Delta Legacy Communities Express their Outrage

This is a poignant letter written by the Delta Legacy Communities expressing their outrage that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) continue to push forward with a Delta conveyance based on the cancelled WaterFix project. They rightfully object that the WaterFix was a project that did not use best available science, or comply with the Delta Plan, according to the Delta Stewardship Council’s draft 2018 findings. Yet DWR’s recent Section 404 permit application to the US Army Corps of Engineers is based in substantial part on the withdrawn WaterFix project specifications. This continuation of the previous project is wholly unacceptable to our communities.

They object to the agencies apparent rush to get federal permits.They rightfully point out that the WaterFix was remanded to the DWR because of the fact that it was inconsistent with the Delta Plan – protecting the Delta’s legacy communities, boating, and recreation.

They point out that at the January 22, 2020 SEC meeting, the DCA’s Intake Lead Engineer, Phil Ryan, announced to the SEC members that the DCA had reviewed potential intake locations, and decided that the WaterFix locations were the best possible locations. DCA Executive Director Kathryn Mallon then stated to the SEC that the fish agencies had approved the intake design and locations and the DCA would not be considering suggestions for alternatives. As with the twin tunnels project, Delta stakeholders had no input into this internal decision.

The intakes in the north are on top of the legacy communities. The Delta Protection Commission rightfully pointed out that:

It is not hyperbole to suggest that the CWF [California WaterFix] project presents an existential crisis for the small Delta communities that would be most affected by the protracted, intensive construction period, the permanent infrastructure, and the radical – not evolutionary – effects on the Delta economic drivers of agriculture, recreation, and emerging heritage tourism. DWR has failed to grapple with the reality, demonstrated through evidence in the record, that CWF puts the long-term sustainability of small Delta communities in serious jeopardy

And stated that it was equivalent on causing blight to those communities.

I’m glad to see they are pushing back. The Single Tunnel Project is abysmal. There is no argument to saying otherwise.

Read the entire letter here.

NOAA Requesting Help with Sturgeon Death Tracking

There is a new effort by NOAA to report sturgeon carcasses in the Delta area. The majority of these carcasses are the result of a vessel strike. Please distribute the flyer below to any interested partners.

Sturgeon Carcass Flyer

Carcass location and photos are very helpful. Scientists from the team (with a Scientific Collecting Permit) will collect samples (genetic, fin clips for ageing) from the carcasses.

One Huge Victory for the Delta – Two More to Go

In the fight to save the Delta, we just scored one big win for the Delta as a place – for boating and recreation and for some of the most critical waterfowl.

Apparently, we “killed” the Central Corridor/Through Delta Route !!!


The Single Tunnel project has been designing two alternate routes, or corridors: The Central Corridor (the same as the WaterFix Through-Delta Alignment) and the Eastern Corridor. We thought we’d killed the horrible WaterFix but here it was back renamed the Central Corridor.

And as we know with this beast, we think we’ve killed it again and again but it comes back as a beast with two heads.

Apparently, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) is applying to the US Army Corps for a permit to build the single tunnel along the Eastern Corridor. The application is not focused on the Central Corridor (closest to Mildred Island, the Bedrooms, and Discovery Bay) but instead is being reconsidered for the Eastern boundary. This is more encouraging than what we expected … so hurrah for our team … that was one big “field goal” to residents of Discovery Bay, Eastern County, and those who use Highway 4 … but we still have the rest of the game to play. The bad news is intakes #3 and #5 are the preferred route as well. And there has not been the scrutiny or analysis of the Eastern Route to know all of the issues there.
The US Army Corps Section 404 application for the Delta tunnel is available here …

The map of the project in the application is below. (NOTE: If the map looks skewed to you, that’s because they rotated it so North is to the left. Weird.)

By not chasing the Central Corridor as the construction corridor, that removes the concern that Delta Boating and Recreation would be SIGNIFICANTLY impacted by construction noise, dust, night lights, and barge activity. Not what you want when you’re trying to anchor out for a peaceful Delta outing. It also means they won’t be building on Staten Island which is home to Sandhill Cranes and migrating waterfowl. The idea of construction on that island was horrible.

The idea of a huge construction project, trucks, people, new haul roads, through the center of the estuary has always been unimaginably horrible. If that option is truly off the table, your Save the California Delta Alliance team can breath a collective sigh of relief.

There are still other issues to struggle with.

