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On October 24, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) hosted a press conference in Sacramento urging more federal support for levees in rural parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for a statewide cost-benefit analysis of the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

Joined by a bipartisan coalition of local leaders representing diverse Delta communities, Garamendi, a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and former Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, said the cost-benefit analysis is necessary to ensure the plan does not cause harm to Northern California farming, fishing, and tourism.

A broad coalition of fishermen, family farmers, Indian Tribes, grassroots environmentalists and elected officials opposes the BDCP's proposal to construct two giant peripheral tunnels to divert massive amounts of Delta water to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Congressman Garamendi is the author of H.R. 6484, the SAFE Levee Act, which provides a funding stream for the Delta region's flood infrastructure and calls for a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of the BDCP.

"We're here today to let policymakers in Sacramento and Washington know that the Delta needs robust flood protection, and it needs it now," Congressman Garamendi said. "The Delta sustains life for thousands of family farmers and fisherman. It supplies vital water for much of the state. It's in every Californian's interest to make sure that that the Delta is protected."

"The Bay Delta Conservation Plan as presently envisioned is a classic case of plumbing before policy," Garamendi emphasized. "We need a complete, objective, science-based cost-benefit analysis of the BDCP plan, including a no-peripheral conveyance option."

"We need to make sure that the plan adequately examines the need for levee maintenance, water recycling, conservation, storage, and habitat restoration. Only then can we craft a truly balanced plan that serves the needs of all Californians," he added.

The press conference took place several days after a review of Federal Election Commission records by this reporter exposed an effort by the politically powerful Westlands Water District to replace two pro-Delta Representatives, John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney, with two candidates, Kim Vann and Ricky Gill, more aligned with their effort to drain the Delta. (

Westlands growers, their PACs, and their associated growing associations have given at least $35,000 to Congressional Candidate Kim Vann, who is running in California District 3 against Congressman John Garamendi.

In the California Congressional District 9 race, Westlands, their associated growers associations, and Westlands Board Members have contributed over $14,000 to Congressional Candidate Ricky Gill.

Westlands Water District is known for its relentless efforts over the years to stop the restoration of salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt and other fish species on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, its unsuccessful legal campaign to block Trinity River restoration and its current campaign to build the peripheral tunnels.

Senator Lois Wolk: BDCP "drags on with tunnel vision"  

Two prominent State Senators, a University of Pacific economist, a Delta farmer, members of the Delta Counties Coalition and other local leaders joined Garamendi in support of the legislation.

"Plans for the Delta need to change and focus on practical, realistic solutions," said Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis). "It is irresponsible to continue to ignore the countless Delta improvements that could be cheaply and quickly implemented while the BDCP process stubbornly drags on with tunnel vision. Congressman Garamendi's bill moves us closer to that approach."

"The Delta is California's epicenter for a reliable water supply, so it is absolutely critical that it be protected and its levees strengthened," said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), a member of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. "But this should be done only after a careful cost-benefit analysis has been conducted and Delta communities and all stakeholders have had a voice in the planning process; it's what Delta legislators have asked for and it's the right thing to do."

"Since the BDCP process started, the cost estimates of Delta conveyance have increased from $4 billion to $14 billion, the water supply and environmental benefits have declined, and seismic levee improvements have been shown to provide a broader range of economic benefits than the tunnels for a fraction of the cost," said Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. "An initial benefit-cost analysis finds that BDCP is a bad deal for all Californians, and the repeated refusal of state and federal agencies to follow their own economic analysis guidelines is troubling."

"I appreciate and support Congressman Garamendi's hard work in Washington to make sure that our area has a voice in what happens to our local water supplies, farms and communities," said Steve Heringer, North Delta Farmer & President, Reclamation District 999. "H.R. 6484, the SAFE Levee Act, is an important step in making sure this District and the entire state choose wisely when it comes to spending taxpayer money on new water projects and that California's economy will prosper in the long run."

