Admittedly, Jerry Brown was never the best California governor at picking staffers, even with his extensive experience. Jerry Meral, his assistant secretary of the state Natural Resource sAgency is an ethically disadvantaged green Sacramento hack, who has been in favor of peripheral conveyances for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta since the people rejected the peripheral canals in 1982.
But, why go after him now? For the first time, possibly in his public life, he seems to be telling the truth. And it is a dangerous truth for his career, for this second farcical Brown administration, for west side San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and housing development in Southern California.
You will have to read farther to find MERAL'S AMAZING STATEMENT.
But here's a hint:
Natural Resources Agency Deputy Director Jerry Meral said, "BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved."
Badlands Journal editorial board
Los Angeles Times
ON POLITICS IN THE GOLDEN STATE
Congressional Democrats demand resignation of Brown appointee
By Anthony York
SACRAMENTO -- Five Congressional Democrats have demanded the resignation of a top official in Gov. Jerry Brown's administration for comments the official allegedly made about the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The controversy surrounds Jerry Meral, deputy director of the state Natural Resources Agency, who allegedly told officials that Brown's water plan was never about saving the delta and that in fact the delta could not be saved.
That contradicts statements made by Brown who has said his plan would include measures to restore the delta, the confluence of the two rivers and the San Francisco Bay, which serves as the primary source of drinking water for most of the state's residents.
Brown administration officials were not immediately available for comment.
The region is at the heart of a controversial $23-billion plan by Brown to build two massive new tunnels that would divert water around the delta to Southern California. Democrats and Republicans around the delta have criticized Brown's proposal, saying it would jeopardize the future of central California's water in order to benefit residents in the southern half of the state.
Democratic members of Congress from Central California issued joint statement blasted Meral's alleged comments and demanded his political hide.
"Director Meral's comments suggest the Brown administration has violated the public trust," said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez). "The administration needs to be forthcoming as to whether they intend to honor their stated goal to restore the region's already struggling habitat or whether this is simply a water grab which will drive the Bay-Delta to ruin."
Other Democrats who signed the statement include Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).
Chronicles of the Hydraulic Brotherhood
Brown administration official claims 'Delta can't be saved
by Dan Bacher
http://www.fishsniffer.com/blogs/details/brown-administration-official-c... prefix = u1 />
Recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Indian tribal leaders, family farmers, environmentalists, Delta residents and many elected officials strongly oppose the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels because they say it will lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon, steelhead and other fish species.
Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Governor Jerry Brown have constantly portrayed the BDCP as a visionary effort based on "science" to accomplish the "co-equal goals" of "ecosystem restoration" and "water supply reliability."
"Science has and will continue to drive a holistic resolution securing our water supply and substantially restoring the Deltas lost habitat," said Laird on March 28. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/28/1197717/-More-Bay-Delta-Conserv...)
However, a Brown administration official recently admitted that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan has nothing to do with saving the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the estuary that salmon, steehead, sturgeon, Delta smelt, striped bass and a host of other species depend on for survival.
While speaking with Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) at a meeting with Northern California's Native American Tribes on Monday, April 15, Natural Resources Agency Deputy Director Jerry Meral said, "BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved."
"I was flabbergasted because that's not what we've been told by politicians and state officials," said Stokely after the meeting.
"Now if Governor Brown and State officials would just stop pretending it's a habitat plan to save fish when speaking with the press," according to Restore the Delta's "Delta Flows" newsletter (http://www.restorethedelta.org/or-is-it-the-point/)
Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, commented, "It is indeed ironic that the BDCP, a supposed habitat conservation plan/natural communities conservation plan developed pursuant, respectively, to the federal and state Endangered Species Act, is not about saving the Delta or its fish. It is rather a giant water grab by Westside San Joaquin agribusiness and SoCal land speculators. Meral has just admitted what we've been saying all along - that the BDCP is a trojan horse for a massive heist of California's water."
