Public Water News

Cold, Dead Fish Awards for 2015 – February 10, 2016

Dan Bacher, Fish Sniffer Magazine

River News-HeraldThe year 2015 will become infamous as the one when many California fish populations reached record low levels, largely due to poor water management by the state and federal governments.

The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources continued to drain Trinity, Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs to record low levels during a record drought to supply subsidized water to corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking operations.

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Governor Brown’s budget DOES include $3.6 million for Delta Tunnels – January 13, 2015

Dan Bacher, Intercontinental Cry

In a media teleconference on January 7, three Brown administration officials claimed that no money in the $122.6 billion General Fund budget for 2016-17 unveiled by Governor Jerry Brown would be used to implement the Delta Tunnels under the “California Water Fix.”
In response to a reporter’s question about whether any budget money would be used for the Delta Tunnels, John Laird, California Natural Resources Secretary said, “California Eco Restore has been separated from the California Water Fix,” the conveyance plan.
Likewise, Mark Cowin, Director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), affirmed, “There’s no money in the budget to advance the study of the California Water Fix or tunnels as you call it. Those activities are funded entirely by the state and federal water project contractors that benefit from the project.”


University/agribusiness complex exposed: The Resnicks’ deep ties to UC Davis, UCLA – January 6, 2016

Dan Bacher, Intercontinental Cry 

River News_Herald

Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick and his wife, Lynda, the co-owners of The Wonderful Company, are the Power Couple of Corporate Agribusiness in California, who have become virtual royalty in a state known for its entrenched “pay to play” politics. They exert their influence over California politics in a variety of ways, including dumping many hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of Jerry Brown, Senator Dianne Feinstein and many other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, over the years, along with making contributions to the arts and Stewart Resnick’s favorite environmental NGO, Conservation International. 

The Resnicks have become infamous as the “Koch Brothers of California Water” for the many thousands of dollars they contribute to candidates and propositions in California every election. For example, Stewart Resnick donated $150,000 to Yes on Prop 1, Governor Jerry Brown’s water bond campaign, in 2014. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/10/09/1335459/-Corporate-Agribusiness-dumps-850-000-into-Proposition-1

The media, particularly alternative outlets, have revealed the instrumental role that Resnicks played in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing Delta Tunnels. 

It is also well-documented how Resnick, while he served as an “environmental leader” on the Board of Directors of Conservation International, bought subsidized Delta water and then sold it back to the public for a big profit as Delta fish and Central Valley salmon populations crashed. 

“As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan, a MediaNews investigation has found,” according an article by the late Mike Taugher in the Contra Costa Times on May 23, 2009. (http://www.revivethesanjoaquin.org/content/pumping-water-and-cash-delta

Environmentalists have also castigated the Resnicks, the largest orchard fruit growers in the world, and other corporate agribusiness interests for planting thousands of acres of new almond trees during the drought while Governor Jerry Brown is mandating that urban families slash water usage by 25 percent. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/04/22/well-connected-billionaire-expands-almond-acreage-as-cities-forced-to-slash-water-use

The Resnicks’ contributions to the arts and charities through the Resnick Family Foundation are also well publicized. 

Much less well-known are the Resnicks’ deep ties to the University of California system, including Stewart Resnick’s “service” on UC Davis and UCLA boards and their foundation’s donations of millions of dollars to the university. 

I bet you didn’t know that Stewart Resnick sits on the Board of Advisors of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, made famous for serving as Chancellor when UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike pepper sprayed students during the Occupy protests in the fall of 2011. (http://chancellor.ucdavis.edu/initiatives/board_of_advisors/resnick_bio.html

Resnick serves with other corporate leaders such as Riley P. Bechtel, chairman of the board of the Bechtel Corporation, and John S. Watson, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Chevron Corporation, on the Board of Advisors. For the complete list of Katehi’s Board of Advisors, go to: http://chancellor.ucdavis.edu/initiatives/board_of_advisors/index.html 

That’s not the only position in the educational system than Resnick holds. According to the UC Davis website, Stewart Resnick is a member of the Executive Board of the UCLA Medical Sciences and a member of the Advisory Board of the Anderson School of Management, at UCLA , his alma mater. Resnick holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School. 

It is at UCLA where Resnicks exert their influence the most with the millions of dollars they have donated. On May 24, 2013, the UCLA School of Law announced that it had received a $4 million gift from the Resnick Family Foundation to establish the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy. 

“The gift provides for as much as another $3 million in matching endowment funds,” according to a news release from the UC School of Law. “The new program, the first of its kind at a top tier law school, will explore ways to hasten improvements in the modern food system. In addressing questions of food safety, distribution and access, the Resnick Program will focus on reforming food law and policy for the benefit of the consumer.” (https://law.ucla.edu/news-and-events/in-the-news/2013/05/UCLA-School-of-Law-Establishes-Resnick-Program-for-Food-Law-and-Policy/

Dean Rachel F. Moran praised the Resnicks for their donations, stating, “Alumnus Stewart Resnick ’62 and his wife Lynda, entrepreneurs and dedicated philanthropists, have long used their charitable donations to promote public health. We are deeply grateful for their generosity and their commitment to advancing sound food law and policy.” 

Stewart Resnick explained his vision for the Resnick Program: 

“UCLA Law is a globally respected institution of higher education located in the food capital of the world. We grow more food in California than anywhere else, and the emphasis on health and wellness here ideally positions UCLA to take a leadership position. The rise of the global food trade has generated a modern food system that is different than anything the world has ever experienced.

From the farm to the fork, this system has given rise to profound health, social, and cultural consequences. Our goal with this donation is to help consumers better understand exactly what they’re eating. It’s also an opportunity to improve the clarity and accuracy of food labeling and broaden access to healthy food options. I’m very optimistic that this program can save lives.”

Ironically, while Stewart Resnick claims to support broadening “access to healthy food options,” he has become the poster boy for industrialized corporate agribusiness, kept alive by unsustainable water exports. He and his wife have for years fought against laws that protect salmon and other fish, a healthy wild food source, and protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. 

University officials also named a hospital after the Resnicks, the Stewart & Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA (NPH), in “honor of their support” for UCLA’s medical care programs 

According to the hospital’s website, the 74-bed acute psychiatric hospital is “among the leading centers in the world for comprehensive patient care, research and education in the fields of mental health, developmental disabilities and neurology. A key part of UCLA Health System, Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital is the major psychiatry teaching facility of the UCLA Center for the Health Sciences.” (http://www.semel.ucla.edu/resnick

The Resnicks contributed $15 million to the construction of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center that opened in June 2008. In 2002, they received the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor, in recognition of their “extraordinary contributions to the campus.” In 2005, the law school bestowed upon Stewart the UCLA School of Law’s Alumni of the Year Award. 

