Posted by: Jan | May 22, 2019

DCA Continuing Delta Tunnel Project Design

Tunnel Design Work Forges Ahead!

Even though the Governor has cancelled the Delta Tunnel project and DWR has been sent back to the drawing board, Metropolitan Water District and other water contractors are pushing to get a one tunnel project started ASAP. And they are having some success.

California Water Research has sounded the alarm that the Joint Powers Authority continuing Delta tunnel project engineering design.

Who are the Joint Powers Authority?

Well, in 2018, DWR delegated the design and construction of the WaterFix project to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA), a Joint Powers Authority (JPA for short) created by the State Water Contractors (i.e., the exporters like Metropolitan Water, Westlands, etc.) Do you remember when we went to the first meeting of the DCA and were abhorred that the newly elected President of the Board, Tony Estremera, from the Santa Clara Valley Water District, was joking with Karla Nemeth, head of the DWR, that he was looking forward to a nice, long construction period?
Tony Estremera and Karla Nemeth (Photo courtesy of Gene Beley)

What? No one in the Delta is looking forward to this destructive construction at all, let along a nice long one!

Why didn’t their work get stopped when the Governor cancelled the tunnels?

On May 2, 2019, DWR sent a letter to the DCA stating that all approvals for the WaterFix project had been rescinded. But the letter also stated:

As the Department embarks on a new environmental review process and pursues new environmental permits, it will do this in tandem with design and engineering work needed. … This approach provides the greatest opportunity to deliver a project ready for construction with minimal delay.

In other words, they are planning that a one tunnel project “leverages” the prior design.

Is that a bad idea? There has been a lot of money spent on the current design.

Yes it’s a bad idea! The current project had two huge areas of concern, which is why that project was rejected by the Delta Stewardship Council Staff.

Michael Brodsky, our legal council, successfully argued that the WaterFix (two Delta Tunnel plan) was inconsistent with the Delta Plan (the legal document that any project affecting the Delta has to be consistent with and acceptable.) The DSC Staff agreed! It was then that the DSC recommended DWR rescind the project. And they did. That was a huge win for the anti-tunnel coalition.

Remind me why the two tunnel plan was rejected?

One: The destructive construction project would ruin the Delta because it goes through the center of the estuary waterways.

  • It would cause blight on the historic legacy communities in the North Delta because of construction impacts. This directly conflicts with the Delta Reform Act requirement to protect legacy communities and the rural nature of the Delta.
  • It would destroy boating and recreation throughout the Delta. Marinas and related businesses would close. This also directly conflicts with the Delta Reform Act requirement to protect boating and recreation.
  • The influx of columns of heavy construction trucks would cause gridlock on the majority of the Delta roads and highways and ruin a majority of the small two-lane levee roads.

Therefore, it seems obvious that any new plan must pick an alternate route, like going East around the Delta instead of through the center of the Delta.

Two: The water contractors have been exporting too much water for decades, which has decimated the fisheries. Even if they only take the same amount of water combining the export amounts via the new tunnel and current pumps combined, that is still too much.

Therefore, while a new tunnel may provide more operational flexibility and export reliability, any new plan must reduce overall exporting amounts.

So what happens next?

  1. Delta activist groups are pushing back and working to rescind the JPA’s design engineering contract and stop any work.
  2. The Governor called for stakeholders to be involved in the planning this time. That must happen.

Here is a good report about the situation: Joint Powers Authority continuing Delta tunnel project engineering design.

Posted by: Jan | May 15, 2019

Delta Activists Meet & Greet

Clockwise from top left: (1) Delta Farmers Market gathering place; (2) Karen Mann, Gene Beley, and others chat around the appetizer table prior to the meeting; (3) Attendees Melinda Terry and her brother in front and Laura Scheidegger enjoying the discussion; (4) Gene Beley, the Delta’s intrepid videographer of all meetings; (5) Barbara Barrigan-Parilla from Restore the Delta

A public meeting was held last night, “A Gathering of Activists.” The meeting was hosted by Bill Wells, California Delta Chambers and Visitors Bureau. It was a public meet and greet to get people throughout the Delta who have been working to stop the Delta Tunnels project together.

