Posted by: Jan | May 10, 2017

Taking the Bus


Save the California Delta Alliance (STCDA) members got on the bus Friday April 28 to travel to Sacramento and attend the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) meeting. This was the monthly meeting after the March meeting in Brentwood where 400 people showed up to let the Council know, in no uncertain terms, that they opposed adding an Amendment to the Delta Plan supporting “conveyance” (i.e., tunnels) as a “fix” for the Delta.

Arriving at the bus pickup location at 6:30 a.m. (yawn), Mike passed out tee shirts “Save the Delta / No Tunnels / No Gates”

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while Jan managed the bus boarding.

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Once loaded and ready to travel, a “healthy” breakfast was served.

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The bus arrived in Sacramento.

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We headed to the conference room and quickly that room was full. We had been joined by an additional thirty or more STCDA members who drove up separately plus members from North Delta C.A.R.E.S., RTD, and others. There was a strict limit on the number of people in each room, so a separate conference room was opened upstairs for the overflow. I asked the representative if the Council would have audio/video to be able to see the people in the overflow room. She told me that people in that room would have audio and video to follow the proceedings.

“No,” I countered, “the other way around. So the Council can see the reaction of the people in the conference room.”

A shocked look. That was a no.

RTD passed out signs where one side said “Agree” and the other “Disagree” so we could silently and respectfully rabble-rouse and let our feedback be known. During the two-plus hour presentation by the Council Staff to the Council about this new Amendment, the “Disagree” signs were seen repeatedly.

There were some very good change in the Amendment; statements that made it sound like the Delta Plan would actually do something to Protect the Delta. I was almost feeling like the 400 in attendance in March were being heard and wondered if my planned comments were outdated, that the Council was going to become “Stewards of the Delta” as their name implied. But then they went right back to tunnel-talk.

The “Disagree” signs quickly appeared when the Council quoted as fact a statement by Lund saying the main issue in the Delta is “conveyance limitations” and “improvements to through-Delta conveyance are needed, but not enough.”

Boo hiss!

Slide 23 had another list of reasons why the tunnels are needed. Next to the list of reasons why the tunnels will “fix” things I wrote “FALSE”, “FALSE”, “FALSE.” That slide also again raised the “earthquake bogey,” as Dr. Pyke has termed it. The false scare-tactic thought up right after Katrina that says all the levees will fall down when there comes a major earthquake in the Delta and then L.A will lose it’s water supply. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I then wrote down a sentence for my planned comments that after commending the Council on some of the pro-Delta changes made to the Amendment, I added: “If you truly are still protecting the Delta, the WaterFix project needs to be abandoned.”

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The only time I remember all signs saying “Agree” during that part of the meeting was when one of the Council members who was paying attention to the attendees’ feedback asked if we thought there is valid science out there that is not being considered in the WaterFix plan. Well, yeh – of course, everyone agreed.

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The Council had made many changes/redlines to the Amendment that were presented. Many of the changes sounded very good for the Delta.

After the amendment presentation, the Council opened the meeting up for comments. There were more than thirty people that made comments from the main room. There were another thirty waiting to come downstairs to make their comments.

Comments being made to the Council:

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The line-up to make comments:

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Captain Frank Morgan letting the Council know what he thinks of the tunnel plan.

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Chairperson Randy Fiori (right) looking unswayed by all of the arguments against the Tunnels.

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Out of all those commenters, only one was “for” the tunnels and she was from the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the State agency pushing the tunnels. She received “boos.”

If you remember, the Delta Plan is a plan with two co-equal goals: “Reliable exports” to the South (for the Central Valley farmers and urban users like L.A.) and “Protect the Delta.” Our point is that huge tunnels requiring a massive eleven year construction project through the middle of the Delta would cause havoc and economic ruin for all of the communities affected by the construction. Plus, the result of diverting fresh water directly from the Sacramento River and around (under) the Delta instead of allowing it to flow through would impact Delta farmers, waterways, fish, and communities. That is not the way to protect the Delta!