According to the Delta Counties Coalition, "The SAFE Levee Act seeks to address two vitally important concerns of our region: the need for additional federal assistance to help maintain and strengthen levees for both water quality purposes and the protection of the Delta agricultural economy, and the need for a full and thorough benefit-cost analysis of all alternatives under consideration through the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process, including at least one option that does not require the construction of one or more water conveyance tunnels. Such a comprehensive analysis is vitally important to enable a fair comparison between non-structural and structural alternatives for achieving the co-equal goals of improving water supply reliability and protecting and restoring the health of the Delta estuary and wetland ecosystem."

Federal neglect of levees threatens public safety

For 60 years, the Bureau of Reclamation has used the Delta levees and plumbing system to ship water from the Sacramento River through the Delta to the pumps without providing the necessary maintenance. "This neglect has left the levees in disrepair and threatens public safety," according to a statement from Garamendi's office

Garamendi said the Peripheral Tunnel project, proposed under the BDCP framework, continues to ignore this problem. For that reason, H.R. 6484 would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to provide financial assistance to strengthen the stability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levees which are necessary for water conveyance and the protection of human life and property in the region.

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.

Delta and salmon advocates oppose the construction of the gigantic tunnels because they would divert more Delta water to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness interests and Southern California water agencies in an estuary already besieged by record water exports under the Schwarzenegger and Brown administrations. The tunnel's construction would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish species.

2011 was a record year for water exports to corporate agribusiness and Southern California, resulting in the "salvage" of a record 9 million Sacramento splittail and over 2 million other fish including Central Valley salmon, steelhead, striped bass, largemouth bass, threadfin shad, white catfish and sturgeon. ( The construction of a canal or tunnels will only exacerbate this carnage.  

“Make no mistake,” said Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe on July 23, 2012. “The peripheral canal will destroy river ecosystems, destroy fisheries and sentence us to a future where clean water is a luxury rather than a right.

Originally posted to Dan Bacher on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 10:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by California politics.

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Comment Preferences

  •  They need to buy up the Westlanda or just cut (5+ / 0-)

    off those growers. Back when the West was sparsely settled, ultra-cheap water was used as an inducement to settlement. Surprise folks, the West is settled.

    The Westlands are so adamant aboout receiving enormous amounts of subsidized water because they are completely self-serving, which is to say that they provide no public good. They grow low value, low margin crops on very poor soils and need excessive water to flush the soil of toxic salt build up.

    The crops are mostly non-food crops and mostly subsidized ones like cotton. Most of the soil is so contaminated with naturally occurring Selenium that food crops cannot be grown there and the land cannot be grazed because selenium bio-accumulates.

    It is long past time to simply get rid of the Westlands. Buy them out, reserve the land, and the long-term savings will be enormous.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 11:10:22 AM PDT

  •  Thank You ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, S F Hippie, kurt

    Republished to California Politics.  I live in Vallejo and will be working with our Democratic Club to by-pass the by-pass.


    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 11:22:01 AM PDT

  •  link to local SB cty/area water meeting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, linkage

    with the discussion about this project, costs etc.

    you will want to read it, I don't have the Santa Barbara News Press, online it's available for pay ..sorry.
    Carolyn Kreiger reviewed the costs and predicted escalations and iirc spoke about other agencies backing out and expressing reservations...danger of leaving this agency with an even bigger bill, etc.

    Here's an earlier story about her meeting with the CCWA back in August

    I will look and see if this is anything new, google doesn't seem to have it, it's behind the SBNP paywall, but it looks like the same info from the aug 2 story and your diary 7/28 or so...could be the news press is posting old news.

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 01:23:37 PM PDT

    •  Info and links on the economic analysis (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Going the Distance, KenBee, linkage

      Give Southern California ratepayers and the Delta a chance

      by Dan Bacher

      A LA Times editorial, "Give the Bay Delta Conservation Plan a chance," inexplicably accuses “critics of the proposed tunnel” for claiming that “wasteful Southern Californians intend to suck every last drop of the Sacramento River to water their luxuriant lawns.” (

      The editorial fails to mention that the Southern California ratepayers who will pay for the tunnels are among the most vocal critics of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The construction of two massive peripheral tunnels to export more water to corporate agribusiness will not only hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish species and take fertile Delta farmland out of production, but it could also dramatically raise rates for Southern California water customers.

