Lack of Alternatives being Considered

One of the big complaints of the Delta Plan and related processes for “fixing” the Delta is the lack of alternatives being evaluated and presented.

The current plan being advocated by Gov. Brown and the BDCP is the huge massive twin tunnels to export 4 million gallons of water per hour from the Sacramento River to send South which would move the water around the Delta instead of flowing through it. The amount of water the tunnels could remove is basically all of the fresh water from the Sacramento River which would leave the Delta farms and communities surrounded only by brackish, stagnant water – not exactly an environmentally friendly situation.

Mary Piepho, Contra Costa County Supervisor, expressed her concerns last week in a KCBS San Francisco Radio Interview.

Contra Costa Supervisor Worries Gov’s Plan Would Divert Too Much Water To SoCal

“Brown’s nearly $24 billion tunnel system would divert water from farmland and cities.” “They’re focusing on the delta specifically to resolve greater statewide problems. The delta simply does not have the supply, the capacity or the ecosystem to withstand that sort of pressure,” Piepho said. Click here to read the entire article and hear the radio interview first-hand.

This week environmental groups proposed an alternative to the two massive tunnels called the “‘Portfolio-Based’ Single Peripheral Tunnel Proposal” which would export less water than the BDCP plan and still pump some water from the existing Tracy pumps in the South Delta. While this does result in some fresh water flowing through the Delta, Save the California Delta Alliance (STCDA) does not deem that as a viable alternative since it means exporting more water from the already stressed Delta.

The Restore the Delta response to the Single Tunnel Proposal was “We maintain that the best way to restore the Delta is to improve levees to the highest standard, to add habitat to those wide upgraded levees, to restore flows in and through the Delta, to screen the existing pumps properly, in addition to promoting regional self-sufficiency for water development in other parts of the state. If the existing pumps at Tracy remain in use, and a 3000 cfs tunnel is added at Hood, the total export capacity from the Delta would remain at 6 million acre feet. You cannot restore the Delta by taking that much water out of it.”

STCDA response to the Delta Plan calls for the Delta Stewardship Council to consider other alternatives besides the massive tunnels which to-date have been the sole focus of Governor Brown and the BDCP. Thursday the Contra Costa County Supervisors formally called for a wider range of options to be studied.

There are better alternatives. STCDA suggests evaluating better use of spring water runoff, which now overflows into the Yolo Bypass and various Weirs and is not recovered, and instead piping it south to re-charge central valley aquifers. A new proposal has been suggested to build a reservoir on Sherman Island in the West Delta and pipe water from there to the Tracy pumps, thus allowing the fresh water to first flow through the Delta. Proposals have long existed to restore the Tulare Lake basin. And of course water conservation, retiring toxic farmlands that leach salt and selenium, and a plan for regional self-sufficiency seem like the most obvious first steps.

Destroying the Delta can’t be the only alternative for the state’s water issues.

Don’t forget to Save the Date for the STCDA Town Hall Meeting on Delta Water including a free showing of Restore the Delta’s acclaimed movie “Over Troubled Waters.”

5 Responses to “Lack of Alternatives being Considered”

  1. 1 Danny January 18, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    It seems at this point, one of the main arguments for the BDCP is the reduction in risk from earthquake damage that the peripheral canal entails. To me the problem is threefold in nature, first there are much cheaper alternatives such as upgrading the levee system in the delta. Second, I believe that wasteful water useage and lack of enforcement by the Bureau of Reclamation/Water Board is the key issue. Also, subsidies for both water and certain water intensive crops need to be removed.

    • 2 Jan January 19, 2013 at 9:20 am

      You are right – that has been one of the BDCP main arguments but it is bogus. Let me explain why it is bogus.

      The increased exports starting in 2004 (due to loss of Colorado River water for LA plus yearly increase water-intensive almond and cotton production in the Westland agricultural region) coupled with drought years brought the Delta fish population to the brink of extinction. Salmon fishing accounts for 20-30,000 jobs and an annual $2-3 billion in state revenues yet all commercial salmon fishing was halted off of the coasts of California and Oregon in 2008/2009 season due to the salmon collapse.The only thing that stopped the pumps at that time and saved total collapse was a judges order. Not the Fish & Game, not the agencies responsible for water management nor for running the pumps. Environmentalists pointed to the crisis of the Delta Smelt (small fish that are the “canary in the mine” – environmental indicators). Some were being entrapped in the pumps and that was used as the basis for the court order although the significant collapse of all species including salmon was caused by not enough fresh water due to excessive pumping. Although the Southern CA newspapers called it a “fish vs. farmers”, it was the widespread health of the fish, water fowl, wildlife, Delta citizens, Delta farmers and Delta economy at risk.

      After Katrina, the water contractors used that event to raise fears about the “risks” earthquakes and levee failures to get support for the Peripheral Canal – you are correct there! But there actually are no active earthquake faults under the Delta. There are a couple of small faults that have never moved in thousands and thousands of years and a couple that were mislabeled faults that are actually stress fractures from the Sacramento River. The last major earthquake in 1989 that brought down highways in Oakland and the portion of the Oakland Bay Bridge did not affect the levees in the Delta. After Katrina there was also a lot of talk of levee failure and the claimed risk that salt water would be sucked into the export pumps when an island floods. The last failure was Jones Tract in 2004. This was one of the larger tracts and there was no salt water intrusion. There is enough bond money for ongoing levee maintenance and improvements. With regular maintenance of levees and proper maintenance of Delta Flows so regularly salt water is kept at the X-2 line near Pittsburg, it is not a risk.

      You are EXACTLY RIGHT in your 3-point problem statement.

  2. 3 Jerry Baker January 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    I support your position 100%

  3. 5 xxxz February 17, 2013 at 5:32 am

    californa has reached the maximum sustainable population and instead of allowing every last drop of water to go south for new cities etc.. they should move the people not the water.

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