Eastern Corridor Still Has Impacts


While selecting the Eastern route means Delta Boating will continue and wetlands through the center of the Delta will not be impacted, the Eastern Route still goes on Delta islands, impacting farming on Roberts Island, Victoria, and others. Since construction will occur are Delta islands, there is still impact to migrating birds and wetlands. This route has gotten much less attention so impacts have not been clearly delineated.

Maps of the Eastern Corridor route. Eastern Corridor is detailed on pages 44-65.

Far Eastern Route is being Ignored as an Alternative


There was an alternative route recommended by the DCA Independent Technical Review Committee in 2020 and the same route was also recommended by the WaterFix Independent Scientists in 2010. Now, as then, DWR refuses to even evaluate that route.

Information on the Far Eastern I-5 route is here.

FIRST MAJOR ISSUE REMAINING: Northern Intakes are still a huge issue

The locations chosen to build the intakes are the same as WaterFix which were rejected. Yet DWR continues focused only on those sites because they have an existing water right there. They will need to pull a new water right and not build intakes in a location that would be so devastating to the legacy historical towns of Hood, Clarksburg, Cortland, and Locke.

SECOND MAJOR ISSUE REMAINING: Pumping water AROUND the Delta instead of flowing through it is a bad idea


The concept of any tunnel removing water before it can flow through the Delta is not good.

They said, “This time would be different.”

We first met two of the new Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) reps in October, at a Delta meeting of the Delta Activists (groups throughout the Delta fighting the tunnel project). The meeting was held at the Delta Farmer’s Market at the corner of Highways 160 and 12, hosted by Ken and Laura Scheidegger. One of the two DCA reps was Nazli Parvizi.

Delta Farmers Market

At that October 2019 meeting, Nazli assured folks that the DCA’s process would be different from what we’d gone through during the prior BDCP and WaterFix tunnel projects (FOR TEN YEARS!), where Delta voices were never heard. We were told that the DCA was forming a Stakeholder’s Committee to “listen to” the Delta folks and mold the project into something of value for everyone. I must say, we who have been involved with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and related efforts for years were very skeptical. Yet Karen Mann, bless her heart, in an attempt to do her part for the Delta, volunteered to be on the committee.

[The SEC’s supposed charter is to represent Delta communities in the design of the Single Tunnel project, by giving feedback early on, during the design process. Our South Delta representative for local businesses is our STCDA President, Karen Mann.]

Repeated points made by the stakeholders during the SEC meetings are:

  1. The “Central Corridor” route (which was the WaterFix “Through-Delta Alignment”), is horrible, destructive, will kill Delta communities’ economies, and should be abandoned. The DCA’s own Independent Technical Review Committee agreed. The ITRC proposed a route further east, along the I-5 corridor, to reduce impact on the inner Delta. But the DCA rejected that recommendation.
  2. The site of the Intakes in the North must be moved. The current location will destroy the historic legacy communities of Hood, Clarksburg, and Courtland. Also, the Native American SEC members have reported that the north intakes will destroy a sacred burial ground!

THEN THE PANDEMIC HIT!

Karen, as well as the local businesses she is supposed to be representing and gathering feedback from about this project, are scrambling to keep their small businesses afloat or facing severe financial burdens, kids are home being homeschooled, people have parents and other who are sick battling this disease, health care and service workers are concerned with their own health, and streets are empty.

Most of the SEC committee sent in pleas to the DCA requesting the project be postponed until the pandemic is over. Delta communities are reeling. Many small Delta communities have limited internet infrastructure so cannot get the information about the Tunnel plans except in Town Hall meetings or one-on-one. In addition, no one wants to think about yet another attack on our lives – the huge construction project ripping up the Delta – at a time like this.

Karen’s request to postpone is here.

Yet at the DCA Board Meeting, it was reported that the SEC Members wanted to continue. (That has caused several emails disputing that report!)

At the SEC meeting Wednesday, April 22, (videoconferenced due to the pandemic), the SEC members pushed back strongly on holding the meeting as planned with the agenda item to discuss postponement moved down to Item #5. They wanted to discuss Item #5 first. They wanted to vote on it. They wanted to halt meetings during the pandemic.

Kathryn Mellon, the DCA lead, basically told them (my memory, paraphrasing), “We [the DCA] have a schedule to maintain. We are going to move ahead and complete the tunnel design. It is up to you [SEC Members] if you want to not attend. That would be unfortunate for your Delta stakeholders that you represent. They would not have their voices heard. But I guess they can comment during the CEQA process.”

It was very upsetting to me, listening to the videoconference. Very condescending and browbeating.