Thanks so much to Ken and Laura Scheidegger for hosting the event at their Delta Farmers’ Market on the intersection of Highways 160 and 12, in the middle of the Delta. Laura and her team were wonderful, the wine and appetizers great. I didn’t know about the place but what a nice place to stop by during the day or for a glass of wine after work when commuting around the Delta.

The first speaker was Ken Scheidegger who spoke about their dream to build a Delta Discovery site to better educate people traveling through the Delta on the wonders the Delta can provide. Ken spoke about the need to raise money to finish the Center in order to teach visitors about the Delta so that they care about the Delta and help protect it. Good luck on their worthwhile efforts!

Speakers included Barbara Barrigan-Parilla who talked about the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority trying to modify the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement so the current design contracts would cover the project redesign. This would likely result in only small project changes from WaterFix. She noted that the DCDCA meeting is on Thursday but had to leave the meeting early to meet with supervisor Don Nottoli.

Erik Vink from the Delta Protection Commission (DPC) talked about implementation of National Heritage Area designation. Congressional authorization was for $10 million over a 15 year period. There are 55 NHAs. Park service has funds for $150k for first year, $250k for next year and subsequent years. He lso talked about importance of making people care about the Delta. Deirdre thanked him for the Delta Protection Commission letter saying that the project would cause an “existential crisis” for North Delta legacy towns and that DWR had “failed to grapple with the realities of the project” and “thoroughly failed to mitigate” the impacts. I thought it was a key reason the entire twin tunnels project was cancelled. Folks cheered. Mariah, from Restore the Delta, talked about her experience attending the DPC Delta leadership program and what a great program that is.

Sean Kearns, Assembly Member Jim Frazier’s Delta & Contra Costa field representative, thanked everyone for their efforts.

Melinda Terry, North Delta Water Agency, said how North Delta Water Agency got involved in the tunnels fight. They had a contract for water with DWR, with guaranteed water quality.

Karen Mann, President of Save the California Delta Alliance, described her multi-generation background in the Delta and what the Delta means to her. She explained how the Delta Alliance organization started by opposing the Delta Gates project, then became active in the Delta tunnels fight. She gave a shout out to Jan McCleery, founding president of STCDA. Folks cheered.

Deirdre Des Jardins explained that Governor Newsom was saying that they had to build a single tunnel because of sea level rise and earthquakes. She said that the tunnel engineering failed and California Water Research was going to challenge it. Folks cheered.

Save the California Delta Alliance reacted to the Newsom Administration’s announcement today that it will be abandoning the California Waterfix Project, also known as the Delta Twin Tunnels, with relief and gratitude that the California Delta will be spared from destruction by the ill-conceived water diversion plan.

Today, California Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth rescinded the Department’s approvals of the project, withdrew certification of the project environmental impact report, and withdrew its application for approval before the California State Water Resources Control Board. The California WaterFix project is now officially dead.

The gigantic water diversion tunnels, each 40 feet in diameter, were the pet project of former Governor Jerry Brown. The twin tunnels, as envisioned by the Brown Administration’s plan, would have drained up to half the flow of the Sacramento River, diverting it to the Central Valley for irrigation and to southern California for urban use.

“The twin-tunnels would have ruined the Delta as we know it,” said Delta Alliance Board President Karen Mann, who resides in the Delta community of Discovery Bay. “Finally, after years of battling this water grab, common sense has prevailed,” Mann said.

Along with the announcement nixing the WaterFix Project, Governor Newsom issued an executive order establishing a task force of state agencies to come up with a “water resilience portfolio” to meet California’s water needs for the twenty-first century.

A “portfolio” approach refers to deploying multiple complimentary initiatives to meet water supply needs, including water conservation, water recycling, and more efficient management of the state’s vast water supply network.

Delta Alliance and other stakeholders have long criticized the California WaterFix for its single focus build-the-tunnels engineering approach. “We have consistently raised the need for a portfolio approach, to incorporate conservation and better water management, throughout this process,” said Delta Alliance lawyer Michael Brodsky.

Delta Alliance’s lawsuit to set aside the project approvals for the WaterFix Project, filed in Sacramento Superior Court in 2017, argued that the project violated state environmental laws because of the myopic focus on a single engineering element, the tunnels.