Also remember that last year STCDA and other organizations won a lawsuit against the DSC because the Delta Plan did not, as directed by the legislature, include measurable targets for reducing exports, reducing reliance on the Delta, and ensuring sufficient flow through the Delta. The result of that lawsuit win is that the judge invalidated the Delta Plan until proper revisions could be made. If course, the DSC is appealing that judgement but still, they should not be moving ahead with new amendments until they correct the existing Plan.

Both legal councilors Bob Wright (Friends of the River) and Michael Brodsky (STCDA) were strong critics of the Council for moving ahead with this amendment, ignoring the judge’s ruling and, as Bob Wright said, ignoring the direction they were given by the Legislature when the Council was formed, to start with the Delta Flow Requirements to protect the Delta.

Citizens argued for their communities and farmers for their farms. People gave personal testimony about the harm that would come from this project. Michael Brodsky’s summed up the message everyone was telling them: “Since 2010, the Delta Stewardship Council has refused to do their job. Their job is to find solutions to the problem that the way we now export water from the Delta to supply California cities and farms harms the Delta and makes our state’s water supply unreliable.

From 2010 to 2013, the Council spent thousands of hours developing a useless Delta Plan because they refused to address harmful exports. For three years, they said “the BDCP will do it for us; the BDCP will fix everything” We sued them and asked the Court to order them to do their job—which is to address harmful exports, not bow down to the BDCP. The judge agreed with us. The judge struck down the Delta Plan and ordered the Council to try again.

Now the Council says, well, the BDCP has looked at all of this for years and years now and what they want–the twin tunnels—is good enough for us. No need for us to look at this, it has all been done for us.

They just don’t get it. The status quo, a failed tunnel project, doesn’t cut it. Delta Council, please do your job and find solutions to save our Delta. That is our message.”

It was now 2:00 p.m. and the meeting hadn’t had even one stand-up break. The bus riders had to leave but many others remained. The assumption had been that the Council would then vote to add the Amendment into the Plan, since they have marching orders from the Governor to move his tunnel project ahead. But instead, the chose to not vote, to go back and review the process.

Maybe the lawyers calling them on the Council to obey the law and do their job had an impact. Maybe the huge turnout at the last two meetings has made them take pause. Maybe some of them are actually listening to the facts, that the WaterFix is not based on valid science and is not what is needed.

Building tunnels does not reduce reliance on the Delta. They would increase reliance on the Delta. The tunnels would not reduce exports from the Delta. Instead, they are planned to maintain the currently excessively high level of exports and have the capability to export much more, to export the entire volume of the Sacramento River. The Delta Plan does not even discuss the Delta Flow Requirements because those requirements written in 2010 said that the exporters were already taking too much money. Updated requirements released recently say that even more flow is needed than analyzed in 2010.

That is the true science. Fish need water. The Delta needs fresh water flowing through it to remain a healthy environment for fish and humans to live, farm, and boat in its waterways. The goal of the 90,000 pages written for the California WaterFix is to obfuscate the true science.

Their current thesis compares building the tunnels versus “status quo.” Much mention was made that “the status quo cannot continue.” One quote was that “Continuing the present through-Delta pumping strategy implies maintaining the ecosystem in its current state, which is detrimental to desirable species.”

To that statement, I say “wrong.” The error in the above logic is that it ignores the real solution: Cutting back on exports. Oh horrors, say the farmers. Less almonds? Less profit?

Yes! Even cutting back, there is still plenty of water for urban use and in most years enough for growing all the produce California and most of America needs for their table, plus excess. But there is not enough water to expand almond orchards for Asia without end. The export limit was met and exceeded in the late 1990’s.

Is the Council listening? Time will tell. The May meeting is being re-planned. Originally scheduled to meet in Suisun City, it is now moved back to Sacramento and date changed to Thursday/Friday May 25/26. The tentative schedule is that they will discuss conveyance (i.e., the Delta Tunnels/WaterFix) Thursday afternoon. At this point we are hearing that they won’t vote on the Amendment at this meeting. Instead it will be a working meeting discussing their process. That is what the lawyers told them they needed to do.

So right now, I’m calling the bus trip a “win.”

Thank you to Richard Wisdom, DB Press, who provided most of the pictures above.

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