Wait for the CEQA process? We all know how that goes. We’ve been commenting on EIRs, opposing this project FOR TEN YEARS! When they get to their CEQA design, they are unmoving. What changes after that point? Nothing. The SEC members were not really given a choice. Yet, as they said, they cannot get valid input from their constituents at a time like this. THIS IS JUST WRONG!

Osha R. Meserve, Legal Council for the North Delta Agencies made this comment during the SEC Meeting public comment period:

A majority of the committee does not want to meet and there should be a vote to decide. The committee is being told that there is a deadline but not what the deadline is. The DCA materials from April 16th show that the Conceptual Engineering Report is due at the end of September so there should be time for stakeholder input. Yet the SEC members are being told they must continue meeting or their input will not occur. This is not correct.

She is exactly right!

So now we know. All that talk about listening, about the stakeholders having input, was a just that – talk.

There is one final test coming up. I sent in (*) Comments on the Project identifying issues with this project. Kathryn Mellon replied that they would like to have a conference call in May to review my document and provide their responses, to be sure they understand the issues. If there is any change in their plan (like if the Central Corridor route is dropped, the route most damaging to the Delta waterfowl and to boating, recreation, and tourism), “maybe” they are listing. The plus if the intake locations are changed. And if they commit to improving Highway 4 if they are going to overload it with construction trucks. If they do that, maybe they are listening.

I’m not going to hold my breath.

——————————————————————————————
(*) Note – There is an error in my comments submitted above. I had thought the DCA had said they would try to move the barge landing out of the popular “The Bedrooms” anchorage on Little Potato Slough and not work on the weekend. They did not. So we will need to see the next pass at the design to find out if the SEC inputs caused any change.

During the Pandemic, Westlands Lobbies for More Delta Water

This article written by a Director of Westlands Water District showed up in CalMatters this week: California water policies inhibit food production by Valley farmers.

Over the past 30 years, federal and California policies have taken away millions of acre-feet of water used by San Joaquin Valley farmers to produce food. Photo via iStock

My reaction to this very slanted, misleading, and downright erroneous opinion piece in a recent CalMatters article written to support Westlands Water District’s ongoing push for more water from the Delta is below:

No one has “taken away millions of acre-feet (MAF) of water” from San Joaquin farmers. The fact is that for decades, twice as much water has been taken out of the Delta more than the environment can handle. This was recognized in 2009 by the legislature’s Delta Reform Act directing Delta projects to start with the Delta Flow Requirements, but the exporters rejected the science. They continue to reject the science and ignoring the law. OF COURSE, pumping six MAF per year instead of the scientifically-approved three to four MAF limit has failed to maintain the species.

It is true that the Valley grows fruits and vegetables for America. Thank you! That is wonderful and something everyone in the state wants to continue or expand. But the same area grows 80-90 percent of the world’s almonds and pistachio’s, mainly to ship to Asia for big profits, and a huge amount of feed, also shipped to Asia. The Valley could easily be the American food basket with half the water they grab today and could actually then restore the Delta and provide clean water for the communities in the North that require a clean and healthy Delta for their drinking water, instead of allowing saltwater to intrude. One might conclude that the San Joaquin farmers are driven by profits, not what food is needed on California’s tables. We’re finding an increasing number of types of produce arriving from Mexico and Costa Rica now in our Delta grocery stores, as the acreage of almonds continues to expand, as it did even during the 2011 to 2015 drought years.

Also, the San Joaquin Valley is NOT the only region on the planet that has class one fertile soils and ideal climate. The farmlands on Delta islands and surrounding lands are actually the most fertile, comprised of rich peat soil. The famous Brentwood white-corn, tomatoes, fruit, and vegetables abound. Delta farms are surrounded by the water they need. All of the Delta Islands, Contra Costa County’s farms, etc., are irrigated by pumping water out of the Delta and then the runoff returns to the Delta to support fish migrating to the ocean. Yet it is these farms the San Joaquin exporters are trying to get rid of. And the expanding almond orchards include farming on the tainted, selenium-laced desert lands near I-5, the Westlands district. These farms should be retired.

It is correct that, unlike the Delta farmlands, what is missing from the San Joaquin Valley is water. Once there was more than enough water – the Tulare Lake – larger than the Great Salt Lake in area. But the early cotton farmers dried it up. Tulare was also the natural percolation pond for the Valley’s groundwater table. Valley farmers have created their own water problem. They need to look for ways to balance their need with available water while reducing reliance on the Delta.

