Review of the “Cost and Benefits Analysis” Continued – The Earthquake Bogey


I forgot to add in my prior review Review of the New Cost and Benefits Analysis one very important criticism. My husband Mike pointed out this error in the analysis on the first Cost & Benefit Analysis David Sunding did back when it the tunnel plan was being called the Bay and Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). And that is the “earthquake bogey,” a term coined by Dr. Robert Pyke. A recent paper on the subject is here: “Update on the Earthquake Bogey”.

The “rumor” of earthquakes in the Delta have long been one of the phony justifications used to build the tunnels.

Dr. Pyke’s points, which I totally concur with, are:

  1. It is wrong to assume a near-term repeat of the 1906 earthquake on the San Andreas fault. “The big one.” Such an earthquake has a mean recurrence interval of 200-300 years, (so before the year 2106 or at a minimum 2206) so that it is not necessarily imminent, but it will recur in due course and is a much greater threat to the dams of the Santa Clara Valley Water District which are close to the San Andreas fault than it is for the Delta Levee System, which is miles away.
  2. The risk of damage to the levee system from earthquakes is less than the risk of damage to the existing pumping plants and aqueducts which lie along the various segments of the Central Valley Coast Ranges thrust fault (on which the Coalinga earthquake occurred). That is what DWR, Reclamation, and the State and federal water contractors should be worried about.

Yet, Dr. Sunding in his earlier Cost and Benefits Analysis claimed a 2 percent chance/year of “the big one.” First, that is too high a percentage. But second, in his prior analysis and repeated in this one is the assumption that a magnitude 6.7 on the Hayward Fault would cause a projected average of 24 flooded islands.

So let’s think about this. 24 flooded islands?

  • When was the last time a levee failed due to an earthquake? Oh, let me think about it. Let’s see . . . never.
  • How often do levees even break? Well we did have some minor levees break during the big storms during 2016 (no major flooding of important farmland, etc. – just some minor islands where the levees aren’t maintained. Before that? Jones Tract 2004. That’s 14 years ago !!! And that wasn’t due to an earthquake. They still don’t know why it failed.
  • And what happened when it failed? Well, the farmers probably had quite a fright but as far as the water supply – no impact, nada.

Let’s face it folks – this is a made up scare tactic to get L.A. urban users to panic and say, “Gee – we’d better build those tunnels or we might be drinking salt water when the ‘big one’ hits.”

And Sunding weighs the earthquake bogie heavily into his Cost and Benefit Analysis. We could have an earthquake (even though there are no active faults in the Delta). It could damage some levees. But Sunding’s arguments and analysis are bogus.

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