Resnick is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; a member of the Board of Trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust; and trustee of the California Institute of Technology. 

The Resnicks have managed to use their wealth not only to exert enormous influence over water politics in California, but over the educational sphere as well, as we can see. 

In addition to serving on UC Davis and UCLA boards and panels, the Resnicks have also extended their influence over California water policy by forming “Astroturf” groups like the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and the Californians for Water Security to promote the construction of Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels and legislative attacks on the Endangered Species Act and other laws protecting Central Valley salmon and steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species. (http://restorethedelta.org/blog/our-responses-to-gov-brown-on-drought-barriers-and-renaming-of-tunnels-to-pipes/) 
Among the companies the Resnicks own include Paramount Citrus, Paramount Farming and Paramount Farms, “the world’s largest growers, processors and marketers of citrus, almonds and pistachios,” according to UC Davis. Their holdings also include POM Wonderful, grower of pomegranates and maker of the POM Wonderful pomegranate juice; Teleflora, the largest floral wire service in the world; and FIJI Water, the largest imported bottled water in the United States. 

The couple also owns Suterra, the “largest biorational pest control company” in the United States, and JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery, a winery based in Paso Robles focusing on Bordeaux-style blends and single varietals. 

While the Resnicks exert enormous influence over California politics and institutions, another agribusiness giant, the Westlands Water District, rivals them in their ability to manipulate environmental politics in California. An article in the New York Times on December 30, 2015 exposes the huge political power that Westlands wields in state and national politics. 

“A water utility on paper, Westlands in practice is a formidable political force, a $100 million-a-year agency with five lobbying firms under contract in Washington and Sacramento, a staff peppered with former federal and congressional powers, a separate political action committee representing farmers and a government-and-public-relations budget that topped $950,000 last year,” the Times said. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/us/farmers-try-political-force-to-twist-open-californias-taps.html

The presence of Stewart Resnick on the boards of UC Davis and UCLA – and the formidable political force that Westlands Water District represents – are just a couple of examples of the growing collaboration between corporations, billionaires and government in California and across the nation that has led to the capture of the regulatory apparatus by Big Money interests. 


Head oil regulator resigns amid latest Brown administration scandal – December 9, 2015

Dan Bacher, Intercontinental Cry

River News-HeraldAs Governor Jerry Brown reels from a series of scandals involving the capture of the regulatory apparatus in California under his administration, Brown announced the resignation of his head oil regulator, Steven Bohlen, on November 30.

Brown also announced the appointment of Ken Harris of Davis to replace Bohlen as California Department of Conservation Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) supervisor.

Bohlen’s resignation took place after an Associated Press story revealed that Jerry Brown ordered Bohlen to survey the land on the Governor’s private ranch about the potential for oil drilling. This investigation raised questions about whether the Governor was illegally using state resources for his own personal gain.
“The AP reported earlier this month that Brown directed Bohlen in June 2014, days after appointing Bohlen to the job, to investigate and map out the oil, gas and mineral potential and history of the Brown family ranch in Northern California,” according to Ellen Knickmeyer from the Associated Press.

(http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_29185108/californias-top-oil-regulator-resigning)

The Governor’s Office did not cite a reason for Bohlen’s departure, but did say Bohlen will return to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He will also continue to assist the Administration as an “unpaid science advisor” to the Division.

“Steve brought strong leadership and valuable scientific expertise to the job of improving oil and gas oversight,” said Governor Brown. “California will benefit from his continued service as an unpaid advisor to the Division, even as he returns to scientific and national security work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.”

The Governor’s Office claimed, “Steven Bohlen was appointed supervisor in May 2014 with the assignment to conduct a full, systematic analysis of the division and a comprehensive plan for organizational change. During his tenure, the Division released a Renewal Plan for Oil and Gas Regulation, which refocuses the Division on its core values to regulate the oil and gas industry with safety and environmental health as top priorities.

“Bohlen has been on loan from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory over the past 18 months and brought considerable “technical experience” to the Division, including experience with ocean drilling, geology and academic research. In his capacity as an unpaid science advisor, Bohlen will continue to assist the Division on oil and gas issues, including the ongoing development of underground injection regulations,” the Office said.

Bohlen’s replacement, Ken Harris, 59, of Davis, has been the executive officer for the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board since 2012, according to the Governor’s Office.

He held multiple positions at the State Water Resources Control Board from 1987 to 2012 including assistant deputy director, supervising engineering geologist, assistant director and senior engineering geologist. Harris was interim assistant executive officer for the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board from 2010 to 2011 and a staff geologist at the San Lorenzo Valley Water District from 1983 to 1984.
He earned a Master of Science degree in hydrology from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $198,500. Harris is a Democrat.

The latest resignation follows a series of shake-ups at the Department of Conservation since 2011, the result of the virtual capture of the agency by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and Big Oil.

“California regulators have prioritized oil company profits and the governor’s personal requests at the expense of our air, water and health,” summed up Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.

Court documents filed in a RICO lawsuit by Central Valley farmers against the Brown administration document the claims by anti-fracking activists that the governor is collaborating with Big Oil on the expansion of extreme oil extraction techniques in California.

In these documents, two former senior level officials in the Department of Conservation, Derek Chernow and Elena Miller, reveal that they were fired on November 3, 2011, one day after Governor Brown issued a final order to bypass provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and approve permits for oilfield injection wells. Chernrow was the director of the Department and Miller was the DOGGR supervisor at the time. (http://bigstory.ap.org/article/0ffe67e1a7af4c688696f741699a9f89/fired-regulator-brown-pushed-waive-oil-safeguards)

The day after the farmers filed the lawsuit, Mark Nechodom, the oil industry-friendly director of the Department of Conservation, resigned.

More recently, the Governor on October 9 appointed Bill Bartling of Bakersfield, a Republican who has worked as an oil industry executive and consultant, as district deputy for the Bakersfield region. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/10/12/governor-brown-appoints-republican-oil-executive-to-be-industry-regulator)

The firings, hirings and resignations of oil and gas industry regulators over the past 4 years under the supposedly “green” Jerry Brown provide a window into the capture of the regulatory apparatus in California by Big Oil, Big Ag and other Big Money interests.

Big Oil is the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in California – and the Western States Petroleum Association is the largest most powerful corporate lobbying group. In one of the most extreme examples of the “fox guarding the hen house,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force that created so-called “marine protected” areas in Southern California. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp )

As Jerry Brown continues to promote the expansion of fracking in California and hires Big Oil-friendly officials to “regulate” the oil and gas industry in California, reporters and editors from the mainstream generally provide fawning covering of the Governor’s trips to climate conferences across the globe to greenwash his tainted environmental legacy.