During this pandemic, the narrowly-focused view to rush a new Delta tunnel is forging ahead, even while the Delta Stakeholders have complained that with the COVID-19 rampant, now is not the time to ask communities in the North to try to defend themselves from this destructive project. Instead, now should be the time to focus on groundwater recharge, desalination, recycling, conservation to improve regional self-reliance. And we could use a plan to insure they deliver the food that America needs and not just the most profitable crop.

STCDA Official Response to the Single Tunnel

Here is the official Save the California Delta Alliance response to the Single Tunnel (Delta Conveyance) NOP comment period, ending today.

We’d like to thank our Legal Council, Michael Brodsky, for the time and effort he has put in creating this comprehensive and impactful response. He clearly cites how the current project violates the Delta Plan (the overarching document for what projects are allowed and what are not allowed to be undertaken in the Delta).

In legalese, the proposed project is:

not consistent with the Delta Reform Act, the Delta Plan, the Public Trust Doctrine, California Constitution Article X, section 2, the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), the legal uses to which the State Water Project (“SWP”) may be put, environmental justice principles codified in Government Code section 65040.12, …

His argument is that the only viable alternative is the “No Tunnel” alternative, or a better phrase he uses is a “Natural Systems Alternative,” that “reduces exports in order to provide more water for through-Delta seaward flow and includes strengthening and restoring Delta levees through the use of setback levees and channel margin habitat.”

He further argues that the old WaterFix plan is outdated and now newer technologies (desalination, replacing lawns with desert landscaping, etc.) are more cost effective and more appropriate for SWP’s stated long-term goal of reducing reliance on the Delta.

He effectively argues that the old tunnel approach is not appropriate given climate change. He presents interesting facts and backup information about how the SWP is the biggest consumer of electricity in the state, and how pumping water over the Tehachapis to send Delta water to L.A. is a huge percentage of that power cost, definitely not in line with today’s climate change conservation goals.

This is a document worth reading. The appendices in the back include the testimony provided at the Water Board Hearings and Delta Stewardship Council which resulted in the prior WaterFix being remanded back to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to be corrected. One appendix also is the survey clearly showing how tunnel construction would practically end boating in the Delta.

BOTTOM LINE: The new NOP is just the old WaterFix with one tunnel instead of two, but none of the issues have been resolved.

Delta Tunnel Efforts Push Ahead during Pandemic

THIS is why we have a comment period on the single tunnel due Friday and why Karen Mann and the rest of the Stakeholder Engagement Committee are being asked to attend a video conference session DURING A PANDEMIC! This good write-up from California Water Research/ includes the letters Karen and other SEC members sent in requesting (pleading) with them to not move ahead while families and businesses were struggling to just keep their head above water (no pun intended).

Informative!

Worth reading and if you have the bandwidth to send in comments to the DWR this week, feel free to include an objection to them continuing to try to push this through while the Delta communities attention is diverted elsewhere. Here’s the details about sending in comments by April 17.

New Tunnel Shaft planned next to Discovery Bay

The Single Tunnel “Notice of Preparation” (NOP) comment period ends this week, Friday April 17. Please send in your comments about why any tunnel is a bad plan. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is considering two single tunnel routes: The “Central Corridor” (same as the WaterFix Through-Delta Alignment) and a new “Eastern Corridor,” slightly east, but still on Delta islands.

For Discovery Bay, we have a new concern. At the last meeting of the Stakeholder Engagement Committee (SEC), the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) showed more details about their current thoughts for the single tunnel. A new shaft next to Discovery Bay and tunnel now nearly going under Discovery Bay – way too close for comfort.

Right when we think DCA has listened to concerns expressed about noise and trying to minimize the impact on citizens, we see a decision to plop a maintenance shaft in Discovery Bay, less than a half mile from the Discovery Bay waterfront homes! From a personal standpoint, I will see and hear that shaft from my back deck and will hear the pounding all night for years. Plus the tunnel now goes dangerously close to the south east golf club homes.

[Side-note: That shaft has never been on the plans before. It makes me wonder, cynically, if the strong turn-out of Discovery Bay citizens over the years protesting the tunnels gave someone the idea to get back at the community. I hope not, that isn’t a pleasant thought.]

STCDA’s noise expert witness at the tunnel hearings in 2018 testified how noise pollution is more noticeable in rural areas and more amplified around water. This shaft wasn’t studied, but new concerns exist now about how much the many years of construction will impact the citizens of Discovery Bay and their home values.

In addition, the tunnel route now comes dangerously close to Discovery Bay homes. A tunneling expert’s witness testimony during the WaterFix hearings raised many issues that could occur tunneling through soft, alluvial soil. The new plan shown in the “Byron Tract Maintenance Shaft” illustration shows the tunnel route dangerously close to Discovery Bay homes.

