endangered species protects their jobs, and sustains their way of life.Protecting the Bay-Delta is about protecting our legacy as Californians. The farmers interviewed in the film are only a few of the thousands of family farmers working their fields on the islands in the Delta, as they have for generations. Likewise, the fishermen interviewed in the film are only a few of the thousands of fishing jobs in California that depend on healthy salmon runs, and of the hundreds of thousands of families that
want to again feel the thrill of a salmon on their fishing line, or enjoy grilling a salmon with friends and family. Protecting the Delta and ensuring sustainable water withdrawals protects their family farms, their fishing jobs, and ensures that future generations can enjoy wild salmon, steelhead, and a healthy environment. That’s one reason why a growing chorus is speaking up in opposition to efforts to sacrifice the Delta ecosystem and thousands of jobs for the benefit of a few.
But protecting the Bay-Delta is also about protecting the future of California, because much of the state depends on the Delta for part of its water supply, and because thestruggle over scarce water resources in the Delta will also play out across the West in coming decades, as climate change and population growth increase the stress on our rivers and wildlife. Finding sustainable water solutions is a challenge we must meet.
Working together, we can sustain our fisheries, farming, cities and the environment. The first step is to meaningfully reduce our reliance on water exports from the Delta by investing in proven, cost-effective improvements in water supply: groundwater, water efficiency, stormwater capture, and water recycling. Taking more water from the Delta, or worsening water quality in the Delta, is not the answer for the environment or for our economy.
But don’t take my word on it – watch the film and see for yourself. Talk with fishermen, or farmers in the Delta. Their livelihoods depend on the future of the Delta. Let’s join them, and help protect the legacy – and the future – of California.
Representatives of the Metropolitan Water District, State Water Contractors Association and San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority are holding closed-door meetings with Brown and Obama administration officials to create a finance plan for construction of the peripheral canal or tunnel, Restore the Delta revealed today.
This canal/tunnel, a key component of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), will divert Sacramento River water away from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California water agencies. Schwarzenegger relentlessly campaigned for the canal through the BDCP and Delta Vision processes while he was Governor - and the Brown and Obama administrations have decided to continue Schwarzenegger's abysmal environmental legacy.
In a public meeting of the BDCP in Sacramento on April 25, John Laird, Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, committed the agency to making the BDCP more inclusive of all of the stakeholders - and acknowledged the problems with the Schwarzenegger administration's requirement that participants sign an agreement agreeing to support the construction of the peripheral canal/tunnel.
"I believe that we cannot move forward without listening to the stakeholders around the state," said Laird. "The status quo on the Delta is unsustainable. There is no one from any group that believes in the status quo."
As recently as June, Jerry Meral, who has been given charge by the Brown Administration to lead the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, assured public participants that all processes underway through the BDCP were "open and transparent," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta.
However, video from the June 28, 2011 Metropolitan Water District Special Committee on the Bay Delta confirms that water contractors, including Metropolitan Water District's General Manager Roger Patterson, are already working with Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation officials to create the finance plan for new conveyance, said Barrigan-Parrilla. You can listen to a recording of the meeting here.
Barrigan-Parrilla points out, "The BDCP website describes work on project financing as not beginning until the fall of 2011 after determinations are made regarding benefits of new water deliveries for State and Federal Water Contractors. However, as we have always suspected, those who want to take additional water away from Northern California and the Delta are crafting a finance plan without California tax payer and/or rate payer input."
"How much more are urban water users in San Diego and Los Angeles willing to pay for water in order to finance this project?" asks California Delta Chambers Executive Director Bill Wells. "Can Central Valley farmers afford to farm if the price of water triples and quadruples to pay for a canal? And how much of the financial burden will be shifted to tax payers to cover the astronomical costs for environmental mitigation to the Delta?"
Barrigan-Parrilla maintains that Californians are being "hit very hard with cutbacks in education and essential services due to budget cuts." Therefore, Californians should have a say when it comes to large expenditures like building a canal or tunnel through the Delta - even if they will be asked only to finance a part of the project.
"The conflict between the Brown Administration's assertion that the Bay Delta Conservation plan is an open and transparent process and the real ongoing practice of dealing with the most important aspects of the BDCP in private is alarming," she states.
Barrigan-Parrilla asks, "Shouldn't these types of meetings on financing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan be noticed and open to the public? Why the secrecy if there is nothing to hide?"
As an independent investigative journalist who has uncovered conflicts of interest and violations of numerous laws under Schwarzenegger's BDCP, Delta Vision and Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative fiascos, I concur with Barrigan-Parrilla. If the water contractors indeed have nothing to hide, they should abide by Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, the Brown Act and other state laws and open all of their meetings to the public.
A broad coalition of recreational and commercial fishing groups, Indian Tribes, grassroots environmental organizations, family farmers, environmental justice advocates and Delta residents oppose the construction of the peripheral canal - "Arnold's Big Ditch" - because it would likely lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations.
"Most Delta farmers and residents oppose the BDCP not only because it would devastate fish populations and the fishing industry, but because it puts ALL of the burden on the Primary Zone of the Delta and Sacramento River watershed for habitat restoration and mitigation for Southern California's diversion of water," added Karen Medders, a resident of Clarksburg in the North Delta and peripheral canal opponent.
The BDCP process to build a peripheral canal is a parallel process to the MLPA Initiative to create a network of controversial "marine protected areas" off the California coast.
The promoters of both processes claim that they are "open and transparent" - when they are anything but.