Political science, not natural science, drives BDCP
Meanwhile, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have released new "red flag" documents in response to the administrative draft of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan that indicate that the prognosis for fish survival under the BDCP is not good, in contrast with Secretary Laird false claim that the BDCP process is driven by "science."
These documents identify issues with BDCP that would make the fisheries agencies unwilling to issue the necessary "take" permits for a habitat conservation plan under the Endangered Species Act.
"For example, the NMFS response identifies a potential for increased salmon egg morality upstream resulting from release operations at Keswisk Reservoir at Shasta required by BDCP. Juvenile salmon in the Sacramento River would also be at risk under some scenarios," according to Restore the Delta (RTD).
"The likely extinction of winter and spring run Chinook salmon is an inevitable consequence of shifting water exports to the Spring months, which is what BDCP wants to do. Reducing flows in the upper Sacramento River in Summer and Fall of dry years creates problems that are not going to go away," RTD stated.
As for habitat in the Delta offsetting the loss of fresh water for fish, the USFWS called the prospects for fish such as Delta smelt and longfin smelt "uncertain."
"Since the point of a habitat conservation plan is to make things better for threatened species, not worse, you'd think a problem like this would be a game-changer. And it would, if the game weren't rigged. It would be just like BDCP planners to tweak the models to eliminate or disguise the obvious problems that keep arising when they look for ways to get lots of export water without harming fish," RTD said.
As Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said, "The common people will pay for the tunnels and a few people will make millions. It will turn a once pristine waterway into a sewer pipe. It will be bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan may be be based on "science," but it's political science, not natural science, that drives the process. The only real goal of the BDCP is to export massive amounts of water to corporate agribusiness, Southern California water agencies and the oil industry, which is now expanding fracking operations in Kern County and coastal areas.
For more information, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org.
The Brown administration's terrible environmental record
The rush to build the peripheral canal or tunnel is not the only abysmal Schwarzenegger administration policy that the Governor Jerry Brown administration has continued and expanded.
Brown and Natural Resources Secretary John Laird continued the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative started by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2004. The conflicts of interest, failure to comprehensively protect the ocean, shadowy private funding, incomplete and terminally flawed science and violation of the Yurok Tribe's traditional harvesting rights have made the MLPA Initiative to create so-called marine proected areas into one of the worst examples of corporate greenwashing in California history.
In a huge conflict of interest, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California. Reheis-Boyd, the oil industry's lead lobbyist for fracking, offshore oil drilling, the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the evisceration of environmental laws, also served on the MLPA task forces for the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast.
The Brown administration also authorized the export of record water amounts of water from the Delta in 2011 6,520,000 acre-feet, 217,000 acre feet more than the previous record of 6,303,000 acre feet set in 2005 under the Schwarzenegger administration.
Brown also presided over the "salvage" of a record 9 million Sacramento splittail and over 2 million other fish including Central Valley salmon, steelhead, striped bass, largemouth bass, threadfin shad, white catfish and sturgeon in 2011. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/07/carnage-in-the-pumps/)
Other environmental policies of the Schwarzenegger administration that Brown and Laird have continued include engineering the collapse of six Delta fish populations by pumping massive quantities of water out of the Delta; presiding over the annual stranding of endangered coho salmon on the Scott and Shasta rivers; clear cutting forests in the Sierra Nevada; supporting legislation weakening the California Environmental Water Quality Act (CEQA); and embracing the corruption and conflicts of interests that infest California environmental processes and government bodies ranging from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to the regional water boards.
The big divide over water: Plan balances the needs of the ecosystem and exporters
By Jerry Meral
Special to The Bee
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Can the state relieve the crisis in the Delta in a way that serves the needs of both Northern and Southern California? If so, how? Add your comment below. To write a letter, go to sacbee.com/sendletter. Or comment on our Facebook page at facebook.com/sacramentobee.