“We argued that Delta solutions must be based on a portfolio approach,” said Brodsky. The new Governor apparently understands this and we are encouraged by the executive order’s emphasis on portfolio solutions,” added Brodsky.

In tandem with the cancelation of WaterFix, the Newsom Administration announced that it would pursue a scaled down single-tunnel project as part of the resilience portfolio. However, the level of commitment to actually building a tunnel project in the Delta is unclear.

The Governor’s executive order states that “current planning to modernize conveyance through the Bay Delta with a new single tunnel project” is one of a half dozen or so initiatives that state agencies shall “inventory and assess.”

“They have certainly taken any tunnel project off of the immediate to do list. They had groundbreaking ceremonies already scheduled for WaterFix,” said Brodsky. By starting the environmental review and permitting process over from scratch, any approval of a tunnel project is now three or more years away.

“If the state wanted to build a tunnel forthwith, rescinding the approvals for WaterFix would not be the way to do it,” Brodsky added.

In reaction to the single-tunnel provision, Delta Alliance Board President Karen Mann said, “We must remain diligent regarding the planning process and the future of the California Delta.”

With an eye on both the death of WaterFix and the new single-tunnel possibility, Delta Alliance member and Delta riverboat captain, Frank Morgan said, “Finally some welcome news, so I will be storing my “STOP THE TUNNELS” sign, however it will remain readily available if needed in the future!”

“Our relief to hear of the rescinding of the current California WaterFix plan is enormous,” said Delta Alliance Board member and resident of the Delta island community of Bethel Island,Jamie Bolt. “We hold out hope that the next plan presented by the state is transparent and mutually beneficial for all,” added Bolt.

Critics of the tunnel plan have long pointed out that the California Delta is already in a state of crisis, near ecological collapse, due to over-diversion of fresh water. “Diverting more water and diverting at a point further upstream, as the tunnels would have done, would have only made things worse for the environment. Much worse,” said former Delta Alliance Board President and long-time tunnels foe, Jan McCleery.

The twin tunnel project was approved by the Brown Administration in July of 2017. However, it never received a key permit from the State Water Resources Control Board, despite three years of often contentious hearings. Dozens of lawsuits–still pending in state and federal court–also challenged the 2017 green light from the Brown Administration. These lawsuits will likely be dismissed as the project approvals have been rescinded and there is no longer an approved project to sue over.

The tunnel project first began to unravel In December of 2018. The California Department of Water Resources was forced then to withdraw its submission of the tunnel plan to a key regulator, the Delta Stewardship Council, after Delta Alliance and other environmental organizations, objected to the project in front of the Council.

One of Delta Alliance’s key objections was to the brutal construction impacts that prolonged construction activities would have wrought on small Delta towns, including Clarksburg and Hood, which were at ground central for construction activities.

When it became obvious the Council would vote to disapprove the project as it was then configured, DWR withdrew the application and said it would make revisions, rather than suffer an outright defeat. At the hearings, several Council members asked pointed questions of DWR about the construction impacts on Delta communities. The application was never resubmitted to the Council.

“Governor Newsome has now recognized the need to take the impacts on Delta communities seriously and has signaled that he will engage Delta communities in the resilience portfolio planning process,” said Brodsky.

Setting the stage for today’s announcement in his State of the State address in February of 2019, the newly elected Governor announced that he did not support the twin tunnel project as conceived by the Brown Administration. He indicated at that time that he would support a single tunnel coupled with other measures, such as water conservation and water recycling.
The California Delta is the largest and most ecologically important estuary on the west coast of the Americas. The Delta consists of eleven hundred miles of inland rivers and sloughs, which empty into San Francisco Bay. The Delta supports many fish and wildlife species, including the endangered Delta smelt. Two-thirds of California’s salmon pass through the Bay-Delta system.

“The Delta is an ecological treasure and a boating and recreation wonderland,” said Bill Wells, Delta Alliance Board Member and Executive Director of the Delta Chambers and Visitors Bureau based in the Delta riverfront community of Rio Vista. “I’ll be dammed if we were going to let the tunnels destroy the Delta without a fight, and the fight was worth it,” said Wells.
Save the California Delta Alliance, based in the Delta waterfront community of Discovery Bay and with hundreds of grass roots members who live, work, and recreate in the Delta, has been opposing the tunnel project in the administrative process and in court for many years.

