North Delta CARES Struggles to Advocate for Delta Voices
February 17, 2016
At a recent meeting of North Delta CARES, Barbara Daly and Anna Swenson recounted their harrowing experiences, fighting for Delta resident’s and stakeholder’s right to be allowed a voice regarding the Tunnels project.
At the Army Corps of Engineering public comments due date of Nov. 9, Swenson and Daly requested an extension of time to provide for submission of knowledge from the public and to request public hearings so important and unique information could be presented to the ACE. They each received a boilerplate letter denying their requests for the public to be heard. A few days later at a meeting of the Delta Protection Commission, Army Corps project manager Zachary Simmons appeared and gave a presentation. Taylor stated that 74 private persons and organizations had requested an extension of time and a public meeting but that he deemed that nothing would be learned from public meetings, that there was no reason to honor the requests, adding that that this would be a waste of the ACE’s time.
Following this, on December 17th,, just before Christmas, the State Water Resources Control Board gave Swenson and Daly notice that all requests to speak before the Board at their public hearing must be received by January 5, 2016 and that only those whose names were on that list will be allowed to participate in the process. Despite these efforts to prevent public participation in the hearings, Daly and Swenson were able to secure inclusion to speak for 472 individuals who were able to respond within the narrow window. This establishes that those persons have filed intent to appear and must be granted three minutes each to make a policy statement. The Chief Counsel later made an unsuccessful attempt to limit participation to just a fraction of the list.
Following the January 5 deadline, a mandatory meeting was called for January 28th regarding the public testimony proceedings. At this meeting the insufficient notice was announced and in response the State Department of Water Resources swore under oath that they sent out postcards giving the public notice to appear as required by law. A canvass of Delta residents revealed no one who had seen one of these postcard notices.
A March 5th deadline was set for submission of the policy statements but has subsequently been shortened March 1, 2016. The actual hearing is tentatively scheduled for April or May at the EPA building at 11th and I streets in Sacramento, exact date to be announced.
A quick review of the salinity barriers project highlighted that the short-lived project seems to have been a very expensive failure. The stated purpose was to prevent saltwater intrusion but the barriers were removed at the historic highest level of salinity and at a total cost of over $24 million. The increased intrusion of saltwater into the Delta is caused by excessive water removal from the Delta estuary.
Finally, Swenson and Daly related their experience attending the recent International Sportsman’s Exposition at CalExpo. The State Department of Water Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife presented maps and numerous color, glossy printed materials showing the lakes and waterways that comprise recreation in California. They were shocked to see the omission of all recreational information on the Delta, including fishing and wildlife, showing only pumps sending water south. It seemed to be an attempt to “wipe the Delta off the map.”