Prior plans didn’t have a shaft anywhere near Discovery Bay and the tunnel route wasn’t this close. The WaterFix plan had the tunnel route going directly south from Bacon Island with a shaft on Victoria Island before the tunnel angled over to the Southern Forebay. Then the tunnel wouldn’t go under a corner of Discovery Bay, potentially impacting homes there due to tunneling through soft soils.

Where to send comments is provided below. As part of your comments, please add that DWR needs to move or remove this Discovery Bay shaft and alter the tunnel route away from Discovery Bay homes.

Concerns include:

  • New impacts to Discovery Bay from the new, closer shaft.
  • Central Corridor impacts on boating & recreation and resulting economic loss to boating communities, marinas, and boating-based mom & pop businesses due to noise and construction through the middle of the favorite boating waterways and anchorages.
  • Impacts on Delta communities and businesses from the gridlock that will occur on Highway 4 due to construction traffic.
  • Impacts on Delta farmers.
  • Horrible impacts on the historic legacy communities in the north where they are still planning on locating the intakes practically on top of those communities.
  • Muck piles left on Delta islands.
  • Long term issues with removing water north of the Delta instead of allowing it to flow through the Delta.

Single Tunnel NOP Comment Period ends April 17

Email: DeltaConveyanceScoping@water.ca.gov (by 5:00 p.m. on 4/17/20)
Mail: Department of Water Resources, Attn: Renee Rodriguez, P.O. Box 942836, Sacramento, CA 94236 (postmarked by 4/17/20)
Fillable online form: View form (by 5:00 p.m. on 4/17/20)
For general questions about the Delta Conveyance Project, please email DeltaConveyance@water.ca.gov.

The NOP can be viewed online here.

SWP Contract Amendment for Delta Conveyance Teleconference

SWP Contract Amendment for Delta Conveyance meeting on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

Dear All,

PARTICIPATE BY PHONE AND WEBINAR

Per the Governor’s direction on gatherings to protect public health and slow the spread of COVID-19, upcoming public meetings for the SWP Contract Amendment for Delta Conveyance will occur via phone and webinar only. Opportunities for public comment via conference call will occur as outlined in the meeting agenda.

For the best audio quality, participants should call in via conference call:

PHONE LINE: 719-359-4032
ACCESS CODE: 474346#

Please note that a guide has been posted online with step by step instructions on three different ways to join the audio conference based on phone and internet reliability. Please be patient as Adobe Connect adjusts for capacity.

The webinar can be accessed via the following link: http://kearnswest.adobeconnect.com/deltaconveyance.

WEBINAR CHAT INSTRUCTIONS

To make a public comment, navigate to the Chat Pod in the bottom right corner of the meeting’s interface.
In the empty field, highlighted in green, type the text Public Comment.
Hit enter or click the send icon to send the message to the entire group.

Participants can also listen to audio through the webinar. Please note that participants using webinar audio will be kept muted for the duration of the meeting. Detailed instructions for setting up webinar audio are included below.

WEBINAR AUDIO INSTRUCTIONS (Click here to access the detailed guide)

Enter the webinar using the Adobe Connect App, rather than through a web browser. This might happen automatically, or you may be prompted to open the Adobe Connect App when selecting the webinar link.
Once you have entered the webinar, turn on audio by clicking the Meeting button in the top left corner, and then selecting Audio Setup Wizard.
Navigate through the Audio Setup Wizard as prompted. You will then be able to hear audio from the meeting.
Please contact Kai Walcott of Kearns & West, the facilitation team, at (415) 568-9990 if you have any questions about the webinar.

AGENDA

The draft agenda for the SWP Contract Amendment for Delta Conveyance meeting on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 is posted on the Department of Water Resources Box site, here: https://cadwr.box.com/s/irusyewojv4nwzmxfznghzmgli9sswcw. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m.

Please contact Brian “BG” Heiland at Brian.Heiland@water.ca.gov if you have any questions or comments, or need additional information.

Thank you,

The Kearns & West Facilitation Team

Support for Small Business Owners

I know a lot of you are small business owners, trying to navigate what to do during these trying times.

This is the US Senate’s Small Business Owner’s Guide to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It talks about points of contact and the programs now available to support you and your businesses.

Click to access F2CF1DD78E6D6C8C8C3BF58C6D1DDB2B.small-business-owner-s-guide-to-the-cares-act-final-.pdf


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