In addition to the ecological damage of removing the fresh water source from the Delta and construction impacts on Delta communities, Delta Alliance has strenuously objected to the massive construction impacts of building the two huge tunnels through the heart of the Delta’s prime recreation areas on boating and recreation in the Delta.

Posted by: Jan | April 8, 2019

Parallels – the Delta and the Darling River

Here’s a good post about what went wrong in Australia with management of the Darling River. To me, the problem is saying they will make flexible adaptive management decisions instead of flow requirements.

Worth the Read: Flexible Management of Ecosystem Water and the Australian Catastrophe.


To me, “Adaptive Management” has long been a buzzword used by the tunnel proponents. Unfortunately, the same people never truly treat the environment as an equal partner. In fact, during one Delta Stewardship Council, Chair Randy Fiorini actually stated regarding the co-equal goals, that when there is a tie, they will always go with the exporters. (The fish die.)

Posted by: Jan | April 7, 2019

Delta designated a national heritage area

Delta designated a national heritage area, article by Tony Kukulich, The Press.

A 10-year effort to obtain federal recognition of the Delta as a place of special significance recently culminated with President Trump’s signing of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, and the establishment of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area (Delta NHA).

“National heritage areas are National Park Service recognized places where people have made an important contribution to the landscape,” explained Erik Vink, executive director for the Delta Protection Commission (DPC). “Unlike a national park or a national monument where it’s all about the natural features, a national heritage area is about the interplay of the landscape with the role of people, the culture and the local economy where (people) have made a significant contribution, and where they tell an important story.”

The Delta NHA is one of 55 NHAs in the country and the first to exist entirely within the state of California.

“From our perspective, the real importance of it is that it draws greater attention to the cultural and heritage components of the Delta region,” said Vink. “We think that can be an important springboard for promoting the Delta as a tourist destination, for bringing people to the region, and supporting the tourism and recreation economies within the Delta.”

Administered by the National Park Service (NPS), NHAs are defined by NPS as a grassroots, community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development. They differ from national parks in several significant ways. Primarily, NPS does not take ownership of the land encompassed within an NHA and no land-use restrictions are placed upon landowners.

With its new designation, the Delta NHA is eligible to receive up to $1 million a year over a term of 10 years, though the distribution must be matched by local contributions. Vink said that the use of the federal funds has broad applicability and the money can be used to staff the NHA effort, make improvements to facilities, develop plans, promote the area or any other use deemed appropriate by the local coordinating entity — the DPC in this case.

Read the entire article: Delta designated a national heritage area, article by Tony Kukulich, The Press.

Posted by: Jan | March 26, 2019

Tunnel Construction Issues being Ignored

Here’s a great blog by Deirdre at California Water Research about the issues being ignored or hidden with the tunnel construction. “WaterFix: Tunneling risks and tunnel construction contracts”

“Whether there is one Delta tunnel or two, the construction of a large diameter tunnel in Delta soils consisting of sedimentary layers of peat, sand, silt, and clay is a significant engineering challenge.

There was a large sinkhole created by “Big Bertha” during the Seattle Highway 99 tunnel construction which “shows the problems that can be created by “loss of ground” when tunneling in sedimentary deposits. Even when there is no “loss of ground” there can still be significant settlement on the surface. Washington Governor Jay Inslee halted the tunnel boring on January 14, 2016, citing concerns over public safety.”

“The current alignment of the WaterFix main tunnels passes under Delta island levees, State Route 4, State Route 12, the BNSF railroad tracks used by Amtrak, the Mokelumne aqueduct, and natural gas and other product and services pipelines. These are all critical infrastructure in the Delta. But measures to protect this infrastructure from tunneling impacts were not identified in the WaterFix environmental documents.”

Read all the details at: “WaterFix: Tunneling risks and tunnel construction contracts”

Posted by: Jan | February 21, 2019

Go West, young Newsom!

