SACRAMENTO, Calif. Jan. 24, 2013 - Restore the Delta, grassroots organization committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California, today responded to Governor Jerry Brown's Peripheral Tunnels proposal in his State of the State address. Gov. Brown has announced his plan to dig two huge tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta – comparable to the "Chunnel" between England and France – at the estimated cost of more than $15 billion for construction, and more than $50 billion including financing, operations and mitigation. The stated purpose is to provide water "reliability" for Southern California users; "reliability," in this case, is code for more water. The delta cannot be saved and its ecological crisis cannot be addressed by taking out more water.
"Unfortunately, Governor Brown's speech failed to mention that the people of the Delta in a catastrophic event would experience the majority of the economic loss, and all of the loss of life," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. "In addition, the true cost of the project with interest and mitigation is 60 billion dollars not 14. "His proposed tunnels are not the solution for the delta.
"We oppose the rush to build a project that would exterminate salmon runs, destroy sustainable family farms and saddle taxpayers with tens of billions in debt, mainly to benefit a small number of huge corporate agribusinesses on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. This proposal is fatally-flawed and would cost billions upon billions of dollars to give ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer and ratepayer subsidized water to corporate agriculture and real estate developers to make millions upon millions in profits. It is the ultimate fleecing of ratepayers and taxpayers.
"There are better solutions. One is shoring up Delta levees. This is a far more cost-effective way than Peripheral Tunnels to ensure water reliability for the state and preserve environmental and economic stability for the greater Delta. Levee rehabilitation can be done for a $2 billion to $4 billion rather than the $15 billion or so estimated for the tunnel conveyance under the Delta. The governor is ignoring solid evidence of the best and most cost-effective methods to manage our water resources. Instead, he is supporting a project that favors the largest corporate agribusiness growers of the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley.
"The tunnels are not necessary. Alternative plans have been put forward that would reduce water exports from the bay-delta estuary, in keeping with the state requirement to reduce reliance on delta water. Those plans would avoid the need for more plumbing to export more water.
"A major reason for the endangerment of fish species and degradation of delta habitat is that not enough water runs through the delta to sustain them. Scientists have pointed out the need to reduce exports below what the water agencies want in order to allow fish and habitat to recover. Their own studies show there could be species decline and extinction, and the project could make things worse than not doing anything at all," said Barrigan-Parrilla.
Rather than relying on false arguments for constructing the Peripheral Tunnels, the governor should be focusing on the real issues and more cost-effective solutions to restore the Delta ecosystem and to provide a sustainable water supply to Silicon Valley and all of California.
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