By Bob Saunders
Special to The Vanguard
SACRAMENTO, CA – There have been, for more than a century in California, huge political battles fought at the State Capitol and throughout the state for water. There’s good reason.
The Sacramento River Basin provides drinking water for residents of northern and southern California, supplies farmers with the lifeblood of California’s agricultural industry, and is a vital organ for hundreds of wildlife species, including four separate runs of Chinook salmon.
It is also home to more than 2.8 million northern Californians. From the mountains, to the valley, to the small towns and cities, it is the place where we live, work, eat, drink and play.
All, or mostly all of the watershed is threatened by a number of issues that are currently harming and/or threatening, and may permanently destroy the sensitive areas involved – from damming of rivers, leaching of heavy metals, the use of pesticides and herbicides, pharmaceuticals, mercury toxicity, plastics and micro plastics, privatization by corporate entities, mass water bottling operations by global corporations, mismanagement practices and of course, climate change.
In fact, several reports came out last year that mentioned the fact that we have both micro plastics and glyphosate in our bodies. It is unknown what that will do to our health given the fact that it is not measured within each individual person nor evaluated by most people’s physicians.
If you drink water or wine in California, or eat rice, vegetables, nuts and fruits, or use natural gas to heat your home, all of those goods are available to you at the relatively low price you pay because of the Delta’s existence.
There always is some kind of special event or festival along the Delta, or there was, until the encroachment of those interests looking to grab more of the Delta’s water through a Delta Tunnel water conveyance boondoggle plan, heavy construction, shutting down bridges and ferries, etc., negatively affecting traveling freely in the Delta.
The stakes could hardly be higher. Gov. Gavin Newsom, like governors before him, wants to overhaul how water moves through the delta. He’s proposing a 30-mile tunnel that would streamline the delivery of water from the Sacramento River, a bid to halt the ongoing devastation of the delta’s wetlands and wildlife while ensuring its flows continue to provide for the rest of the state.
Unfortunately, this opens the Delta waterway to a plethora of dangerous issues…salt water intrusion, negatively affecting San Franciscans drinking water, lower capacity water levels that would affect fishing and boating for commercial business owners who rely on this for their living, the loss of more and more species (the famed Delta Smelt is almost completely extinct), invasive plants not part of the local environment, toxic runoff from herbicides, and more.
The pressures of climate change on water supplies have only increased the urgency to act. And the coronavirus pandemic and months of shelter-in-place orders haven’t slowed the planning as Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Metropolitan Water District in Southern California (MWD) have had meetings both in private, and held a few Zoom meetings to “listen” to the public.
A tense situation is unfolding even as many Californians’ attention is distracted elsewhere.
There is a long history of California fighting over its water, including the fight over the Delta for the past 50 years. The names of the project may have changed, but the goal and focus remained the same…divert the Delta water for profit and gain.
For too long a time, water, an incredible and necessary life source, is seen as a commodity to be bought and sold.
There are people on one side (water agencies like DWR and the MWD, wealthy Big Ag corporate farmers, like the Resnick’s/owner of the Wonderful Company and some others, politicians, water brokers, and more, who want to reshape the Delta, build a massive tunnel, take the water and send it South, in order to create massive corporate wealth for the Big Agricultural corporate farming industries and large planned development in areas that are not conducive to or near water sources.
Think: Massive projects built in a desert like area.
Michael DiMartino, Executive Director of the Water Protector Tour and the Producer of the forthcoming documentary film, “Soul of the Delta,” said:
“The people on the other side of the fight against the tunnel are people who live in the Delta, and are fighting for their homes, livelihoods, culture, history and way of life, in this unique region, and fighting for a sane and sustainable water policy for the whole state.
“They are joined by a number of environmentalists, sport fisherman, bird watchers (cranes and other wildlife), farmers, recreationalists, business owners, and more throughout the greater Sacramento region and in Southern California.
“Which way the Delta goes may be a preview to what happens to California in the next 20 years and beyond. We need to stop the single tunnel plan now, and help restore and save the Delta for future generations.”
A series of dramatic events will be held the weekend of May 22-23, 2021 as part of the Water Protector Tour series to highlight opposition of the proposed Delta Single Tunnel Conveyance plan.
The events will act as a fundraiser for the “Soul of the Delta” documentary film that is going into post production and was made to generate opposition against the proposed Delta tunnel project. This is an event that unites arts and activism.
EVENT: WATERPALOOZA WEEKEND FUNDRAISER – MAY 22-23, 2021- along the Sacramento River Delta: On Saturday, May 22: Various locations throughout the Delta from 10 a.m. to Midnight. On Sunday, May 23: A Special Event at the Ryde Hotel, 14340 Highway 160, Walnut Grove, CA, 95690 from 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
“Soul of the Delta,” highlights the personal stories, culture, history and importance of the Delta. A trailer of the film will be shown at Sunday’s fundraiser event.
The documentary film, “Soul of the Delta,” is “focused on the human interest story of the people most directly affected if the Delta tunnel is built. Multi-generation family’s farm land, businesses, homes and more, lay in the path of tunnel intakes.
Scientists believe the project would drive already imperiled Delta smelt, long fin smelt, long fin smelt, winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon and other species over the edge of extinction, besides altering parts of the Delta itself and cutting off access to some of the most pristine and beautiful areas there.
The project would divert massive quantities of water from the Sacramento River rather than letting the water flow naturally into the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, depriving the estuary of the water that it needs to function as an ecosystem, according to project opponents.
For more information regarding the schedule and to obtain tickets: https://www.waterpaloozafestival.com/
Bob Saunders is an environmentalist and Executive Director of the Sacramento River Watershed Project
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