California has an extraordinary opportunity to make its water supplies safer and more secure. We can avoid the devastating economic impacts of a natural disaster. We can restore the ecological health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and enhance Delta communities. We are, at last, positioned to achieve these significant benefits through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
In the past decade, the United States has suffered two devastating natural disasters: Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. An economically ruinous, highly predictable similar disaster would result in great damage to California.
A so-called "atmospheric river" storm and flood event, which occurs about every 150 years, would result in the long-term or permanent loss of the Delta as a water supply for much of the state. The last such event was 151 years ago.
The Delta is formed at sea level near Stockton by the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. After some water is used upstream by farms and cities, additional water is used to farm the Delta islands. More water is pumped to the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The rest flows into San Francisco Bay.
Once mostly tule-rich wetlands providing habitat for millions of waterfowl, fish and other wildlife, the Delta has been converted almost entirely to farmed islands. Farming the peat soil has caused many of these islands to subside up to 30 feet below sea level. The subsidence continues.
By the end of this century, climate change could cause the sea level in the Delta to rise by almost 5 feet. It will become virtually impossible to maintain the levees that protect the deeply subsided Delta islands from inundation from the sea.
But even before sea level rise overwhelms the islands' defenses, a major earthquake or flood can be expected to breach many of the levees. If the island levees break during high winds and high tides, waves forming inside the flooded islands could melt away many of the remaining levees, making island restoration extremely expensive or impracticable.
The effects would spread far beyond the Delta. Three million acres of irrigated farmland in the San Joaquin Valley depend in whole or in part on the Delta water supply, and more than 25 million people also rely on the Delta for all or part of their water supply.
Some parts of urban California are very dependent on the Delta. Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley get more than 40 percent of their water supply from the Delta; southern Alameda County gets 80 percent; northern Contra Costa County almost 100 percent, and Southern California more than 25 percent.
If the Delta levees could not be repaired, economic damages would exceed $10 billion per year until a water transfer facility could be completed.
No one knows precisely when a catastrophic event might occur, but it can be expected to occur before the end of the century. This is not an argument to curtail the state assistance California has provided to private landowners in the Delta to help them maintain their levees. In the past 10 years, the state has spent more than $300 million in levee maintenance subsidies. This expenditure is justified because the levees protect the islands, the $800 million Delta farm economy, Delta communities and state highways, utility corridors, and water and gas pipelines that are important across the region and state.
Delta farmers fear that if the state builds a tunnel to connect the Sacramento River to the state and federal pumps in the south Delta, bypassing the Delta channels, there will be no incentive for the state to maintain local levees. That wouldn't happen.
First, protection of public safety demands that these investments continue. Keeping the Delta's economy and infrastructure viable is without question in the state's interest. Second, as long as Delta channels and islands are intact, it will be possible to export water from the San Joaquin River when safe for fish populations and water quality.
Having new water intakes 35 miles from the existing pumps would improve the ability of California's major water projects to divert water when and where it does the least ecological harm. This is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed project.
Delta farmers also fear the loss of fresh water in Delta channels if water is diverted upstream at the Sacramento River. The extremely strong water rights of Delta landowners make this fear unjustified. Water belonging to Delta farmers cannot be diverted by other users, and the state and federal water projects must meet water quality standards in the Delta regardless of where they pump.
Some Delta residents argue that massive investments in the Delta levees could prevent the eventual collapse of multiple Delta islands. Geologists and engineers disagree. They say such an investment may only defer an inundation that cannot be permanently prevented. The state must invest scarce resources strategically, and plan for the most likely scenario, given the statewide economic impact of a disaster.
The Delta environment must also be improved. At least 29 species of Delta wildlife are threatened or endangered. Salmon, sandhill cranes, Swainson's hawks, river otters, and myriad other plant and animal species would benefit from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's improvement of tens of thousands of acres of habitat in the Delta and Suisun Marsh. Much restoration would occur on existing publicly owned land. Agricultural land also would be preserved for those wildlife species that depend on it. Some less productive farmland would be converted to tidal marsh and other types of habitat.
