by Elizabeth Lasensky and Carol Warren
The following letter was submitted for the public record regarding the Delta Tunnels project. The last day to submit public comments about the Tunnels project is October 30, 2015. More information on the Tunnels can be found at Restore the Delta’s website: http://restorethedelta.org/
The members of Yolo MoveOn urge Gov. Brown to please reconsider his support of the proposed Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnels. Our members live in Davis, Dixon, Fairfield and Woodland. Each of our communities is closely tied to the delta in multiple ways.
The economic and environmental vitality of the delta is important to us, physically, psychologically, financially and socially. There are 4 million people living in the delta, with a $6 billion recreation and farming economy dependent on delta water quality and quantity, which also is the life source for the San Francisco Bay Estuary.
The proposed twin tunnels will take up to two-thirds of the fresh water from the Sacramento River to send to private Big Agriculture growing water-intensive crops in the desert. It is estimated that the cost of the delta tunnels project will be around $60 billion. Nearly a quarter of a billion dollars has been spent on this plan so far to move water that is already oversubscribed.
The proposed tunnels plan would displace farmers for 14 years and put coastal fishermen out of work. Construction and heavy equipment will be devastating for fish and wildlife. Boron, selenium and other heavy metals from the San Joaquin River will be carried into the delta, compromising the drinking water of Contra Costa County.
Every day this year, water quality standards for the delta have been violated by the state. They have allowed water exporters to pump too much water out of the delta during the drought. Plus, the water exporters have never been forced to pay for the fish screens that they were required to provide at the existing water export pumps near Tracy.
With declining fish populations, such negligence is irresponsible and reprehensible. The area’s salmon already have declined 90 percent in the last three years of drought. Further, habitat restoration that originally was part of the tunnels plan cannot replace the fresh water that salmon, smelt, sturgeon and American shad need to survive.
With this massive, expensive and environmentally damaging plan, Yolo MoveOn members want to know where the actual water for the tunnels will come from. What will that do to the water source area? How long are water exports from Northern California supplies sustainable? Has there been an analysis of the economic and environmental impacts on those regions?
We also would like to know how much water will be available for export through the tunnels in a drought, after prior water rights and public trust needs are met? If there isn’t any, how often will the tunnels be dry? This consideration seems particularly critical when predictions are for more droughts and less snowpack in the future as climate change progresses.
Additionally, we understand that the majority of habitat designated for restoration under California Eco Restore is for prior damage. How can that help with habitat restoration and mitigation for the tunnels?
Lastly, will the state conduct a full cost-benefit analysis of the project that includes the value of freshwater to the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary?
In the absence of answers to these important questions, Yolo MoveOn members strongly urge that the delta tunnels project be permanently shelved and a more comprehensive, equitable and environmentally sensitive water policy be adopted.
— Elizabeth Lasensky and Carol Warren are co-chairs of Yolo MoveOn