      A groundbreaking economic analysis released on August 7 by Food & Water Watch 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 announced by Governor Jerry Brown on July 25.

      California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) President Carolee Krieger urges Angelinos to learn from Santa Barbara County’s costly mistakes.

      "In 1991, Santa Barbara County voters approved the Coastal Aqueduct at an estimated cost of $270 million," said Krieger. "The aqueduct ended up costing nearly $1.7 billion and has not been necessary to meet the County's water needs. California ratepayers and taxpayers should expect the same bad deal with the Peripheral Tunnels."

      Krieger said most of the cost burden will fall on taxpayers and urban water ratepayers, although corporate agribusiness will receive the majority of the water from the tunnels through the Kern County Water Agency and Westlands Water District. While this taxpayer-subsidized water is intended for farming, an increasing amount of this water is being sold to real estate developers at large profits.

      “Water agencies like LADWP are at a crossroads of whether to invest in the failed engineered solutions of the past or invest in the future, which provides local water and local jobs,” said Conner Everts, the executive director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance. “This report shows the true cost of speculating on faraway infrastructure and illustrates why we should instead cost-effectively reduce demand here in L.A. first.”

      ECONorthwest’s white paper analyzes the impacts that the costs of building and operating the tunnels would have on LADWP ratepayers. It outlines a low-cost scenario of $20.6 billion, and a high-cost scenario of $47.2 billion. For each, they evaluate the costs if the state and federal water projects evenly split the costs of the tunnel and related activities, and if the state project paid 100 percent.

      This analysis does not take into consideration the environmental mitigation and other related expenses that will be left for California taxpayers to cover, which is estimated to cost between $3 and $5 billion.

      The analysis concludes with an overview of local water supply alternatives’ potential and costs.

      “The most reliable water is water that we save and obtain from our local communities,” said Kristin Lynch, Pacific Region director of Food & Water Watch. “LADWP is already planning on importing less water from the delta and maximizing local supplies despite projected population increases. These tunnels represent failed policies of the last century. L.A. has already embraced modern, smart water solutions and can’t afford the Governor’s archaic, wasteful pipedream.”

      The tunnel plan is a bad deal for salmon, Delta farmers and Southern California ratepayers. The LA Times, rather than saying "Give the Bay Delta Conservation Plan a chance," should proclaim, "Give salmon, the Delta and Southern California ratepayers a chance."

      To download the report, go to:

      •  Getting wider coverage, yes!...over $10k per custo (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        over $10k per customer possible with other agencies wisely backing out and very likely cost overruns I believe she said.
        She spoke to the history of the huge cost overruns, that this is always oversold and underdeveloped and always costs more than expected.
          Other water agencies are going to be sceptical about signing up for this, it's to be expected that some will opt out, leaving the unfortunate to cover the costs, especially thew costs of the expected and acknowledged as you have above, the expected development that really is driving this.

        I have spoken before about the west valley 'cotton farmers' that really are water rights farmers...and they have bragged (30 years ago..) to me, not a member of their clubs, but someone way outside their business circle, about also getting government crop subsidies as well.

        So here the fed is subsidizing them on the one hand thus allowing them and enabling them to have enough money to donate to fund elections efforts with the other hand.


        This machine kills Fascists.

        by KenBee on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 06:33:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  An excellent analysis by Dan Bacher -- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There are also serious questions about the municipal bonds being sold by Westlands -- they do not have the revenues to repay the proposed debt for their share of the project.  They are setting themselves up for yet another government bailout.

    "Since when did obeying corporate power become patriotic." Going the Distance

    by Going the Distance on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 04:44:18 PM PDT

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