You can expect this mostly uncritical coverage to continue when Brown joins the world’s “climate leaders” in Paris, France later this week for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. (http://www.gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=19224)

“Our message in Paris is simple: Tackling climate change is good for the environment and good for the future,” said Governor Brown. “California has cut carbon pollution and grown its economy at the same time – and so can the rest of the world.”

In addition to promoting fracking and appointing Big Oil friendly “regulators,” Jerry Brown has overseen a number of anti-environmental policies and projects that rip away the Governor’s “green” façade.

Brown presided over record water exports out of the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta and a record Sacramento splittail kill in 2011; has overseen the systematic draining and mismanagement of Central Valley reservoirs and Trinity Lake during a record drought; has helped bring winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species to the precipice of extinction; has backed the clearcutting of forests in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere; and backs neo-liberal carbon trading policies that imperil the environment and Indigenous Peoples in Mexico and across the globe.

For more information on the toxic environmental legacy of “Big Oil Brown,” go to: http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/30452-the-extinction-governor-rips-the-green-mask-off-his-tunnels-plan
You can also read my online debate with Tom Hayden over whether Jerry Brown is a “climate hero” or “greenwashing villain” at:http://sandiegofreepress.org/2014/06/tom-hayden-greenwashes-governor-browns-abysmal-environmental-record/14

For more information on Big Oil lobbying money, go to: http://redgreenandblue.org/2015/11/10/big-oil-lobbying-money-turns-california-the-wrong-kind-of-green/


Salmon Fishermen and Consumer Groups Criticize FDA Approval of Frankenfish – December 2, 2015

Dan Bacher, Intercontinental Cry

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on November 19 approved genetically engineered salmon, called “Frankenfish” by critics, as “safe” for human consumption in spite of massive public opposition to the decision.

The Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA) announced that it was “disappointed” in the decision, joining a broad coalition of fishing groups, environmental organizations, tribes, and consumer groups in criticizing the approval of the first-ever genetically engineered animal for the dinner table.

The FDA approved the controversial AquaBounty Technologies’ application for AquAdvantage Salmon, an Atlantic salmon that reaches market size faster than non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon, claiming it is safe to eat, safe for the environment, and safe for the fish itself — despite a large amount of evidence provided by GMO opponents challenging this contention.

Chinook salmon.

Chinook Salmon

The company added a growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon and a promoter from an ocean eel pout to the Atlantic salmon’s 40,000 genes, allowing the fish to grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer.

The FDA regulates GE animals under the new “animal drug” provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because the recombinant DNA (rDNA) construct introduced into the animal meets the definition of a “drug,” according to the FDA.

“The FDA has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty Technologies regarding AquAdvantage Salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat,” said Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Since the FDA claims there is no biological difference between the “Frankenfish” and non-GMO salmon, Aquabounty is not required to label the genetically engineered fish.

The GGSA, a coalition including commercial and recreational salmon fishermen, businesses, restaurants, an Indian tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families, and communities that rely on salmon, disagreed with the FDA’s claims that the “Frankenfish” is safe for people, the environment, and the fish itself.

“Genetically engineered salmon pose a serious potential threat to wild salmon stocks that our members rely on to make a living or fish for food and sport,” the group said in a statement. “In addition, GE salmon also pose a threat to salmon protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.”

The creator of the GE salmon, Aquabounty, claims the fish will be “sterile” and kept in closed tanks, but GGSA said reports suggest that as many as 5 percent would be fertile and able to reproduce or possibly hybridize with wild fish if they escaped into the wild. “No one knows if genetically engineered fish would spell the end for wild stocks if they escaped and hybridize but it’s not something any of us wants to find out,” said GGSA executive director John McManus. “History clearly shows that to date, farmed salmon have escaped every form of capture where they’ve been confined.”

McManus said the farming of salmon in general requires large amounts of wild forage fish for food, produces large volumes of waste that pollute waters near the salmon farms, and produces large volumes of parasites and pollution from drugs given farmed fish to combat parasites and other fish diseases.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity annually and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon, according to GGSA.

The Center for Food Safety announced plans to sue the FDA to block the agency’s approval for sale and consumption of the genetically engineered AquaAdvantage salmon. The suit will be filed in coordination with other plaintiffs.

“The fallout from this decision will have enormous impact on the environment. Center for Food Safety has no choice but to file suit to stop the introduction of this dangerous contaminant,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. “FDA has neglected its responsibility to protect the public.

“In approving the AquaBounty transgenic salmon, the FDA ignored millions of Americans and more than 40 members of Congress who have expressed vocal opposition. FDA also neglected the concerns of more than 300 environmental, consumer, health and animal welfare organizations, salmon and fishing groups and associations, food companies, chefs and restaurants,” he continued.

Approximately 2 million people filed public comments with the FDA in opposition to this action, the largest number of comments the FDA has ever received on an action, according to the center.

“The review process by FDA was inadequate, failed to fully examine the likely impacts of the salmon’s introduction, and lacked a comprehensive analysis. This decision sets a dangerous precedent, lowering the standards of safety in this country. CFS will hold FDA to their obligations to the American people,” said Kimbrell.

The center cited a study by Canadian researchers who found that genetically engineered Atlantic salmon can successfully cross-bred with brown trout, a closely related species common to areas surrounding both AquaBounty facilities, posing serious risks to wild populations that are already under duress.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, responded to the decision by stating, “This unfortunate, historic decision disregards the vast majority of consumers, many independent scientists, numerous members of Congress and salmon growers around the world, who have voiced strong opposition.

“FDA’s decision also disregards AquaBounty’s disastrous environmental record, which greatly raises the stakes for an environmentally damaging escape of GMO salmon,” Hauter continued. “In recent years, AquaBounty facilities outside the United States have dealt with an accidental disease outbreak, an accident that lead to ‘lost’ salmon, and a $9,500 fine from Panamanian regulators who found the company in breach of that country’s environmental laws.”

In an action alert to members, Food and Water Watch also said, “Needless to say, we’re disappointed, but not surprised. The fact that the FDA made this call — despite the outcry from hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens like you — speaks to the immense pressure that the biotech industry put on them.”

barack_obama_2012.jpg

The group said the targets in their campaign to stop Frankenfish from reaching the nation’s dinner tables are President Obama and Congress, who have the power to revoke the GMO salmon’s approval.

To sign a petition asking President Obama and your members of Congress to revoke the approval of GMO salmon, click here.

Caleen Sisk, chief and spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, sees the approval of genetically engineered salmon as a big threat to their culture and traditions.

