Archive for the 'News and Events' Category

Water Usage in California

I thought this was interesting – who uses the most water in California from the latest survey:

Sacramento Bee – January 17, 2014

For those of us who didn’t grow up in California and didn’t learn the county names, here’s which counties are which:

Carrying on the good fight

Bill Wells, our Bay & Delta Yachtsman Magazine’s “Delta Rat” journalist was honored for his efforts in battling the BDCP in a recent Rio Vista newspaper:

They ask why we don’t trust them

Photo by Randy Pench/

Yesterday, Jerry Meral was quoted in a Sacramento Bee Viewpoint piece that Sacramento should not worry that the tunnels will harm their city: “Through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the state and federal water project operators offer [their] commitment to contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species,” he penned.

Here’s more proof about why we cannot trust those types of comments from people who want the water. Today’s Sacramento Bee discusses Owens Valley. The LA Municipal utility that oversees that valley “defend their stewardship” and say “We’re very protective of the valley. Some will imply anything we do is the source of all the problems. There are many more factors, weather probably being the biggest one.”

Doesn’t that sound just like BDCP representatives saying the current fish decline in the Delta is all about the drought, not excessive pumping?

How about this statement? “Utility officials also point to a recent track record of environmental gains. Seven years ago, DWP returned water to the lower Owens River, bringing a Lazarus-like, 62-mile-long stream corridor back to life. And it diverts significantly less water out of the valley than a generation ago.”

I don’t think Owens Valley is exactly healthy and blooming.

In addition, Owens Valley representatives of the tribes and people who live there say that Los Angeles had to be pushed to make those changes through years of legal and regulatory conflict. “It’s not voluntary,” said Daniel Pritchett, a board member of the Owens Valley Committee, an environmental nonprofit based in Bishop. “It’s only because they’ve been forced, kicking and screaming, by the courts.”

It sounds so all too similar to the current Delta battles. Jerry Meral and BDCP proponents say the tunnels are to provide “reliability” and point to the unreliability caused by environmental restrictions (i.e., the judges not letting them continue to pump until the salmon are extinct). But if they operated the system in a balanced way, with true concern for the co-equal goals which allows for excess water put to beneficial use while restoring the Delta ecosystem, the Delta would not be in the condition it currently is in.

The goal of the BDCP is to gain approval of a 40-year plan during which time legal challenges will be much more difficult. Yet another reason why the BDCP cannot be approved. To-date, unfortunately, the only thing that has kept the salmon from extinction has been the legal challenges.

Read more here:

2014’s Off to a Dry Start

Rocks are visible below the Headwall run as skiers make their way down a run at Squaw Valley Resort on Monday, December 30, 2013 in Olympic Valley, Calif. Lack of snow has left many resorts with runs full of obstacles, like rocks, grass and small trees for skiers and boarders to navigate on their way down the mountain. – Photo Sacramento Bee

Snowpack Report

See Sacramento Bee’s “Sierra snow survey points to dry year ahead” January 4, 2014.

Meanwhile, Jerry Meral is still arguing in favor of tunnels today – see Jerry Meral Viewpoint in the Sacramento Bee also January 4, 2014. It’s amazing how he can continue to justify his viewpoints when every paragraph in that story is either misleading or just untrue. See our rebuttal to Meral’s Viewpoint here: “Meral resigned, but is not gone”.

If the tunnels were already built, they would be sitting dry.

Tunnels will not help.

What if

From 1982 when the Peripheral Canal was voted down until today, what has the state done to get ready for another drought? What if we’d started building water recycling and desalination plants and implemented real conservation projects like upgrades to the LA aging water pipelines? Instead of water contractors putting hundreds of millions of dollars into producing 40,000 pages of meaningless documentation to justify a water grab, what if the contractors had been investing in regional self-sufficiency like ground water clean-up, recycling and ground water recharge?

Perhaps 2014 would be a good year for the state to change direction and start implementing projects that will protect us all during drought years. Instead of spending $67 billion on tunnels, we should start investing today in real solutions.

