Congressman Garamendi Decries Costly Bay-Delta Plan in Community Meeting

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Before a packed and lively audience of Glenn and Butte county residents, Representative John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), President Bill Clinton’s former Deputy Interior Secretary, explained yesterday why the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) would be a costly and counterproductive policy for California to pursue.

“The twin tunnels proposal is a $25 billion boondoggle paid for by the middle class taxpayer and water users. However, it doesn’t even create one new drop of water,” said Representative Garamendi while debating a representative from the Governor’s office. “This plan would take 100,000 acres of prime agricultural land in the Delta out of production so that 100,000 acres of marginal desert land in the San Joaquin Valley can continue to produce heavily subsidized crops.”

Garamendi presented his alternative proposal, “A Water Plan for All Californians.” Unlike the disastrous BDCP, which doesn’t create a drop of new water, Garamendi’s plan is a balanced approach that actually creates more water for the entire state.

The forum featured Dr. Jerry Meral, Governor Brown’s advocate for the twin tunnels, Ara Azhderian, a representative for the Westlands Water District, and Jonas Minton, Water Policy Advisor for the Planning and Conservation League, who proposed an alternative plan that shares many of the same priorities as Rep. Garamendi’s plan.

The community forum was themed, “Understanding the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and Alternative Proposals: How Will Sacramento Valley Interests Be Addressed?” The Butte County Department of Water and Resource Conservation and the Glenn County Water Advisory Committee co-hosted the event, and Paul Gosselin, Director of the Butte County Water and Resource Conservation, served as the moderator.

“The BDCP is a giant and expensive plumbing system that takes water from the Delta and pulls it down south. The twin tunnels are a pink slip for farmers, fishermen, and people working in tourism in my district,” explained Congressman Garamendi. “We can do better. With commonsense investments in levee improvements, water recycling, and conservation, along with a science-based water system that anticipates surplus water levels in the Delta while building the capacity to store more water throughout the state, we can improve water access while protecting Northern California water rights and preparing for the population spike we all know is coming.”

Almost all of the attendees at the event were very concerned about the BDCP’s impact on Northern California’s water supply and reliability. The Administration could only provide vague assurances to the audience that their water rights would be protected, despite the enormous capacity of the twin tunnels system. Everyone in the room agreed that new and improved storage has to be part of California’s water solution, despite the fact that the BDCP devotes no resources to new storage. The alternative proposals by Rep. Garamendi and the Planning and Conservation League, both of which include new storage, were well received.

A number of audience members expressed concerns about Northern California water rights, preserving water sheds in the region, and maintaining sufficient water for Northern California’s many farms and fishing waters. The audience was also deeply critical of the farmers in the Westlands Water District in Fresno and Kings counties who are shifting to more water intensive crops despite operating in parts of California that are naturally desert lands. The Delta and northern river communities were among California’s first farming communities, precisely because they can sustain productive farms without massive new taxpayer-funded plumbing.

Garamendi continued, “It’s not too late for the Administration to rethink its approach to California water problems. Instead of a $25 billion boondoggle, working together as one California, we can have a balanced approach that meets the needs of the entire state.”

To demonstrate the degree to which the BDCP is being pushed on the state without sufficient review, Garamendi alerted the audience to draft environmental documents by federal agencies that found the California Department of Water Resources’ draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) to be “biased” and “insufficient.”

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service were responsible for that analysis.

Garamendi, a Delta resident since the 1970s, led the fight to stop the peripheral canal in 1982. He is prepared to do the same if the Administration moves forward with the twin tunnels, but he is hopeful that all parties can get back to the negotiating table and work out a plan that protects the needs of the entire state.

Article provided by office of Congressman John Garamendi who represents Davis and parts of Yolo County in the US House of Representatives.