“Salmon is in our traditional stories, songs and dances,” said Sisk. “We must stay pure to exist in the ancient circle connecting our tribal customs to salmon. The Winnemem Wintu have a right to protect salmon, and certainly not allow them to be genetically modified in anyway. They must not have their genes and DNA subject to exploring ideas.

“It must be recognized as an inherent right of Indigenous Peoples for the Winnemem Wintu to hold the salmon as a relative that is so intrinsic to our culture,” Sisk added. “There are complete ecosystems based on the clarity, knowledge and health of the salmon.”

The Food and Drug Administration under the Obama administration, like the US Bureau of Reclamation, the California Department of Water Resources, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Department of Conservation, is an agency that has been captured by the very corporate interests that it is supposed to regulate, critics say.

For example Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, is a former Monsanto lobbyist who served as the vice president for Public Policy at the Monsanto Corporation from 1998 until 2001.

The FDA’s approval of Frankenfish couldn’t come at a worse time for Central Valley and Klamath/Trinity River salmon. Both the Obama and Brown administrations are fast-tracking the so-called “California Water Fix” to build two massive delta tunnels, considered by many to be the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.


Ballot measure is new obstacle to diverting water to Southern California

By: Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

Californians will act on a ballot measure next year that would require voter approval of many large public works projects, including Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin-tunnel plan to divert water south around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The secretary of state on Monday said that a random sample has determined that Stockton-area farmer and food processor Dean Cortopassi has submitted at least 585,407 signatures of registered voters to qualify the constitutional amendment for the November 2016 ballot.

The initiative would require voter approval before the state could fund projects costing more than $2 billion with revenue bonds, those repaid using receipts from projects they pay for rather than taxpayers in general. Brown is proposing such bonds for the $15-billion twin-tunnel project to be repaid by water users.

If the initiative passes, it would require Brown to win voter approval of the two-tunnel water diversion plan that has strong opposition from Cortopassi and other Delta-area landowners who resent the diversion of water to thirsty cities to the south, including Los Angeles.

Gov. Brown opposes the ballot measure, according to spokesman Gareth Lacy.

“This is a really bad idea that would cause costly delays in repairing our roads, colleges and water systems and make it harder to respond to natural disasters,” Lacy said. “The governor is strongly opposed to this initiative.”

The ballot measure, if approved, would also affect the state’s high-speed rail project, according to Tom Ross, a political consultant for Cortopassi. He said the wealthy businessman, who is the nation’s largest supplier of tomato sauce to restaurants, is focused on the state’s debt overall, not any specific project.

“He started looking at the state debt issues and how do we control the state debt,” Ross said. “If Californians are expected to pay for projects of $2 billion or more, they ought to have a say on them. This gives Californians an opportunity to vote.”

Cortopassi has also been a leader of and fundraiser for Restore the Delta, the group leading the opposition to the tunnels project. The group has not taken a position on the initiative.

A campaign has already been organized against the ballot measure by a coalition of business and labor groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the State Building and Construction Trades Council.

“This ballot measure is both deceptive and dangerous,” said Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce. “It’s deceptive because revenue bonds are not repaid by taxpayers, they’re repaid by users of a project. Since neither the general fund nor state taxpayers are on the hook for repayment, it’s misleading and unnecessary to call for a statewide vote.”

Zaremberg, who is co-chair of the Citizens to Protect California Infrastructure campaign committee, said the ballot measure is dangerous because “it would stall or stop vitally needed infrastructure projects all over the state,” including those for water delivery, road and bridge repairs and university buildings.

Opponents of the measure note that Cortopassi has provided the $4 million spent to qualify the measure through a signature drive.

Gov. Brown  said in a statement Friday that the tunnel plan is an essential project for California.

“The Delta pipeline is essential to completing the California Water Project and protecting fish and water quality,” Brown said. “Without this fix, San Joaquin farms, Silicon Valley and other vital centers of the California economy will suffer devastating losses in their water supply.”

Claims to the contrary, Brown said, are “false, shameful and do a profound disservice to California’s future.”

Building trades council President Robbie Hunter, also a co-chair of the campaign committee, promised in a statement that there would be an aggressive campaign to defeat the measure.

He said it would allow voters statewide to reject a project that one city or area of the state needs.

“Our state is suffering from a massive backlog of essential needs across the state, including outdated water systems that are vulnerable to earthquakes, crumbling roads and bridges and overcrowded hospitals and universities,” Hunter said. “This measure worsens an already grave situation, and threatens our economy and job creation.”


 

August 24, 2015
An addendum to Sen. Wolk’s senate hearings on tunnels   
By: Burt Wilson   

My congratulations to Sen. Lois Wolk for her wonderful hearing on the efficacy of the tunnels. I’m sure everyone on both sides of the tunnel issue got an earful.  It’s not that often that we activists will see a legislative hearing that is stacked in our favor! Even though several issues were discussed quite thoroughly, there are some things that cry out for supplement knowledge. So here is what I call my addendum to the critical issues raised.

WATER GATES AT CHIPPS ISLAND

These have been on the books of the DWR for some time now. They have been looking at a set of gates manufactured in the Netherlands which are state-of-the-art. However, what was not said that is that the levees on the Bay Area side of the gates would have to be reinforced and heightened at least 5-feet for as far back as SF Bay. That’s because at high tide, the water would back up against the gates and keep backing up and rising until it spilled over the present levees. Lots of money here.

WATER FLOW PAST CHIPPS ISLAND

Water from the Sacramento River (and San Joaquin) must flow past Chipps Island at a certain rate in order to keep salt water from intruding into the Delta. Salt is death to the Delta. The State Water Board told me that the flow rate should be 11,400 cfs to make this happen. Tunnel supporters say this is water wasted. Some ignorant politicians are fond of saying, “Hell, 70% of the water goes out to sea now!” But the nature of all rivers is to eventually flow into the sea. This is essential if you want to save the Delta habitat and the fisheries.

THE TUNNELS ARE WANTED TO FACILITATE WATER TRANSFERS

FYI — At a PPIC meeting a few years ago No. California water managers were complaining that when a water agency south of the Delta buys so many acre feet of water, it is dumped into the Sacramento River and sometimes flows past the intake and out to sea. The tunnels would halt that by capturing the water in the Courtland-Hood area before it got too far along the way out to the sea. Just so you know.

AIR POLLUTION IS BY FAR THE WORST PROBLEM

Tunneling in the Delta would create a toxic atmosphere that could cause cancer deaths to workmen there. An inversion layer over the Delta tends to hold the strong methane gas and strong pollutants. Diesel engines running 24/hrs. a day, seven days a week–dirt trucks, lights, pile-drivers, etc.– would make of the workplace a cesspool of cancer-causing ingredients. In Chapter 22 of the present EIR, the DWR says they will zero those pollutants out with off-sets, i.e., cap and trade. But, as you know, that’s only on paper. The pollution still stays in the Delta! This, to me, is the most serious problem of them all.