Meral resigned, but is not gone

Jerry Meral may have resigned, but he is still arguing in favor of tunnels today in the Sacramento Bee. It’s amazing how he can continue to justify his viewpoints when every paragraph in his article is either misleading or just untrue.

The Sacramento Bee has a new Comment system based on vouchers. I don’t know the California Farm Water Coalition representative manages to get vouchers to post a negative comment on every anti-tunnel SacBee press article, but I can’t get one even after I signed up for a Sac Bee subscription!

So in case you saw the Jerry Meral article, here’s what he has wrong:

  • Meral says: “Existing water diversions from the south Delta cause fish problems by diverting and killing fish from dead-end channels. Moving the diversion point upstream to the Sacramento River would allow river flows to safely carry young fish past the fish screens at the new intake.”

    Misleading. The main cause of the fish problems is too much water being exported which reverses the flow. The Bay Institute and State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Delta Flows report clearly states that the “fix” is to reduce the level of pumping during migration times. Removing more fresh water upstream and reducing the overall flow through the Delta is not a fix. The Delta needs fresh water flowing through it.

    Unproven and Speculative. The new diversion point “fish protection” is based on fish screens that haven’t been invented yet. Meanwhile they claim they can’t invent screens or a configuration at the current location to better protect fish.

  • Meral continues: “A new diversion point is strongly supported by independent and university biologists and state and federal fish agencies.”

    Misleading. There are as many or more scientists that oppose the tunnels saying they will mean the extinction of salmon and other species. The Federal Fish & Game have not agreed that the tunnels will not kill the fish.

  • Meral states: “Another concern is whether Sacramento County water users might somehow be harmed by a new diversion point on the Sacramento River south of the city of Sacramento.”
    1. Meral has two responses to this concern – first: “The proposed new diversion is downstream of the water intakes for the city of Sacramento and Sacramento County water users. Physically, there would be no way for the new diversion (the intake to the tunnels) to take any water needed by Sacramento water users.”

      Misleading. Sacramento water users may not be harmed directly from where the pumps are located but will be harmed long-term due to more water being extracted from the system and sent south. The BDCP modeling shows their plan is to take Folsom Reservoir down to a dead pool level (10% full) during dry years to provide enough water for the farmers. That is Sacramento’s drinking water. Also, by removing fresh water before it flows through the Delta, it risks the Delta becoming saltier which threatens other Delta communities’ drinking water.

    2. Second: “Layers of institutional guarantees ensure that none of Sacramento’s water could ever be diverted by the state and federal water projects. Sacramento has very secure water rights, which long predate those of the state and federal water projects. State “area of origin” water laws protect the rights of counties upstream of the Delta to use the water they need before any can be exported.”

      Untrue. The layers of agencies all have a water contractor with veto power so that any decision that would protect the fish by cutting back water exports could be postponed indefinitely while the fish all die. See “The fox are guarding the henhouse”.

  • Last, Meral states: “Through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the state and federal water project operators seek the same assurances and offer the same commitment to contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species.”

    Untrue: The water contractors will have veto power over operations and they have no commitment to endangered species. I’ve heard the two top officials of the Westlands Water District at different times both say they weren’t going to spend any more money for salmon. Westlands sued to try to get water releases from the Trinity stopped even when it was clear to not release some water would kill the salmon eggs. Westlands is trying to get rid of bass in the Delta and Orcas in the NorthWest because they claim those species are what is causing harm to salmon – they won’t admit it is the over exporting that is killing the salmon. Metropolitan Water District was the agency behind the “2-Gates” project which would have been a disaster for boating communities in the South Delta.

    Yet Meral can believes there is a “commitment” to the recovery of endangered species?

See Jerry Meral Viewpoint to read it for yourself.

Where is Jerry Meral Now?

  If you wondered about where Jerry Meral would work next, here’s the answer: Natural Heritage Institute Hires Jerry Meral.