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7 thoughts on “Congressman Garamendi Decries Costly Bay-Delta Plan in Community Meeting”

  1. Don Shor

    The article here states, without quotation marks or attribution:
    [quote]Unlike the disastrous BDCP, which doesn’t create a drop of new water, Garamendi’s plan is a balanced approach that actually creates more water for the entire state.[/quote]
    So is this just a Garamendi press release, printed verbatim?

  2. Don Shor

    Here’s a more balanced discussion: [url]http://mavensnotebook.com/2013/07/25/radio-show-transcript-jerry-meral-and-jonas-minton-discuss-the-bay-delta-conservation-plan/[/url]

  3. Don Shor

    The pdf on this page gives a good overview of the delta project: [url]http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/docs/council-meeting/2013-04-18/delta-stewardship-council-april-25-2013-meeting-agenda-item-4a-legal[/url]
    There are several aspects of Garamendi’s overall strategy that overlap with the Bay Delta plan. But he calls for a much smaller conveyance system, and seems to be coming late to a process that has unfolded over many years — a process that has brought all of the major interest groups to the table and forged a workable compromise process and solution.

    Many aspects have yet to be finalized (as you can see on the pdf I linked). But local leaders like Garamendi need to be at the table fighting for strict quality standards and guaranteed flows. Unfortunately, local leaders, responsive to local opposition to ANY Delta project, have tended to be rather shrill in their rhetoric. As a consequence, they’ve had little impact because they are viewed as obstructionist.

    I don’t like a lot of his rhetoric on this topic. I note that various candidates to replace Mariko are adopting similar rhetoric. I don’t expect local politicians to commit political suicide. But I would prefer to see them help with building consensus. It’s been a long process from the early days of CalFed in the 1990’s, and it’s been remarkable to watch disparate water interests — ag, cities, environmental groups, fisheries experts — accept the Delta Stewardship council framework.

  4. JustSaying

    Garamendi is as knowledgable as anyone about this area and the history of efforts to deal with the issues. I’d certainly trust his knowhow and instincts about how to proceed for this point. A smaller project might be do-able, cost-effective and adequate.

    There’s also the knawing suspicion that any CalFed-BDCP project’s main objective is to mollify desert agriculture interests (before their city neighbors take “their water”) at the expense of Northern California’s water users. It’s almost impossible for anyone to trust and consensus about water in a state like ours with an unbroken history of water lies.

  5. Don Shor

    Congressman Garamendi represents the Delta residents and landowners in this issue. That is an important interest group, but not the only stakeholder in the water plan. Water doesn’t originate in the Delta, nor is it owned by the Delta residents nor Northern California. It is owned by the whole state. The Delta is part of the plumbing. And state taxpayers, including the much-reviled ‘desert agriculture interests’ and Southern Californians, have as much right to water that passes through the state’s plumbing as the rest of us do.
    It is possible that he brings special expertise to this subject. But what he really brings is an interest-group viewpoint, and a fairly narrow one.
    Here are the council members and advisers. This isn’t a lightweight group, and there is good representation across the range of interests that are competing for water:

    Science advisory board to the Delta Stewardship Council:
    http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/science-board/delta-isb-members

    Delta council members:
    http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/delta-council-members

    As our congressman, he should be fighting for funding for water projects in Davis and Woodland — it is the Delta water quality standards that are driving the state water regs that were at the heart of the need for the surface water project. He should be fighting for water supplies for the Delta cities. He should be at the table fighting for tighter water quality standards, ensuring that the flow rates are fair to all parties, pushing for as much habitat protection as he can. He runs the risk, using the rhetoric he’s shown here, of simply not being at the table. He can simply ask the other local legislators how their seeming intransigence has fared in getting them a voice in the process.

  6. Nancy Price

    Just to be clear, if I am correct, the water in CA is not owned by anyone. The water is held in “trust” by the state and by means of a system of water rights various categories of users have the “right” to use the water. As a “price” has come to be afixed to quantity of water allocated by the state to various categories of users, water has come to be seen and treated more as a commodity to be bought and sold with the price determined by the market place, rather than a precious commons on which all life depends and so treated by all.

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