THE DSC COULD REJECT THE TUNNELS

This is a bit tangential, but a few years ago the BDCP submitted and EIR that did not include a “no tunnels” option. The Delta Stewardship Council disallowed our complaints by saying it was dismissed because it did not include a habitat restoration program and therefore violated the co-equal goals! Well, as it so happens the California WaterFix also does not “include” a habitat restoration program. In fact, the new EIR goes to great lengths to separate the WaterFix from the EcoRestore, so technically, the WaterFix does not “include” a habitat restoration plan and thus should be scrapped in the same manner as the “no tunnels” option.
WATCH FOR NEXT WEEK’S BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

 


 

February 4, 2015

The water agencies’ new public relations scheme
By: Burt Wilson

A couple of weeks ago I told you about a new statewide coalition of businesses, union, water agencies and allied interests that was forming up to push a united front in support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s (BDCP) twin tunnels. This has swiftly taken place throughout the state under the guidance of the Water Education foundation–the water agencies’ propaganda arm. Interested parties are now busily formulating strategy they hope will influence Californians.

Influence Californians to do what, you ask? Vote on the tunnels? No, Governor Jerry “Chicken” Brown is afraid to let us vote on the tunnels because he knows he would lose. No, the strategy of the water agencies has changed.

Their enemies are no longer people who oppose the tunnels. Instead, they have given a new, more sophisticated spin to their propaganda.

The BDCP’s biggest enemy today is the US Federal Environmental Protection Agency, particularly the Western Region office of the EPA. They are the ones who found that the BDCP’s EIR/EIS for the tunnels would kill fish and poison the water. Thus they trashed the EIR/EIS for the FOURTH TIME since the BDCP stumbled into California politics fully eight years ago. I know, because I have been following that long.

The position of the BDCP and their support coalition now is to fight the EPA any way they can in order to loosen the laws that the BDCP cannot surmount.

Think about it. If there was any way the BDCP could overcome the EPA regulations by altering the twin tunnel specs in the Delta, they would do it. But since the BDCP can’t change things to suit the EPA, their new statewide coalition is out to switch the fight to undermining the EPA regulations.

But the BDCP cannot do that because neither the public nor interested people (you and me) would stand for it. That is why the BDCP and their supporters must switch their tactics from the tunnels to a new focus.

The main idea now is to gain public support “to fix our aging and decrepit water system” in order to “preserve water secuity.”

Their kick-off scheme is “Water security is crucial for California.” They have a ready-made ad they want you to click on to show your support on facebook. Please–when you see this on facebook, make a comment on it by writing something like “this ad is to fool people into supporting the BDCP’s Delta tunnels.”

There is a website < http://watersecurityca.com/news/> you can go to and find out who’s behind this. There you will find the usual suspects including Dr. Jerry Meral who keeps popping up in support groups after he was let go as the public voice of the BDCP.

No, it’s not about the tunnels anymore because the tunnels are too controversial and easy pickings for us Delta activists. “Our aging and decrepit water system” is easier for the public to understand and support when it is voiced as “Water security.” They want the public to be afraid that water might not come out of their kitchen taps if they don’t support the BDCP. It’s the usual “Big Lie” technique witch the water agencies are known for.

Why would the BDCP and the water agencies make this switch now? Because they need public support as they switch their focus to trashing the EPA as the bad guys from now on and into the future. The political forces in support of the tunnels are already in talks with Obama to lessen the EPA requirements by Executive Order. This may still happen if all other approaches fail. Both Senators Feinstein and Boxer have held secret meetings with interested parties to try to broker a deal. So far, no one is taking the bait.

Sen. Feinstein recently had a closed meeting with the seven Democratic Congressmen and woman who oppose the BDCP’s tunnels. Participating in the meeting were Northern California Reps. Jared Huffman, Doris Matsui, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, Sam Farr and Jerry McNerney. None of them would speak of what went on in the meeting. So much for open democratic government.

Picture the problem; (1) The EPA has spoken and their findings are Federal Law, which takes precedence over state law, (2) There’s nothing the BDCP or the water agencies can do in light of the EPA’s findings. They either have to change their whole plan and eliminate the tunnels (which they are not about to do) or else drum up enough fear so the people of California will back them in demanding the EPA’s findings be ruled too stringent. Expect to see the old “people over fish” propaganda raise its ugly head. Eventually it will all end up in the courtroom of a Federal Judge.

The people, businesses, unions, corporations, etc. who will back this new BDCP propaganda ploy will do so out of their own self-interest. That goes for most newspapers, too, as they depend upon the support of the state Chamber of Commerce and the California Business Roundtable for their advertising.

Delta resident and activist Karen Medders alerted me recently to a gigantic conference to kick-off this new water agency campaign for public support. The Water Foundation is having an Executive Briefing on Mach 25. It’ll cost you $275 to $325 to participate and you get a free lunch. I wrote in and asked for a free scholarship. think I’ll get it? Why don’t you try–go to http://www.watereducation.org/foundation-event/2015-executive-briefing.

The whole thing is being put on by an outfit called “CV Strategies”–look ’em up. the “CV” stands for “Clear Vision.” They are a public relations outfit and it looks like they are staging this conference to make a buck and in return they will set and guide the strategy to fool the people. If they are actually getting paid, we should be told where the money is coming from.

So, if you are a Delta activist, now you know what the public is in for with the new campaign to get public support. it’s a shame because the BDCP has always stood for “Water Insecuity” for the people of California and “Water Security” only for the water agencies.


January 28, 2015

From the Central Valley Business Times–

A decision made quietly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month to go along with a request by the Bureau of Reclamation could shove the endangered Delta smelt to the edge of extinction, environmental groups fear.

The Obama Administration decision allows more than twice as many endangered Delta smelt to be killed by the Central Valley Project’s pumps than had been previously allowed, say the California Water Impact Network and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

The policy was adopted just days after the annual California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that populations of the tiny, once-abundant fish have sunk to new lows. The minnow-like Delta smelt is considered a prime indicator species for the health of California’s Bay/Delta system, the largest estuary on the west coast of the Western Hemisphere.

The Delta smelt “take” limit in the present “Biological Opinion” for the state and federal export pumping facilities, under the federal Endangered Species Act, is 78 adult fish. As of Jan. 7, the state and federal export pumps had already “taken” 56 Delta smelt and were approaching the limit, which would trigger a limit to export pumping. But on Jan. 9, the Bureau of Reclamation requested a “Reinitiation of Consultation” of the Biological Opinion with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Fish and Wildlife Service increased the interim incidental take limit of Delta smelt to 196 adult smelt the same day. That came just two days after the state Department of Fish and Wildlife revealed that the number of Delta smelt had fallen to a new record low that was almost half of the previous record low in 2009. Only nine Delta smelt were collected in more than 400 individual trawls spanning the four months.

