Peripheral Tunnel Plan Will Hurt Trinity River Also


Posted on 11 March 2013

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By Dan Bacher

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels not only threatens the Chinook salmon, steelhead and other fish species of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, but also the fish and communities of the Trinity River, the largest tributary of the Klamath River.

"The project will harm Trinity County and Trinity River interests by drawing down Trinity Lake even more," said Tom Stokely of Mt. Shasta, a former Trinity County natural resources planner now with the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN). "There is absolutely no protection for Trinity River interests from this project. Water export amounts and fishery protection flows are being put off until after the project is constructed, a ʻplumbing before policyʼ decision to misinform the public about the true costs and benefits."

"Cost estimates are significantly underestimated," stated Stokely. "While Peripheral Tunnel proponents claim that the beneficiaries of the project will pay for it, they are planning on substantial subsidies from state and federal taxpayers amounting to billions more borrowed dollars. There are much more cost effective, job-producing and locally-based ways of providing water supply reliability including recycling, conservation, stormwater capture and groundwater desalination."

You can find out more about the threat posed to the Trinity River and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta by the tunnels at a showing of a documentary film and slide show in Weaverville, California in April. Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment (SAFE) is sponsoring "Over Troubled Waters", a documentary about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that will premiere at the Weaverville Fire Hall, 125 Bremer Street on Tuesday April 2 at 6:30 PM. Admission is free.

Stokely will give a slide show with a question and answer period to discuss the implications of Governor Brownʼs "Peripheral Tunnels" project on Trinity County and all of California.

The documentary, "Over Troubled Waters," by Restore the Delta and the C-WIN slideshow are part of a statewide public education effort to stop the building of Peripheral Tunnels. In this visually rich documentary, Ed Begley Jr. narrates the story of how the people of the Delta are fighting to protect the region they love and to encourage saner, sustainable water policies for all the people of California.

Larry Glass, President of SAFE, emphasizes, "Trinity County is a major and uncompensated source of much of this water and so Trinity should have significant say about how much water should be taken and and how that water should be used. These considerations must be important parts of this effort and the overall education of the California public before decisions are made to borrow billions for questionable projects such as the Peripheral Tunnels."

On July 25, 2012, Governor Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a controversial plan to drill two 30ʼ-40ʼ diameter tunnels 150 feet for 35 miles under Californiaʼs Delta to siphon northern California water to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and Southern California cities, according to Stokely. Previous plans to build a "Peripheral Canal" were defeated by two thirds of California voters in 1982 during Brownʼs first tenure as governor of California.

Kayla Carpenter, a Hoopa Valley Tribe member who is pursuing her PHD in linguistics at UC Berkeley, attended a rally with members of the Winnemem Wintu and Pit River Tribes and other Delta advocates at the State Capitol to protest the BDCP on the same day that Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar unveiled their "water conveyance" plan. Carpenter emphasized that "the peripheral tunnels plan is tied up with Trinity River water going south."

"The Trinity is pumped into the Sacramento via Whiskeytown Reservoir and we already have to fight hard to get water that we should be getting by law for fish," said Carpenter. "A bigger tunnel to suck California dry isn't going to help our fish."

The peripheral canal or twin tunnels won't create any new water - they will only take more water from the Delta and Trinity River, at a tremendous cost to fish, fishermen, Indian Tribes and family farmers. "If I took a cup of snow from Washington, DC back home with me and dumped it in the Delta, it would create more new water than the peripheral canal," quipped Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove).

The peripheral tunnels will likely lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other imperiled fish species. For more information, you can read the briefing paper by the Bay Institute and Defenders of Wildlife.

Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment (SAFE) is dedicated to promoting healthy ecosystems through education, community involvement, organizing, demonstrations, activism and legal remedies. The California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) promotes the equitable and environmental use of California's water, including instream uses, through research, planning, public education, and litigation.


Dan Bacher is an editor of The Fish Sniffer, described as "The #1 Newspaper in the World Dedicated Entirely to Fishermen."