Local construction impacts must be mitigated, including paying counties property taxes and fees on land used for habitat. This program must benefit the Delta counties, not cause local economic harm.
Furthermore, in addressing the Delta's problems, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will not impair the water rights of those using water upstream. When water is released from state and federal dams to protect sensitive fish species, these releases may not negatively impact other water users, and the obligation to release this water must not be transferred to other water users.
In 1933, and again in 1960, the voters of California approved construction of what became the federal and state water projects, an investment equivalent to tens of billions of dollars today. They are a vital part of the California economy. An investment of only $15 billion – the estimated cost of a new Delta conveyance system – would secure these supplies from disaster and prevent an economic calamity, as well as secure the health of the Delta ecosystem.
The state and federal governments are dedicated to preventing this disaster from occurring, and are working together to protect California's economy and its environment for decades to come.
Our water supply must become safer and more secure. With an improved Delta, millions of working families will be able to turn on a tap and have water, farmers will irrigate the fields that produce our food, our high-tech economy will continue to grow jobs, and native salmon and smelt will thrive. The Delta is our future. We all have a share in it.
Jerry Meral is deputy secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency.
Viewpoints: Twin tunnels water grab is doomed to fail
Carolee Krieger is president and executive directort and executive director of the California Water Impact Network, online at www.c-win.org.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a scheme to divert water from the Sacramento River around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south state via two 35-mile-long tunnels, is touted by proponents as the last great hope for the Delta's beleaguered fisheries.
The twin tunnels, they claim, will greatly reduce the number of salmon, striped bass, sturgeon, Delta smelt and other species that are now lethally diverted into canals and ditches or reduced to gruel by the giant federal and state water project pumps in the south Delta.
Commercial fishermen, sport anglers and conservationists have been wary of this hype – and recent comments from the National Marine Fisheries Service indicate their concerns are well-founded.
In a comment letter to the Brown administration released last week, the fisheries service noted there are six critical issues in the plan that remain unaddressed by the California Department of Water Resources and 18 issues where work is ongoing but still unresolved. The service noted that only one issue of concern has been settled to the satisfaction of federal scientists.
In terms of direct fisheries threats, the agency noted that the twin tunnels may work in malign concert with climate change to drive the endangered Sacramento winter-run chinook salmon to extinction. More broadly, states the letter, the diversions enabled by the tunnels could reduce the Sacramento's flow to the point that salmon and other fish would find migration impossible.
The agency also observed that claims of the project's environmental benefits are overblown, particularly in regard to the proposed restoration of 65,000 acres of fisheries and wildlife habitat. The fisheries service said such an effort is unlikely to succeed because it will be difficult to acquire all the needed land. Indeed, the letter notes, the Department of Water Resources has not provided any specific feasibility analysis to identify just how this land will be obtained, and at what cost. Rather, Water Resources blithely bases related analyses on the assumption the restoration will be successful; there are no "bounding analyses" examining the effects of the twin tunnels if habitat restoration does not proceed as planned.
Further, the letter states, Brown administration claims of the positive impacts of the planned habitat restorations are probably exaggerated. One of the goals of the restoration is the expansion of habitat for juvenile salmon and other fish during moderate to wet years. While this habitat won't be available to fish during dry years, DWR characterizes such events as rare. To the contrary: as the fisheries service points out, below-normal to low water years occur 40 percent of the time.
Though it is couched in polite language, the fisheries service's analysis should not be construed as anything but a rejection of the twin tunnels project. Given that the current administration in Washington is Democratic, and Gov. Jerry Brown is by any reasonable evaluation the most powerful Democratic governor in the union, any federal demurral, no matter how fastidious in construction, must be considered a forthright condemnation of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
Even Gov. Brown's determination to build mammoth "legacy" infrastructure projects cannot hide the shoddy science and duplicitous huckstering behind this boondoggle – and federal scientists were obliged to point this out.