“As goes the Delta smelt, so goes the Delta,” says Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “The crisis isn’t limited to the smelt. All the (Bay/Delta’s) pelagic species are in trouble. This decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service … is simply reprehensible.” Mr. Jennings calls it a “back-room deal” that will allow pumps for the state and federal water projects to kill 25 times the total number of adult smelt than were identified in CDFW surveys between September and December 2014.

“It’s morally indefensible and legally questionable,” he says. “It raises the question of whether the Obama Administration is the protector or executioner of an endangered species that was once the most numerous fish in the Delta.”

Tom Stokely, a senior water policy analyst for the California Water Impact Network, also criticizes the decision.

“This secret accord comes at a time when California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are calling for ‘science’ to guide all negotiations on California’s contentious water issues,” says Mr. Stokely. “This action cannot be justified by available science. It has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with political pressure from powerful interests who want to maintain a stranglehold on our state’s public water.”

Carolee Krieger, the executive director of the California Water Impact Network, says the only beneficiary of the decision is “San Joaquin Valley agribusiness. An increased Delta smelt kill translates directly as ongoing, excessive and subsidized water transfers to toxic San Joaquin Valley croplands owned by a handful of politically powerful corporate farmers.”

NOTE: Re-printed from the Central Valley Business Times


January 21, 2015

“Read the conclusion of a recent study of fracking!”
By: Burt Wilson

Recently, the Bureau of Land Management completed a study of fracking wells in California. Here are some pertinent points of that study. Go to the BLM for the full report. Useful knowledge is underlined and really useful knowledge is in red. Personally, I think that fracking is much more prevalent in California than indicated. Remember, too, that the state of New York has successfully banned fracking. We can. too, if we get together on this!

Commissioned in September 2013 by BLM, the independent report compiles existing data and literature about the nature of well stimulation in California. The report arrives at 11 main conclusions. Key among them are:

Well stimulation in California is different than in other states. Available data suggest that present-day well stimulation practices in California are different from other states such as Texas and North Dakota primarily due to differences in the geology of the petroleum reservoirs. Information from well records indicates that hydraulic fracturing has been the main type of well stimulation applied in California to date and is performed on an estimated average of 100 to 150 wells per month, which is a modest level of activity compared to about 2,900 per month in the U.S. as a whole reported by FracFocus. Generally, hydraulic fracturing in California tends to be performed in shallower wells that are vertical as opposed to horizontal; requires much less water; but uses fluids with more concentrated chemicals than hydraulic fracturing in other states. Consequently, the experiences with hydraulic fracturing in other states do not necessarily apply to current hydraulic fracturing in California.

The most likely scenario for future oil recovery using hydraulic fracturing is expanded production in and near existing oil fields in the San Joaquin Basin in a manner quite similar to the production practices of today. Existing and likely future production in California takes place in reservoirs that contain oil that has migrated from the rocks where it was formed (“source rocks”) to relatively near surface reservoirs where it can be produced. Over 85% of all well stimulation applications in California take place in four fields of the San Joaquin Valley in reservoirs that rely on hydraulic fracturing to enable production. It is highly likely that expanded production in similar reservoirs in the San Joaquin Valley would also use this technology. Current production in the Los Angeles Basin does not depend heavily on well stimulation and similar future production could likely occur without these technologies.

Recent reports from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) have indicated there may be a new class of very deep unconventional reservoirs in the source rocks themselves, especially in the Monterey Formation. The 2011 EIA report suggested 15-billion barrels of recoverable oil in these source rocks but a subsequent 2014 correction by EIA reduced the estimate to 0.6 billion barrels. Recovering these resources would certainly require well stimulation. However, Berkeley Lab investigators found no reports of successful production from these deep source rocks and had questions about the EIA estimation methodology. The study’s review of the two resource projections from deep source rocks in the Monterey Formation developed by EIA concluded that both these estimates are highly uncertain.

Current hydraulic fracturing operations in California require a small fraction of statewide water use. In California a hydraulic fracturing operation can consume between 130,000 to 210,000 gallons of water per well on average, compared to about 4 million gallons per well used on average in the Eagle Ford Formation in Texas. The study estimates that California operators conduct 100 to 150 well stimulations per month, which currently requires about 150 to 400 million gallons (450-1,200 acre-feet) of water per year. Even with the relatively low water use of California operations, hydraulic fracturing can contribute to local constraints on water availability given the extreme drought in the state.

There are no publicly reported instances of potable water contamination from subsurface releases in California. However, more than half of the stimulated oil wells in California have shallow depth (less than 2,000 feet). Shallow hydraulic fracturing poses a potential risk for groundwater if usable aquifers are nearby. Some shallow hydraulic fracturing occurs where groundwater is highly saline, or non-existent. However, investigators could not determine the groundwater quality near many hydraulic fracturing operations and found that existing data was insufficient to evaluate the extent to which contamination may have occurred. California needs to develop an accurate understanding about the location, depth and quality of groundwater in oil- and gas-producing regions in order to evaluate the risk of well stimulation to groundwater.

The toxicity of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids warrants further review now that SB 4 requires disclosure. Based on the voluntary database FracFocus, most of the chemicals used in California well stimulations are not considered to be highly toxic. However, a few of these chemicals, especially the biocides and corrosion inhibitors, are acutely toxic to mammals. No information could be found about the toxicity of about a third of the chemicals and few of the chemicals have been evaluated to see if animals or plants would be harmed by chronic exposure. Mandatory disclosure should improve our understanding, as previous data acquired from FracFocus does not consistently disclose all chemicals and may not always be complete or accurate.

Some chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing may become incorporated in the water that is produced along with the oil (“produced water”). In some cases, operators dilute produced water with fresh water for use in agriculture and some produced water is pumped into unlined pits where it could seep into the groundwater. Current practice and testing requirements do not necessarily protect against adding produced water contaminated with hydraulic fracturing fluid to water used in agriculture.

Well stimulation technologies, as currently practiced in California, do not result in a significant increase in seismic hazard. The pressure increases from hydraulic fracturing are too small and too short in duration to be able to produce a felt, let alone damaging, earthquake. In California, only one minor, anomalous earthquake (which occurred in 1991) has been linked to hydraulic fracturing to date. In contrast, disposal of water produced from oil and gas operations into deep injection wells has caused felt seismic events in several states. Expanded oil production for any reason, including expanded use of hydraulic fracturing, would lead to increased volumes of produced water, which, if injected underground could increase seismic hazards.


