Bond Funds Shouldn't Mitigate Peripheral Tunnels Damage
By Dan Bacher
Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition opposed to the Brown administration's plan to build massive peripheral tunnels for intrastate transport of water from the Bay Delta region, on February 28 announced that it opposes using state bond funds to mitigate environmental damage to Central Valley salmon, Delta fish populations and Delta farms from the proposed tunnels.
"To do so would take funds from public education and safety to service bond debt," according to a statement from RTD. "Any state funds should instead promote regional water self-sufficiency."
Ironically, the announcement took place as Brown administration officials, the same ones promoting the most costly and environmentally destructive public works project in California history, were meeting with scientists and Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative advocates in Monterey to review the key findings regarding the ecological and economic impacts of controversial "marine protected areas" that went into effect on the Central Coast in September 2007.
Because of the widespread unpopularity of the water bond among voters, the proposed $11.14 billion measure was first delayed from the November 2010 to November 2012 ballot and then last year delayed again until November 2014.
"With almost $93 billion in long-term indebtedness, the State of California cannot afford the proposed $11.14 billion water bond," said Restore the Delta's Policy Analyst Jane Wagner-Tyack. "The California State Treasurer's Office estimates that the debt service on the bond will top $24 billion and obligate taxpayers until 2051. Earmarking those bond funds for specific projects as the current bond does ties legislators' hands if priorities change."
"At least $2 billion from previous water bonds is still unspent on the projects voters intended them for: Delta levees, flood management, and regional multi-benefit projects. The majority of water system spending in California is already local, and any additional state resources should go toward the kind of regional self-sufficiency projects that will reduce reliance on the Delta and lead to water independence for all the taxpayers and ratepayers of California," stated Wagner-Tyack.
"And bond funds certainly should not go to mitigate environmental damage resulting from a massive infrastructure project like the Peripheral Tunnels," said Wagner-Tyack. "These tunnels will cause more environmental problems than they can even begin to solve, and will drain the water from productive regions to benefit a few large corporate farms on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that contribute less than .3% to the state's GDP."
"Costs for debt service come off the top of the state's General Fund, so every dollar spent paying down debt is a dollar not available for education, health care, and other programs," she concluded.
Brown and Natural Resources Secretary John Laird are fast-tracking the construction of the peripheral tunnels amidst increasing speculation that the water to be diverted by the project will not only be used by corporate agribusiness and southern California developers, but by the oil industry to frack for oil and natural gas.
The oil industry, represented by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Task Force to create marine protected areas on the South Coast, is pushing for increased "fracking" in California, particularly in Monterey Shale deposits in coastal areas and on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial, environmentally destructive process of injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at high pressure in order to release and extract oil or gas, according to Food and Water Watch.
Burt Wilson, Editor and Publisher of Public Water News Service, believes that the "hidden agenda" of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the twin tunnels is to provide water for fracking in California.
Background on Brown Administration Environmental Policies
Governor Jerry Brown and Natural Resources Secretary John Laird have continued and expanded the most environmentally destructive policies of the Schwarzenegger administration. They have fast-tracked the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels, presided over record water exports to corporate agribusiness and Southern California in 2011, and authorized a record "salvage" of 9 million Sacramento splittail and over 2 million other fish including Central Valley salmon, steelhead, striped bass and threadfin shad the same year.
Their list of environmental "accomplishments" includes overseeing the decline of Delta smelt and five other fish species in 2012, presiding over the annual stranding of endangered coho salmon on the Scott and Shasta rivers, clear cutting forests in the Sierra Nevada, and embracing the corruption and conflicts of interests that infest California environmental processes and government bodies ranging from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to the regional water boards.
Dan Bacher is an editor of The Fish Sniffer, described as "The #1 Newspaper in the World Dedicated Entirely to Fishermen."