Commentary: Delta Tunnel Ignores Bay's worse Salinity problems
What is the matter with California’s state officials? Why are they pushing so hard for a plan costing billions of dollars that the California taxpayer never voted for and the state cannot afford?
These state officials passed this plan in the dead of night with no committee hearings and no public comment.
They figured by separating the sucking up fresh waters part, the tunnels, from the damage part, they could give the water barons what they wanted when no one was looking and leave the taxpayers with the bill to fix the mess that’s left behind.
The story is that the tunnels will be paid by water contracts. That won’t happen for decades because, the water barons have 40-50 year contracts. So the California taxpayer will end up paying for it first, and then we have to wait for them to pay us back. We’ve been waiting for 70 years for them to pay what they promised to pay back in the 1930s.
Finding ways to make up for the missing water is supposed to be paid by the water bond on the November ballot. If the people don’t pass the water bond, it’s not the water baron’s fault. They got what they wanted: more water and the smelt problems off their backs.
A year ago a top economic research center did a Cost-Benefit Analysis and said “the tunnels are not economically justified,” according to the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific.
That was with the understanding it was a $13 billion plan at a 3 percent discount rate.
Since then the plan will cost five times as much, over $60 billion, and the Office of Management and Budget clearly states that discount rate will be around 6 percent to 7 percent.
Wouldn’t that make it even less economically justified?
Back in the 1920s, California went through a terrible drought, much like today. Land opened up for hundreds of farms around the delta and everyone was pulling water out of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.
The ocean water filled in for the missing fresh water. Antioch and Pittsburg business and residential communities ended up with no fresh water and corroded the pipes from salt water.
In response, the state adopted a “State Water Plan” in 1930 that called for the construction of the Shasta Dam and the Friant Dam. These dams had the specific duty to keep the ocean water out by the Carquinez Straits away from Suisun Bay.
The documents for the Delta Plan (BDCP Draft, Chapter 5.6-16) admits it will take Northern California back to conditions worse than the 1920s, and it will be on a permanent basis (because they want the winter’s extra water also).
One of the reasons the delta will have worse salinity problems could be the fact that they will be taking more water after the tunnels.
The Tracy pumps that are used now are limited to 4,250 cfs, and they have to shut down when salt water fills up around the pumps — one sign, smelt caught in their screens.
The “Reliable-Waters” part of this plan, the Tunnels, will have a maximum capacity of 9,000 cfs. And with the pumping site deeper in the state, they won’t see any salt water and smelt problems. The rest of the Delta community? Well, too bad for them.
Or, the communities along the Sacramento and American Rivers might be saddled with making up for the missing water to the delta. That would be us.
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and the various delta business communities have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for not even meeting the minimum requirements of the Delta environment, salinity levels, fresh water to Delta communities.
The public still has time to let the state officials know what you think about this. Public comment period has been extended for a second time: www.restorethedelta.org/how-to-comment-on-bdcp.