In response to this article, Newsom offers Delta compromise, a guest commentary that says, “Delta interests should seize the opportunity to cease water fights”, the California Delta Chambers & Visitor’s Bureau chimes in and says “No!”:

The California Delta Chambers & Visitor’s Bureau opposes diverting the Sacramento River around the Delta. We have never made a distinction over the method of diversion whether it be canals, tunnels, or any other conveyance. Diverting the river will destroy what is left of the Delta. The water barons in the south will want as much water as they can get out of the system and they will not finance it unless they are assured of this. We do not trust them! Over the last 12+ years we have asked officials to give us a few examples of where a project like this has not destroyed the parent waterway, so far they have produced – none. We have also asked for a study to determine how much water can be removed from the system without destroying fish and wildlife populations – they have refused to do so, we think it is somewhere in the 3 million acre-foot range. Don’t be fooled by this new scheme. A common ploy of government organizations is to ask for twice as much as you expect to get and settle for half and call it a compromise.

If the river needs to be diverted then do it at Sherman Island which will enhance the natural flow, cost less, and be self-regulating as far as salt intrusion.


We agree! The Sherman Island site is what Dr. Robert Pyke proposed years ago, and is also what Rep. Garamendi is pitching. It is referred to as the “Western Alignment.” The beauty of taking water there is that the water would have already flowed through the Delta, providing the fish what they need and keeping the water in the Delta fresh for Delta farms, boating, and recreation. That plan is self-regulating. That is, if too much water is extracted for the health of the Delta, the salt water would intrude at Sherman Island. But in years like right now, when water is flowing rapidly through the Delta, they could be pumping tons of water to ship South to refill the aquifers there, the reservoirs, and the Kerns Water Bank.

Some people who read my blogs mistakenly think STCDA may be for the tunnels if they move them out of the Delta and go East, around the Delta. No, that isn’t true. The truth is that if they ignore everyone in the Delta and still move to build them, going East or West would at least not destroy the Delta communities, boating, and fishing for ten years. Any tunnels operated with the same abandon that DWR and the Water Contractors have displayed for decades will destroy the Delta long-term.

Posted by: Jan | February 20, 2019

STCDA vs. the DWR

DWR has been cheating the system but justice is on our side

Save the California Delta Alliance has filed our initial petition against the Department of Water Resources (DWR) concerning the California WaterFix (aka Delta Tunnels). The entire lawsuit plus a copy of only the Introduction (for those who find looking at legalese scary) are attached. I hope you will at least read through the Introduction so you can see what we have been doing to fight back against the continued push by DWR for the tunnels.

Regardless of what goes forward, the past-Governor Brown’s two tunnels or Governor Newsom’s one tunnel, the plan as designed will cause unrepairable damage to Delta communities and to the ecosystem.

As the petition states, our members have exhausted all administrative processes to make our valid concerns about this project known.

Our Legal Council, Michael Brodsky, lays it all out clearly and concisely. If you want a review how this project morphed from what the legislature dictated (the Delta Reform Act) to the ambitious Bay and Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) which included environmental improvements and habitat, and then into WaterFix (the Tunnel Plan), read through the Introduction, at least.

I like Brodsky’s overview of what caused the Legislature to write the Delta Reform Act in the first place, in 2009 (emphasis added):

The State Water Project’s dream of making the Central California desert bloom and fueling unlimited population growth in arid Southern California metropolises with exported Delta water, zealously promoted over a half century ago by recently retired Governor Jerry Brown’s father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, is an unsustainable artifact of the environmentally ignorant 1950’s. The mega-engineering dream has proven an environmental nightmare. It has been legislatively replaced by the goal of reducing exports, taking pressure off of the Delta, and developing technologically up- to-date regional water supply infrastructure to replace Delta exports.

You may wonder what role Save the California Delta Alliance plays when there are so many environmental groups, big and little, fighting against this project. Why this lawsuit? As you all know, over the past years you, our members, have been going to the meetings in Sacramento, showing up, making comments, sending in complaints. It often seemed futile, yet because all of you have gone on the record telling the DWR over and over what the unmistakable and intolerable impacts this through-Delta tunnel plan would have on your lives, it has allowed us to now make this very compelling case.

In summary, why does STCDA have to take action? We represent you!

Many Petitioners, including national environmental groups, will no doubt call the illegality of proposed project operations.

