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Garamendi introduces bill requiring cost-benefit analysis of tunnels

by: Dan Bacher

Fri Oct 12, 2012 at 20:44:02 PM PDT


Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield) on September 22 introduced H.R. 6484, the SAFE Levee Act, to help guard the California Delta region against the growing risk of a catastrophic flood by strengthening the estuary's levees.

The bill, supported by Delta advocates, would also provide a complete cost-benefit study on the impact of the Peripheral Tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), which the state and federal governments have thus far refused to do.

House Representatives Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton, CA), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento, CA), George Miller (D-Martinez, CA), and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena, CA) have joined as lead cosponsors of the legislation, according to a statement from Congressman Garamendi's Office on October 11.

The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Water and Power on October 4.

A broad coalition of Delta residents, fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmentalists, family farmers and elected officials is strongly opposing the construction of the tunnels. They say the project would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and other fish species - while doing nothing to improve and strengthen Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta levees.

Delta advocates also say the habitat "restoration" proposed under the tunnel plan would take vast tracts of Delta farmland, some of the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order to continue and increase deliveries of Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water to irrigate drainage-impaired, selenium-laced soil farmed by corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

"For 60 years, the Bureau of Reclamation has used the levees to ship water south of the Delta without providing the necessary maintenance," according to the statement. "This neglect has left the levees in disrepair and threatens public safety. The Peripheral Tunnel project, proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) framework, continues to ignore this problem."

"The Delta is an economic engine for the Sacramento-San Joaquin region, and all of California; the SAFE Levee Act would help it stay that way," announced Congressman Garamendi (D-Fairfield) upon introducing the legislation. "For decades I have fought to protect Northern California from short-sighted water grabs and advocated for a comprehensive plan to meet the water needs of all Californians."

Reinforcing Delta levees is needed for flood protection

"Such a plan must include robust flood protection," Garamendi explained. "Despite what some BDCP proponents may argue, reinforcing the Delta levees is feasible as proven by multiple studies, and this bill would provide a funding stream through the Bureau of Reclamation to strengthen the region's flood infrastructure. Furthermore, simple logic would indicate that before moving head first towards construction of peripheral tunnels, we should first look at the big economic picture to determine which, if any, project makes financial sense."

H.R. 6484 would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to provide financial assistance to strengthen the stability of the Delta levees that are necessary for water conveyance and to protect human life and property in the region.

The bill will "amend the Calfed Bay-Delta Authorization Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide assistance to non-Federal interests for levee stability improvements located within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta related to Bureau of Reclamation Central Valley Project water deliveries, and for other purposes," according to the bill text.

For the complete text of the bill, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/...

Representatives Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui, George Miller and Mike Thompson explained why they are co-sponsoring the legislation.

"I will state again what I have always said: I will stand with the families, farmers and small businesses who depend on a healthy Delta for their livelihoods," said Congressman McNerney (D-Stockton). "The SAFE Levee Act is a responsible measure to accurately evaluate the financial burden the Governor's plan would create and shine light on the truth behind this flawed plan."

Peripheral canal or tunnel would set water policy back decades

McNerney, stated, "Levees have and will continue to be an essential part of a fair and equitable solution that includes the input of the Delta communities. Not only would a canal destroy the vital estuary that we depend on, it could place an insurmountable burden on users to pay for a plan that was flawed to begin with, setting our state water policy back decades. We will continue to demand a seat at the table and to have a voice in the process."

Congresswoman Matsui (D-Sacramento) said, "Delta levees work hard to support the passage of both fish and critical water supplies every day and they should be fortified to ensure that they are reliable. Many of the Delta's levees require substantial improvements and must be improved before a severe natural disaster imperils the Delta region's economy."

"We know that any long-term solution to the Bay-Delta's problems will need to address our region's levees, and will need to make economic sense for California," Congressman Miller (D-Martinez). "This bill starts an important -- and long-overdue -- conversation about strengthening our levees and fully evaluating the BDCP's costs and benefits."

"The Bay-Delta is home to thousands of business and residential areas," said Congressman Thompson (D-St. Helena). "Having safe, working levees are necessary to shield our communities from flooding, while protecting local jobs and our region's economy. The draft BDCP ignores the need to strengthen our levees. This bill provides the means to correct this oversight, while we continue to look for science-based solutions for the Bay-delta and California's water needs."

The statement concluded, "Ever since Congressman Garamendi led the fight to stop the Peripheral Canal in 1982, Garamendi has advocated for an 'All-California' water policy that prioritizes storage, conservation, recycling, habitat restoration, and levee improvements. Garamendi believes that a plan without these elements is incomplete at best."

Restore the Delta backs HR 6484

Restore the Delta (RTD), a well-respected coalition of farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and business owners dedicated to a fair water policy in California, is supporting the legislation.

"We support this bill, co-sponsored by Congressmen Garamendi and McNerney, because a cost-benefit analysis of the project is needed to expose what will happen to water rates and any hidden taxes that will result if the peripheral tunnels are built," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.

A groundbreaking economic analysis released by Food and Water Watch and the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) reveals that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) customers could be on the line for $2,003 to $9,182 per customer to pay for the 37-mile Peripheral Tunnels project. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/08/07/18719087.php)

On July 25, Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar held a press conference in Sacramento announcing their decision to move ahead with the construction of the peripheral tunnels, a decision protested by fishermen, environmentalists, members of the Winnemem Wintu, Pit River, Hoopa Valley and other Tribes, family farmers and elected officials in a rally at the State Capitol after the press conference.

Brown announced that the EIR/EIS for the peripheral tunnel/canal plan would released "this fall," probably September. However, the tentative release date was rescheduled to October and now is looking like it will be on December 20, just in time for the holidays.

Brown continues and expands Schwarzenegger fish and water policies

Besides fast-tracking Scharzenegger's Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels, Brown has also continued and expanded other controversial Schwarzenegger administration environmental policies.

Brown presided over record water exports out of the Delta pumps in 2011, surpassing even the Schwarzenegger administration in his zeal to divert massive quantities of Delta water to corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies. The massive diversions resulted in the "salvage" of over 11 million fish, including a record 9 million native Sacramento splittail.

Brown also continued Arnold Schwarzenegger's privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. Overseen by an oil industry lobbyist and other corporate operatives, the tainted MLPA Initiative process created alleged "marine protected areas" that don't protect the ocean from seismic and military testing, oil drilling and spills, pollution, corporate aquaculture, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

For more information on the campaign against the peripheral tunnels, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org.  

Dan Bacher :: Garamendi introduces bill requiring cost-benefit analysis of tunnels
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