The Brown and Obama administrations are going ahead with Arnold Schwarzenegger's plans to build a peripheral canal/tunnel by meeting with water exporters in closed-door meetings.
Meanwhile, the Brown administration continues to forge ahead with the MLPA Initiative, in spite of the violations of state, federal and international laws that have occurred under the process, funded privately by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.
George Osborn, spokesman for a coalition of recreational fishing organizations, presented a 25 page document documenting illegal private, non-public meetings of Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) officials to the California Fish and Game Commission during its
meeting on February 2 in Sacramento. United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and Bob Fletcher, members of the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO),
filed suit in San Diego Superior Court in late January, seeking to overturn South Coast and North Central Coast MLPA closures, alleging violations of the State Administrative Procedure Act.
During his brief public testimony, Osborn exposed the corruption and violations of law by the MLPA's Blue Ribbon Task Force:
"After reviewing the documents turned over to us, which previously the BRTF had improperly withheld from the public, we now have evidence, indicating that the public meetings of the BRTF have been an elaborately staged kabuki performance, choreographed and rehearsed down to the last detail, even to the crafting of motions, in scheduled private meetings held before the so-called public meetings of the BRTF," said Osborn.
"Clearly, this has not been the most open and transparent process, as it has so often been described."
In both the case of the BDCP and the MLPA, we are definitely seeing a classic case of, "Meet the new boss - same as the old boss," as The Who sang many years ago.
As these two controversial processes proceed, the carnage continues at the state and federal water export pumps on the Delta. An alarming 8,538,859 Sacramento splittail and 35,202 Central Valley chinook salmon were "salvaged" in the Delta pumping facilities from January 1, 2011 to June 26, 2011. The number of splittail, a native minnow, "salvaged" to date is greater than in any previous years since the federal and state governments started keeping records on splittail in 1993.
A description of the financing plan is available on the BDCP website.
Tracy Press
Second Thoughts: A voice for California’s flyover country…Jon Mendelson Tracy Press
Finally, a study is standing up for the San Joaquin Delta.
So far, folks in the Delta — including many farmers and water users in San Joaquin County — have been the flyover country in the debate about how to ensure stable delivery of quality water to places where the wet stuff isn’t.
The Public Policy Institute of California, UC Davis and other outfits have largely spat out plans and analysis boosting the death of the Delta via peripheral canal or tunnel. But the Delta Protection Commission is bringing a measure of Delta-centric sanity with its newly minted draft report.
Overlooked by conventional wisdom, the commission says, is the $200 million-a-year hit the Delta farm industry alone could suffer if the canal were built. That figure is worst-case and would more likely be in the $50 million range, the report’s writers have conceded, but the potential for damage exceeds the $85 million caused to south-Central Valley farmers by a perfect storm of drought, environmental restrictions and poor planting practices.
(And many of those West Side Central Valley farmers were using subsidized water to till land that was never good for sustainable farming, anyway, but that’s a story for another column.)
The Delta Protection Commission also says the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan — the plan that somehow thinks the Delta would be protected by shipping high-quality water around it — greatly overestimates the worth of a canal to its beneficiaries and continually downplays the value of Delta communities. The commission also declared that the other reports underestimate the damage to farmers, cities, recreation and wildlife caused by increased salinity in the Delta, an inevitable fact of building a peripheral canal or tunnel.
In short, the commission
recommends that “the Stewardship Council (responsible for ensuring California’s water supply and protecting and restoring the Delta) … seek out more impartial and accurate sources when it comes to economic analysis.”
Thanks, guys, for stepping up for a region that’s worth $2.8 billion a year in agriculture.
The defense is especially timely. Because right now, our state’s most important estuary needs all the protection it can get.
Just this month, activist group Restore the Delta caught canal supporters hammering out a backroom deal with members of the governor’s and president’s administrations to get their pipe dream on the fast track.
“… Those who want to take additional water away from Northern California and the Delta are crafting a finance plan without California taxpayer and/or ratepayer input,” said Restore the Delta’s Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, as quoted by journalist Dan Bacher.
According to Barrigan-Parilla, with whom I’ve spoken before regarding California’s water wars, these meetings haven’t been publicly noticed and haven’t been open to scrutiny.
If you needed more proof that a canal is a pre-desired outcome — no mind to the cost, common sense or ill effects — this is it.
At this point, Delta residents and workers aren’t even at the kids’ table. They’re locked outside, with precious little input about their fate.
That must change, because it’s those folks who will bear the heaviest burden of this 21st century water grab.
But why should Tracy care? That’s the crucial question around here.
Why should Tracy go to bat for the Delta? Why not get behind a pumping and peripheral canal plan? Especially when the city pulls a portion
of its water supply from the Delta-Mendota Canal, a source that would theoretically improve in quality and reliability if a canal were built, and especially when farmers just south and west of the city rely on that pumped water to keep their outfits afloat?
Aside from it being the right thing, you mean? OK, then.
I’ve called Tracy the Crossroads of California because of its railroads and interstates. But it’s also true when it comes to water. Tracy uses both pre-pumped water (from the Stanislaus River) and post-pumped water (from the Delta-Mendota), and surrounding farms use a similar hodgepodge of water sources.
That split interest — putting us on neither one side nor the other — gives Tracy’s voice weight and the chance to be a clear-eyed arbiter.
Tracy’s unique place puts its leaders and residents in a position to be a voice of reason.
And reason suggests, at the very least, that those who call the Delta home should have a voice in a decision that could forever alter their way of life.