Delta Alliance will brief these issues as well. However, because of the herculean effort DWR has expended in camouflaging a water grab to make it look like an environmental benefit, it has done less to cover its tracks with regard to the impacts that massive amounts of construction activity will have on Delta communities and Delta Recreation.

DWR has shown disregard toward the small rural communities and family businesses— of modest means — that will be obliterated by eleven years or more of continuous heavy construction. It made no meaningful effort to consider alternative infrastructure locations or employ alternative construction methods with regard to construction impacts on Delta recreation and communities.

Delta Alliance will focus a significant amount of its briefing on DWR’s failure to consider construction impacts in any serious way, and will attempt as best it can within its limited means to give voice to the voiceless before this Court.

Here is the Introduction:
Introduction Section.

Read the entire document:
The Entire Petition.

And if you appreciate STCDA’s efforts to represent you in the ongoing fight against the tunnels, please donate!

Posted by: Jan | February 12, 2019

Newsom makes appointments to the SWRCB

Gov. Gavin Newsom announces his appointment for State Water Resources Control Board: Joaquin Esquivel as Chair of the State Water Board and also Laurel Firestone to the Board. Esquivel has served on the Water Board since 2017. Esquivel was assistant secretary for federal water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency from 2015 to 2017 Firestone served on the Tulare County Water Commission from 2007 to 2012, and co‐chaired the Governor’s Drinking Water Stakeholder Group from 2012 to 2014.

Good? Bad? STCDA had been advocating to keep Felicia Marcus as Chair. In our assessment, losing Felicia Marcus is a big blow for the Water Board. With the new updated Water Quality Plan on-the-line, if it goes to the back-burner, fish will not withstand another waiting period.

Esquivel’s appointment is considered a positive sign for voluntary settlement agreements. What those are is creative ways to improve the ecosystem without providing increased flows. If we know anything, we know that years of “experiments” with habitat projects and other “creative ways to improve the environment” have only made the fish situation more dire, so that isn’t promising.

Firestone is new to the Board. Firestone has no knowledge of the delta or water quality plan or flows. Human right to water is her “thing.”

These two appointments weakens the board in setting real requirements to protect fish. And we lose the history of the last three years of testimonies arguing our case to prove the destruction of the WaterFix construction project.

Result: Bad, unless Newsom is freeing up Marcus to be the new head of the DWR. If that is his plan, that would be good news.

Posted by: Jan | February 7, 2019

2019 Status of the Water Wars

2019 is a new year. What’s been happening in the Water Wars?

Photo by Tony Kukulich, Discovery Bay Press, Feb 6, 2019.

Reminder: At the end of 2018

If you remember, at the end of 2018, the WaterFix opponents had successfully argued before the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) that the tunnel project’s destructive through-Delta construction project would be a disaster for small Delta communities in the North, for the entire area’s traffic when hoards of construction vehicles flood the small rural roads and two-lane levee highways, and for boating and recreation when barge traffic and construction totally shuts down boating in the Delta for the entire 10 or more years of construction.

Because of the strong case built against the tunnel construction, the SWRCB put off awarding the necessary permit to begin construction of the new intakes for the tunnels, waiting for a decision by the DSC whether or not the tunnel project was consistent with the Delta Plan. Consistency with the Delta Plan is a requirement for any project to move forward in the Delta. When the DSC Staff recommended strongly that the tunnels were inconsistent with the Delta Plan, both because of the construction impacts and water quality degradation, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) withdrew their consistency request.

The DWR did withdraw their consistency request but, in a sneaky move, also asked the DSC to withdraw the appeals, which they immediately did, shutting down all of the valid information and complaints that had been presented in the opponents’ appeals. STCDA’s Legal Council Michael Brodsky submitted a formal complaint, which we knew would be ignored, but wanted our complaint on-the-record.

Regardless, at the end of 2018, the project appeared to be at a roadblock.

Now it’s 2019.

Without SWRCB permits, no construction can begin.