January 7, 2015

7 ways to defeat the BDCP!
By Burt Wilson

As we begin the New Year I am asking for your assistance in helping all of us activists to define where we need to focus our attention in 2015 in order to defeat the twin tunnels. Since the trashing of the tunnels by the EPA and the magnitude of the complaints filed against the tunnels last year, the BDCP has been busy smearing new lipstick all over its pig. It’s gearing up for a showdown soon when it will release its new, amended Environmental Impact Report and try for the fourth time now to get it passed. Can you actually imagine that! Four failures!

The worst thing that can happen to us would be if Brown and Feinstein convince Obama to write an Executive Order that would relax the environmental protections and allow the BDCP to then get a permit to build. If that happens and the BDCP subsequently can come up with the massive funding needed to back the revenue bonds which will be issued by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the BDCP can start tunneling.

What a hoot that will be.

In case you don’t know it, there is a project going on in Seattle where a company is trying to build a two-mile tunnel 60 ft. under Pioneer Square–in the heart of Seattle. They hadn’t gone more than a few hundred feet when “Big Bertha”–the nickname they gave the tunneling machine–hit a huge rock,

stripped its gears and damaged all its blades. It has been a year now and Bertha hasn’t moved an inch, but the tall buildings around Pioneer Square have. They are starting to crack and crumble because the ground underneath is starting to settle due to the drilling. I’d hate to be the guy/gal who is cracking the whip over this boondoggle!

Well, there are no buildings in the Delta to crack and settle, but the Delta is made up mostly of peat and mud. And there was an earthquake in the Delta in October of 2010 which resulted in the discovery of a formerly unknown fault system directly underneath the Delta. Could the Delta tunneling trigger a huge earthquake there? We won’t know until they start tunneling, will we?

Make no mistake about it; tunneling in the Delta is fraught with danger. The DWR could not do a first class job of soil sampling because so many farmers would not allow them on their land. I don’t blame them. This project treats people who get in the way with all of the subtlety of the government people who threw Tennesseans off their land so the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) could build its dam.

So allow me to number here a few things wrong with the BDCP that lipstick will not be able to fix. I’d like to know from you which is the worst. Tell me which negative feature is the most upsetting. And if you have one I have not put here, write me and tell me about it. I am not numbering these here in any kind of order of importance because they are all bad.

  1. AIR POLLUTION IN THE DELTA

All the machinery used in the building and drilling and hauling process of digging the tunnels 24/7 in the Delta will cause the air to be filled with toxic contaminants that are so bad they can cause cancer among the workers. The BDCP says it will “zero out” the pollution buy purchasing “clean air credits” from another country under the cap and trade laws. However, this does not move the pollution out of the Delta! It will only be “zeroed out” on paper! This is ludicrous! Would you work in the Delta under such conditions. If you were a union leader would you let your men risk all kinds of diseases and harmful gases by allowing them to work in the Delta?

  1. REDUCED FLOWS THROUGH THE DELTA

Every cubic foot of water that flows into the three new tunnel intakes on the Sacramento River means it does not go through the Delta. Neither does it flow past Chipps Island near Antioch and go out to sea. Without sufficient water flowing through the Delta, the fish are that much nearer to extinction. If the water does not flow past Chipps Island and on out to sea, it allows salinity from the salt water tides to flow into the Delta. This does a great deal of harm to the agricultural industries, recreation and the fish. The BDCP says it will regulate flows so this doesn’t happen, but in case of a drought, who gets the water?

  1. HOW THE TUNNELS AID WATER TRANSFERS

Besides sending more northern California water south, the tunnels appear to be built mainly to support water transfers from northern California water districts to water districts throughout the Valley down to Bakersfield. At a PPIC meeting a couple of years ago, northern water managers were complaining that water bought by agricultural interests in the valley was released into the Sacramento River, it often simply just flowed naturally out to sea. Thus it did not enter the Delta where it would flow to the Clifton court Forebay to be pumped south. This caused the loss of a lot of money (water transfers are big-time money-makers) and wasted water. The tunnels would assure that all water transfers would be completed. In fact, this appears to be the main reason the water agencies want the tunnels built. Last year there were more than 800,000 acre feet of northern California water shipped south without documentation. This amounts to stolen water!

  1. THE TUNNELS MUST BE BUILT AND OPERATING BEFORE ANY HABITAT RESTORATION CAN BEGIN

This proviso was actually a part of an early EIR but was subsequently removedin later editions. The object of the proviso should be evident: why restore habitat when you don’t know for sure if the water flowing through the Delta will be enough to sustain it? The way it is now, the DWR will have to start to rebuild Delta habitat in the dark because they don’t know if the reduced water flow through the Delta will be available to sustain the habitat.

  1. WHERE WILL THE OIL COMPANIES GET THE FRESH WATER THEY NEED FOR DRILLING AND FRACKING WELLS IN THE VALLEY AND THE DELTA

Fracking takes millions of gallons of clean, fresh water that is combined with toxic chemicals to loosen the shale and let the oil and gas out. And each well can be fracked up to 18 times! The water that flows through the Delta has too many contaminants in it and therefore corrupts the chemicals used for fracking. Obviously then, clean, fresh Sacramento River water is ideal for fracking. Fracking is big money and many valley agricultural users end up selling their surplus water to the oil companies at outrageously high prices. That’s another Big Money reason to build the tunnels. This, more than any other reason, is why Obama would get involved in reducing environmental regulations because Big Oil wants California all to itself. If it has its way, the whole valley and the Delta will look like Signal Hill near Long Beach.

  1. WHY DOES THE METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT (MWD) OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUTTING UP SO MUCH MONEY FOR THE TUNNELS?

Because the MWD want all the clean, fresh Sacramento River water they can get. Did you know that San Diego has cut their tie with the MWD and is building their own desalination plant near Ventura to provide them with clean water? Who else in the Southland might be looking for another source of water rather than paying the high prices charged by the MWD? Water that flows through the Delta and is then pumped south tastes terrible. In the past years the MWD has had to build five – count ’em – five huge ozone generators to clean up the water before it goes to homes and businesses. If they can import Sacramento River water, they won’t have to treat it as much–if at all–saving lots of money. The MWD can then reduce the price of their water so their customers will be happier with better-tasting water and stay with the MWD.

  1. FINANCING THE $68 BILLION IT WILL TAKE TO BUILD THE TUNNELS IS STILL NOT SECURE, BUT JERRY BROWN THINKS HE HAS A SOLUTION.