He announced in a statement on December 31 that he will be now working for the Natural Heritage Institute (NHI), a pro twin tunnels “environmental” NGO that touts itself as “an early and strenuous proponent of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.”

Jerry Meral is joining an organization that not only has been an “early and strenuous” cheerleader of the BDCP, but has long championed water markets and water transfers that have privatized water and transformed a public trust asset, belonging to all citizens, into a “profit center to enrich special interests,” according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA).

Sounds like a great fit!

Good News/Bad News

Here’s the Good

Good News/Bad News: Here’s the good – December 19 Sierra Club issues a White Paper opposing the Tunnels and offers common sense alternatives that should be pursued instead: “Sierra Club offers alternatives to the governor’s giant tunnels”.

Here’s the Bad

December 21, Boxer pushes legislation to expedite environmental impact reviews so projects can be approved more quickly. The move timing makes us suspicious that it’s being motivated to expedite the tunnel project. There seems to be opposition from many about the wording in it. The US Army Corp of Engineers who does the projects is also opposed.

Sen Feinstein in the past has bent to the request of Resnick and big Agribusiness when she tried to add legislation in the Senate Jobs Bill to remove protection for endangered salmon.

Boxer’s reputation in the past has been to want to aid the environment, not abandon it.

Media about the BDCP Release

Sacramento Bee Cartoon 12.12.13
Sacramento Bee Cartoon – December 12, 2013

From the Redding Record Editorial Tuesday Dec 10:
“The documents — the plan itself and its draft environmental impact report — released this week for public review and comment weigh in at some 33,000 pages. That’s not a doorstop, it’s a barricade. For comparison, the last print edition of the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica — all 32 volumes of it — totaled almost exactly the same size at 32,640 pages.”

“But the staggering complexity of the plan, along with its $25 billion cost, reflects either a 21st-century marvel of engineering and organization — or an act of extraordinary hubris doomed to collapse under its own weight.”

The Sacramento Bee Editorial today points to three huge flaws with the BDCP Plan:
(1) Who will finance it? The basic financial framework, for example, remains unresolved.
(2) What would be the role be of the Delta counties?
(3) How much water needs to flow through the Delta. The report also fails to define what future water flows would be through the Delta.

The SacBee Editorial concludes: “It is time to consider alternatives seriously, something the 34,000-page draft study just doesn’t do.” Read more here:

Assembly members Jim Frazier and Mariko Yamada joined the Restore The Delta protest on the steps of the Sacramento capital building to voice strong displeasure with the BDCP and process to-date. The sentiment was echoed by Sacramento Assemblyman Roger Dickinson in the guest article “Viewpoints: When it comes to re-plumbing the Delta; trust is a two-way street”. It’s great to see how vocal the Northern California legislators are becoming in opposition to the plan. For years they’ve tried to compromise and stay at the bargaining table. It appears they recognize that has failed and are now on attack mode.

The only pro-BDCP media I’m reading this week is from the Farm Water Coalition, Fresno Bee editorial by a farmer there, and other stakeholders who want the water. Or some writers that “buy” what the BDCP is selling.

Planning for 2014

As we are in the final few months of 2013, the Save the California Delta Alliance would like to thank all you who have contributed to the cause this year – supporting the Save the Delta Charity Golf Event, volunteering to man booths at various events, and those who got on the bus to Sacramento. A special thanks to the volunteers who went door-to-door making sure our lawn signs were visible throughout Discovery Bay, north in Clarksburg and along highways in-between. Plus all others who are working to stay informed via our newsletters.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was delayed until November 15th and possibly later due to the government shutdown. Once it is released, there will be a 120 day comment period and we will be reaching out for your comments to be sent in.

In addition, my term as President is up at the end of this year and we are seeking a new President for 2014. I will remain in my Communications role. The formal responsibilities of the President are: “The President shall be the principal executive officer of the Association and shall in general supervise, direct, and control all of the business and affairs of the Association and officers. The President shall convene Board meetings and shall preside or arrange for other members of the Board to preside at each meeting.” Board meetings are held quarterly in Discovery Bay or more often as needed.