Then why is the Joint Powers Association DCA awarding contracts for the tunnels work? The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) move ahead and select the Jacobs company to be the engineering design manager for the Delta Tunnels? Then the DCA awarded Fugro a contract for a major geotechnical investigation to support the California WaterFix project even though the project has not been approved. (Both were reported by Dan Bacher, FishSniffer). “The awarding of contracts to Fugro and Jacobs by the DCA also takes place despite an avalanche of lawsuits by cities, counties, water districts, Tribes, fishing groups, environmental NGOs and other organizations against a project opponents consider to be the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history.” People are wondering how the State thinks they can spend money on contracts and engineering when they have no permits.

A very worrisome action was the recent Trump Administration’s update to the Biological Assessment. Their goal is to increase exports from the Delta by reducing restrictions. Since we know the current high levels are what have caused the decades of decline in the Delta, this is a huge concern. It is now up to the US Dept. of Fish and Game and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to provide their feedback. In the past, NMFS has put science and logic above political gamesmanship. We hope they are allowed to give an honest assessment and that it will be listened to. It has been bad enough that we have had years of a Brown Administration that has ignored science and moved ahead with tunnel vision. Now we have the Trump Administration pushing past science to side with the almond farmers against the Delta communities, farmers, and fish.

These are worrisome developments. But we have a new Governor. Everyone wants to know his opinion on the Delta Tunnels.

While we haven’t heard directly from our new governor about what his position is, Contra Costa Supervisor Diane Burgis was hopeful when Gov. Newsom called for a meeting with Delta representatives as one of his first activities in January. On January 23rd, Newsom met with the Delta County Coalition (a representation of supervisors from five Delta Counties: Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, and Yolo) and Delta Caucus members (Rep. Jim Frasier, Susan Eggman, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, and Buffy Wicks). They discussed the lack of representation from the Delta on State Agencies and Boards making decisions about the Delta. They also discussed the Delta as a Place and what that means. No promises were made but Supervisor Burgis left the meeting feeling optimistic.

So far, Newsom has appointed Wade Crowfoot of Oakland as Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. He was West Coast political director at the Environmental Defense Fund and senior environmental advisor to former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom from 2004 to 2007. We were encouraged by his choice of Jarad Blumenfeld, a former Obama administration official and longtime environmental advocate as the new secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. As EPA Chief, Blumenfeld will lead the SWRCB. As far as I can tell, there have been no objections from the environmental groups about either of these appointments.

More importantly, additional upcoming appointments to be made by Governor Newsom will give us more insight into his intentions going forward. We will be encouraged if Newsom re-assigns Felicia Marcus as Chairperson of the SWRCB, as she has proven to be a fair arbitrar during the past three years of Water Board Hearings. She also showed fortitude in pushing back against the CA Dept. Fish and Wildlife and requiring increased flows on the San Joaquin River. We hope that decision will be supported by Gov. Newsom as the process moves forward. We’re hoping he decides to pick a new Director of the Department of Water Resources. That would be a big, positive step.

Besides the good news from the recent Newsom meeting, we have our Northern California Senators and Assemblymembers who formed the Delta Caucus last year, pushing to bring sanity to the project. From the Discovery Bay Press:

Last week, (February 1), Sen Bill Todd (Napa) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 204, which would require the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Delta Conveyance, Design and Construction Authority (DCDCA) to submit information about pending State Water Project contracts to the legislature for public review prior to those agencies moving forward with work on the Delta Tunnels.

The state’s Water Code requires DWR to advise the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) at least 60 days prior to the renewal or extension of water supply contracts between DWR and water contractors. In September 2018, DWR sought to extend the contracts with 29 water contractors from the current expiration date in 2035 to a new expiration date of 2085. During the hearing to review the contract extension, legislators renewed the call for increase oversight.

“I’ve been saying all along that DWR should not be spending large sums of tax dollars on any WaterFix contracts without oversight from the legislature,” said Frazier at the time. “I am working with other Delta Caucus legislators to determine what that oversight would look like and what it might take to implement it legislatively.”

For more information, read here: Discovery Bay Press “Senate Bill 204 increases WaterFix oversight”.

Bottom line: There are lawsuits starting opposing continued moves forward by the various agencies. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration’s new Biological Assessment is a huge concern in addition to the JPA’s DCDCA contracts to start the project and the Santa Clara Water Board push for rate increases to support the tunnels.

We will see what happens next, but STCDA will continue to do our part to stop the Tunnels.

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