On Feb. 9, Representative Josh Harder (D CA-9) reintroduced his Stop the Delta Tunnels Act, a bill that prohibits the Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a federal permit necessary for the State of California to build the Delta Conveyance Project.
The proposed 45-mile-long tunnel, currently being pushed by the Gavin Newsom administration, would divert water from the Sacramento River before it reaches the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary and then ship it south to big corporate growers and Southern California agencies.
Harder posted a video before reintroducing the bill, explaining his reasons for sponsoring the legislation.
“The Delta Tunnel would be a disaster for our community, a $16 billion dollar boondoggle that would poison our farms, ship our water down to Los Angeles and Beverly Hills and not do a single thing to help our community. We’re doing everything we can to fix it,” he said.
“Right here I have a dead simple bill, the Stop Delta Tunnels Act, and that’s exactly what it does. It’s only one page long and what it does is ban the Delta Tunnels once and for all. It's so important we get this done and keep the water in our community and not ship it down south,” he stated.
Reps. John Garamendi (D–Walnut Grove), Mike Thompson (D–St. Helena), and Mark DeSaulnier (D–Concord) are co-sponsoring the bill.
In a previous press release, Harder described the tunnel as a “zombie project,’ noting that “every time we kill it, the Governor brings it back.”
“This is a choice between watering a family farm right here in the Valley, and watering someone’s manicured green lawn down south. I’ll do what’s right for the Valley every single time,” he explained.
Critics and independent scientists say the tunnel would have a devastating impact on family farms in San Joaquin, Sacramento and other Delta counties, as well as on imperiled fish populations and the ecology of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. Strong arguments have been made that the project, by diverting more water out of the Delta, would hasten the extinction of Delta and longfin smelt, Sacramento River winter-run and spring run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and other fish species.
Specifically, the bill text states, “The Secretary of the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers, may not issue a permit under section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 2 1344) relating to the Delta Conveyance Project referred to in the document published by the California Department of Water Resources on January 15, 2020, entitled ‘Notice of Preparation of Environmental Impact Report 6 for the Delta Conveyance Project.’”
In September when the bill was first introduced during the last Congressional Session, KCRA3 News called Rep. Harder’s bill, “the strongest step yet to stop the state’s proposed giant water tunnel from gaining ground.”
“The Delta Tunnel doesn’t modernize anything,” Harder told the station. “All it does is build a giant tunnel to take the water that our community depends on and sends it down to Los Angeles. I don’t call that modernization, I call that theft.”
In July 2022, Rep. Harder introduced an amendment alongside Reps. Garamendi and McNerney to prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a Clean Water Act (Section 404) permit for the state of Delta Tunnel that would export water out of the Delta, but that effort did not move forward.
A broad coalition of Delta residents, family farmers, California Tribes, environmental justice advocates, Southern California water ratepayers and elected officials is strongly opposing the tunnel project.
“The Delta Conveyance Project is a proposal to build a tunnel to move water from the Sacramento River to be delivered to large agricultural businesses south of the Delta,” summed up Erin Woolley, Policy Advocate for Sierra Club California in a recent action alert. “Freshwater flows into the Delta are inadequate during key times of the year to support sensitive fish species and protect water quality in the Delta. This project will cost upwards of $16 billion to continue ecologically harmful and unsustainable water exports instead of promoting investments in local and regional water resiliency.“
Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers recently extended the public comment period for the draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) for the Delta Conveyance project from the original February 14, 2023 end date to March 16, 2023. The document was released for public review and comment on December 16, 2022.
This is separate process from the California Department of Water Resources’ Draft EIR public review and comment period that is now closed.
The Army Corps is now planning an in-person public workshop on the Delta Tunnel EIS in early March in Stockton — after sponsoring three virtual public comment hearings in January. The date and location has not been set yet. The Stockton-based Restore the Delta said they will be mobilizing activists for the hearing when it is scheduled.
In January, Rep. Harder held a town hall attended by more than 150 people who opposed the Delta Tunnel project: www.abc10.com/...
You can submit written comments at the Army Corps Regulatory Division website at: Delta Conveyance (army.mil)
According to the agency, the environmental review of the project is limited to the following actions under USACE authority:
• “Section 408 authority covers alterations to the Sacramento River Flood Control Project.
• Section 10 applies to work in or under navigable waters of the United States
• Section 404 applies to the discharge of dredged or fill material into Waters of the United States.
• A real estate outgrant is required to cross under the Stockton Deep Water Ship Channel pursuant to Army Regulation (AR) 405-80 6 Management of Title and Granting Use of Real Property.
The USACE scope is limited to the construction of the proposed project and maintenance of the modifications to the Sacramento River Flood Control Project.
Operation of the completed project falls under the operation of the State Water Project and is not subject to USACE authority, according to the Army Corps.”
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