The new President will have guidance and support from existing Board of Directors and Steering Committee members including our outstanding Legal Council, Michael Brodsky, to help him/her come up-to-speed on the important issues and upcoming milestones.

We are seeking a person who cares about the Delta and who can represent the organization in public meetings (such as our yearly Town Hall Meeting) and smaller venues (speaking to boating clubs or farmer organizations), who likes to organize events and has leadership experience.

If you are interested, please contact me at


Paper Water

Water’s for Fighting: How California and the feds sold off more water than north state rivers usually hold.

Today’s post includes excerpts from a great piece in Humboldt County’s North Coast Journal that follows the paper water trail and answers the $64 million question: “So why does Southern California get to drink our milkshake?” See the link to the entire article at the end of this post. It provides much more information, particularly on the Trinity River battles and detailed history of contractor rights.

When the Central Valley Project was being developed, the Bureau of Reclamation began making contracts to sell water to irrigators. In its effort to gain water rights, Reclamation made “exchange” contracts with irrigators who had riparian rights. Those deals resulted in many senior claims to water — essentially first place in line — for those irrigators.

And while some of its customers regularly get their full water complement, those with junior water claims are given small percentages. In the Central Valley Project, that’s the irrigators on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley (such as Westlands Water District), which were among the last contractors with Reclamation and so have junior water rights. They came late to the party when the Central Valley Project was completed in 1963. Now, Reclamation has more than 250 contracts attached to the Central Valley Project.

That discrepancy between the amount of water available and the amount of water promised is called “paper water.”

And while “paper water” is sometimes a source of strife, with water users pulling at the supply from both ends of the state, some say it’s actually meant to prevent disputes. Think of it this way: Reclamation’s contracts represent California waterways when they’re completely saturated — a glass 100 percent full. If and when the state gets a year that wet, that water is spoken for. If the glass was full and the water wasn’t 100 percent spoken for, it could spur furious grasping for the leftovers.

They claim it’s not bad science that created those over-allocations. It’s planned for when there’s a wet year. Anticipating that there’s an excess. It’s optimism — and “how do you prevent a scramble?”

“In plain language,” the report reads, “this means there is really very little if any water available to the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project at any time.”

Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network put it bluntly. “They will never get 100 percent of their water contracts,” he said. “This is not a new phenomenon. They’ve been sweeping it under the rug for years.”

To make matters worse, over the last 32 years, Reclamation began realizing the negative impacts occurring to the environment from over-emptying water (e.g., from the Trinity River causing the massive salmon kill in 2002), and began to give back more than 1 million acre-feet of water to the environment, yet there’s no adjustments to water contracts or water rights. This is one example of why now the holders of the water contracts will NEVER have 100 percent.

More than five times the available water in the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River basins is claimed by state and federal rights holders, according to the California Water Impact Network report.

In addition, when allocations and contracts were first developed, the population of the state was lower. We’ve got this issue of climate change as well. We’re not seeing as much rain and snow as we’ve had in the past.

Why don’t we fix the paper contract fiasco?

Stokely said Reclamation isn’t interested in adjusting its water contracts because it would mean an admission that the bureau doesn’t have as much water as it says. “If they revise their allocations, they’re in for a big fight,” he said, adding that water users, not taxpayers, come first. “The Bureau’s essentially controlled by the water users — they’re the quote-unquote clients.”

Hampering the efforts to adjust allocations to numbers based on reality are the powerful Southern California Water interests, Stokely said. The five-person California Water Board, which could revisit water claims, is appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and “they’re never going to make a decision that makes the governor unhappy,” he said.

Opponents of the Delta Tunnels say the multi-billion dollar plan is just another attempt to increase Southern California’s access to Sacramento River water that simply doesn’t exist.

Bottom line: Claims that the Bay Delta Project will increase the health of the delta just don’t stand up when fresh water is expected to be pumped south before it reaches the delta.

See the entire article in Humboldt County’s North Coast Journal article by Grant Scott-Goforth Water’s for Fighting.

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