In the beginning stages of the BDCP the plan was for seven water agencies to band together into one entity to collectively provide the revenue stream that would go to the DWR and enable the DWP to sell revenue bonds to finance the tunnels. The water agencies have now shied away from this plan in the belief that the water would be so expensive they could not make the profit they desire from selling it. However, a new law has been passes in Washington that would make it OK for private banks to invest in projects such as the tunnels if the state government would guarantee the money and also guarantee a profit to the banks. In other words, the banks can’t lose! This is the avenue Jerry Brown is pursuing now to get the tunnel built. The banks would collect their money through raised property taxes and higher water rates from Californians. It was Brown, of course, who would not let us vote on the tunnels and not allow General Obligation Bonds be used for financing because the GO bonds would have to be voted on and he has been deathly afraid that the people of California would vote them down in the same way they killed the Peripheral Canal in 1982.

OK, that’s it. Which of these do you think should be emphasized in explaining to people why the twin tunnels are a $68-billion boondoggle that will not, cannot and will never make any new water! The tunnels will not save us from a drought they will only cost us $$ billions to help Big Oil and Big Water make more money.


BDCP plans uncover future consequences for the Delta
By Burt Wilson

The biographers of Thomas Paine, Revolutionary Patriot and superb theologian, write that when he was making his rounds as a tax collector in England he discovered that a revolt against the reign of George III (“Mad King George”) was gaining momentum among the lower classes who hated George’s stringent tax policies. This incipient revolution was also known to George’s ministers who immediately looked for ways to quash it before it became a problem. What they did was release gin, which then was the drink of the aristocracy, into the common pubs where it instantly became available to the masses. Within a week, whole families were falling down drunk in the streets. No revolution.

What does this have to do with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan? It is said that successful political tactics have been collected for ages and put in a big black book that has been passed down for centuries to help kings, princes and presidents to keep people from really knowing what’s going on so the state is able to keep things under control.

One of these “by the book”political tactics is called “enlightened self interest” and it’s being used by BDCP flacks to fool people into thinking that the Delta twin tunnels are for the public good while underneath they are really designed for private gain, either by individuals, corporations or state agencies or all of the above.

When it comes to legislation like that which created the BDCP, self- serving interests are usually covered up from the public by using phrases such as “safe drinking water act,” “reliable water supply” and a new one, especially for the Delta, “habitat restoration.” These are designed to evoke two responses in people’s minds, 1) to throw fear into users that something is wrong and needs to be fixed–the “poisoning the well” approach, or, 2) “look at us, we’re doing good by being concerned about the environment” which is the propaganda cover for all their duplicitous actions. These are the two propaganda thrusts used to dupe the public into supporting public-funded projects that promote private gain.

Let’s enumerate who benefits the most from the twin tunnels:

  1. There is an expectation that a million people a year will move to southern California in  the future, thus the BDCP was originally put together by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Business Round Table–the two most powerful political entities in the state–in order to supply more water to the MWD so new construction can take place in the high desert areas east of Los Angeles. You can’t build without showing a reliable water supply, so this will be a boon to the entire business community and practically all the construction companies in the Southland.
  2. The Oil Companies have given around $2.5-million to Governor Brown in campaign contributions and Brown subsequently signed a significantly weak Fracking bill by Sen. Pavely (SB-4) which still allows them to frack the hell out of California’s Central Valley. This is why the BDCP plans to build a new, separate Forebay right next to the existing Clifton Court Forebay. This is where they plan to put clean, fresh water (no trapped fish in it) drawn straight from the Sacramento River before it is pumped south. This is prime water for fracking purposes because it doesn’t harm the pressurized chemical combinations used to break up the underground shale formations.
  3. Who would ever believe that a state groundwater bank–one that gets its water from the Delta–would ever come under the control of a private individual. But it did! Stewart Resnick, the king of the almond growers around Bakersfield has partly controlled the Kern Water Bank since 1994 due to backroom, closed-door agreements between himself and the Department of Water and Power (DWR). Since then, Resnick’s water bank has been the go-to supplier of area growers and to oil companies who need water for fracking. Recently, however, a state judge has ruled that the DWR goofed and that we should take a new look at those agreements. In the meantime, there is evidence that all this pumping is harming the aquifer. This is the classic old story where a businessman takes over a going operation, raises the rates and then runs it into the ground so he can get government support and funds.
  4. The Delta is being primed for oil and natural gas drilling in the near future. Mrs. Nicky Suard, Esq., shows maps that indicate where the oil and natural gas deposits are and another map that shows land bought up by the oil and gas companies. The state has been silently leasing and selling these lands for the past few years and the oil companies are now sitting on top of $$$-billions in future profits. No possibility has been left out and while drilling here and there is currently underway (72 wells near Antioch, for example) look for it to blossom after the tunnels are built. (If they are ever built!) The overall lesson from this is that the Delta does not belong to the people, as the state is fond of stating. Rather it belongs to those who are able buy and pay for it and exploit it.
  5. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan has spent $250-million since its conception in 2008 to try to get a conveyance in the Delta–finally settling on twin tunnels. So far, its two previous Environmental Impact Reports have been trashed and it’s now awaiting judgment on its third try–a 35,000 page tome put together by an array of consultants who, just as the people they are working for, have no idea what they are doing. The BDCP has all but commandeered the resources of the Department of Water and Power–that’s your tax money being wasted with absolutely no cost to the BDCP. And that includes draining uncommitted funds from previous water bonds passed by you the taxpayers.  A few years ago, DWR let loose the fact that they plan to hire 5,336 new people once the tunnels are approved. That’s a huge benefit! And guess who will ultimately pay for it!
  6. Finally, but not the end, there is the Westlands Water District, the driving force behind the coalition of valley water districts which have banded together and pledged their financial support for the BDCP’s twin tunnels. The consortium of water agencies headed by Westlands is slated to put up a $25-billion revenue stream which the Department of Water and Power will use to issue revenue bonds for the construction of the twin tunnels. Revenue bonds do not have to be voted on by the public. The deal isn’t set yet because there are a lot of snags about who will put up how much. The deal has been close to falling through a number of times and financing is still not set. But if it ever kicks in, Westlands stands to make a whole lot of bucks brokering water in the Central Valley. And you will pay more for your water because all the water agencies plan to use the “beneficiaries pay” condition invoked by the Delta Stewardship Council to raise water rates all along the line to pay for the loans that have to be made to provide the revenue stream.

Following the money has always been the tried and true method of finding out who will benefit financially from a public project. To make sure the public doesn’t catch on, the mighty propaganda machines run by the Water Education Fund (WEF) and the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) are daily churning out news releases about how the twin tunnels will create a “reliable water supply” for the citizens of California. However, there is growing evidence that the general public is catching on to this propaganda–especially the fracking part–because the BDCP doesn’t understand that you can’t fool all the people, all the time!

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