Nor do the federal comments address the tremendous burden this project will impose on California citizens. Indeed, the price tag trumps even the profound environmental impacts as a reason for rejecting the conservation plan.
Administration officials peg the costs for the twin tunnels at $24.5 billion. Past experience has taught us to accept such figures at our financial peril. All we have to do is look to Southern California for an example.
In 1991, Central Coast water agencies supported the construction of the coastal branch, an aqueduct that connected to the State Water Project. The state assured participants the cost for the project would tally out at $270 million. Twenty years later, ratepayers are saddled with $1.76 billion in debt and maintenance charges – and they're worse off in terms of water security. Due to high statewide water demands and scant supplies, the four coastal cities receive no more than 36 percent of their allotted water.
We can anticipate similar price inflation for the twin tunnels. Nor will the project guarantee additional supplies for the parched south state.
Jerry Meral, deputy director of natural resources in charge of implementing the conservation plan, acknowledged the tunnels are simply a delivery system for existing water, designed to shuttle Sacramento River flows around the Delta in as expeditious a manner as possible. They will do nothing to augment supplies.
California deserves a better plan. In fact, one exists – a rational and cost-effective strategy based on conservation, recycling, groundwater recharge and the retirement of impaired agricultural lands.
For details, please go to www.c-win.org/webfm_send/296.
Governor urges fast review of Delta tunnels
By Matt Weiser
Gov. Jerry Brown wants federal officials to expedite review of the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan, his proposal to build two giant water diversion tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
In a letter to the U.S. secretaries of Interior and Commerce, Brown called on the agencies to release an environmental impact statement and Federal Register notice on the project this summer. The intent is to ensure this process coincides with his own administration's plan to release a state-level environmental impact report and associated planning documents.
"l stand willing to mobilize whatever resources we have at our disposal to assist the federal government in their document review," Brown wrote in the letter, sent Monday. "My office staff and Department of Water Resources, theagency responsible for the plan, are ready and able to provide funding, staff time, consulting, or whatever else it takes to get this done."
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan calls for three pumping stations on the Sacramento River to divert water into two giant tunnels. The tunnels, each 35 miles long and 40 feet in diameter, would deliver water to existing state and federal diversion canals near Tracy. The plumbing is projected to cost $14 billion, to be funded by water agencies that benefit from the tunnels.
Associated habitat projects, totaling 100,000 acres and another $4 billion, would be funded by state taxpayers at large.
The project seeks 50-year operating permits under both the state and federal endangered species acts, hence the dual processes.
The Brown administration intends to complete its approval by the end of this year. But there are signs that approval by both state and federal agencies may slip into 2014 or even 2015, given the project's complexities.
Federal fishery agencies, which are overseen by Interior and Commerce, continue to express serious concerns about the project's effect on Delta wildlife, as stated in detailed comment letters they submitted just two weeks ago.
"Whenever you have schedule slippages, it costs money," said Richard Stapler, spokesman for the state Natural Resources Agency. "We just wanted to impress upon them that we'd like to stick with the current schedule."
Brown's letter comes amid increasing pressure from water agencies funding the project, which includes Kern County Water Agency, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Westlands Water District. They have committed to pay $240 million toward planning efforts, nearly all of which has been spent over the past seven years.
They are growing concerned that delaying approval beyond this year will require still more money.
The Kern County Water Agency wrote Brown in February, threatening to "withdraw" from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan if federal agencies don't finish reviewing the project -- and support it -- by July 1.
"Our position is, if it's going to cost more than $240 million before the public draft comes out, we don't have any ability to fund that for you," said Brent Walthall, assistant general manager of the Kern County agency.
Delta residents, along with many environmental groups, oppose the project and are skeptical of attempts to speed up the approval process.
"Cutting corners is not a way to get a successful outcome," said Doug Obegi, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Using sound science is, even if that means we have to take less water out of the Delta."