Fighting to Save the Delta as a Place, Fighting Construction Destruction

Governor Newsom is looking at a single tunnel option.

Some at the negotiating table are still failing to recognize the effect a through-Delta tunnel construction project would have on the Delta itself. On the Delta as a Place.

Let’s be clear: Construction destruction along a through-tunnel route will ruin the Delta communities, highways, waterways, and farms (from the north to the south) in all five Delta counties: historical towns in Sacramento County (Hood and Locke) and in Yolo County (Clarksburg), farmers in Solano County (Rio Vista), boating communities in Contra Costa County (Discovery Bay, Bethel Island), tourism, marinas, and water ways in San Joaquin County (Stockton and South Delta marinas).

Whether the water quality impacts of a single tunnel can be proven by the water contractors to be acceptable for the Delta environment or not, the fact remains that if a huge tunnel is built along the current through-Delta route proposed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), construction destruction will rip up the entire Delta for years, from Hood in the north to Clifton Court Forebay in the south, leaving smelly tunnel muck in its wake.

This is not protecting the estuary!

The only way to protect the estuary, the legacy towns, Delta communities, waterways, waterfowl, fish, and farmers is to locate the destructive construction project around the Delta, not through it. Or, better still, abandon the effort altogether.

In December 2018, we won the battle!

Save the California Delta Alliance’s Legal Council, Michael Brodsky, successfully exposed the issues with the through-Delta-route as well as the water quality impacts. He did so for three years, arguing brilliantly and bringing expert testimony to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) tunnel permit hearings. The testimonies forced the SWRCB to defer on approving the tunnel permits until the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) first approved the plan “consistent” with the Delta Plan. (Being consistent with the Delta Reform Act and the Delta Plan is a requirement for any project that affects the Delta.)

The Delta Plan has two co-equal goals, one of which is to “Protect the Delta as a Place.”

We proved the tunnel plan to be inconsistent with the Delta Plan:

  • It was proven that the location of the pumping facility and intakes would cause blight to the legacy communities in the north, the historical communities the Delta Plan is to preserve.
  • It was proven that gridlock on every Delta highway would occur from the construction traffic flooding into the small 2-lane rural levee roads, shutting down highways required for commuters, stopping goods from being delivered to Delta communities, and stopping Delta farm products from being able to be trucked out. A burden on the communities that could not be mitigated.
  • It was proven that the inundation of barges, construction docks, pile driving, etc. would virtually end tourism and boating during the duration of the project, still estimated at least five to six years, causing economic ruin to a significant number of marinas and related businesses. The Delta Plan requires preservation of recreation and boating.
  • It was proven that the barge traffic would require highway bridges to open that now never do due to commute traffic and/or the age of the old historic bridges; threatening to destroy historic bridges plus causing more commute gridlock.
  • It was proven that muck ponds would cause long-term impacts to Delta communities, marinas, and farms.

It seemed obvious that the project would need to find another route, if it were to continue.

The DSC Staff listened, and recommended that the tunnel plan not be approved as “consistent” with the Delta Plan. In the Staff’s recommendation, they cited the compelling statements made by Michael Brodsky about the construction destruction – throughout the Delta.

The DWR then pulled back their permit request. That should have been the end of the through-tunnel route.

But after a hiatus, work is continuing (drilling and design efforts) along the same, flawed route.

Construction destruction to the Delta would be avoided by going around the Delta, instead of through it.

One of the DWR’s alternative routes was the Eastern Route. There may be additional issues with that alternative. And even if an alternative route is shown to be a good plan, proof that the exported water would not continue to damage the fisheries would still need to be proven.

Bottom line: The through-Delta route is totally unacceptable.

And the fight continues.

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