The long awaited draft Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)
and its draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS)
are now available for review by the public. The government is soliciting public
input on the controversial plan and its proposal to build massive “twin
tunnels” intended to divert fresh water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay
Delta Estuary. Now is your opportunity to speak out against this environmental
travesty at upcoming public meetings and by sending an email opposing this expensive
and destructive water project.
your email opposing this disastrous project SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE.
For BDCP public meeting times and locations click here.
Background (read FOR's initial BDCP comment letter - pdf)
The BDCP is proposed as a 50-year habitat conservation plan
with the stated goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta
ecosystem and securing California water supplies. Proposed by federal and state agencies, as
well as the water contractors they serve, the BDCP proposes to build two
massive tunnels beneath the Delta that would divert water from the Sacramento
River, before it reaches the Delta, for export to southern Central Valley
agribusiness and southern California’s sprawling cities. The BDCP also proposes
to restore or protect approximately 145,000 acres of Delta habitat.
Many believe that the BDCP is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The Delta’s environmental decline occurred as federal and state pumps in the
south Delta diverted up to 60% of the estuary’s fresh water inflow. BDCP critics
question the logic of trying to restore an ecosystem degraded by fresh water
diversions by building new infrastructure capable of diverting even more fresh
water. And despite millions of dollars of public funds proposed to “restore”
Delta habitat, restoration will not be successful unless and until we restore
fresh water flows into the Delta, particularly from the San Joaquin River
system, to meet the needs of Delta fish and wildlife and the habitat that sustains
The government’s official estimate for the BDCP price tag is
nearly $25 billion. Critics point out that this estimate does not include
interest and other hidden costs, which could balloon the overall price tag to
more than $54 billion. The construction of the tunnels and diversions would
cost more than $14.5 billion, with another $4.8 billion in operation,
maintenance, and administration expenses over the 50-year life of the plan.
Federal and state water contractors are responsible for these costs. If the
contractors incur this debt, you can be sure that they will push for diverting
as much water as possible from the Delta to recover their costs. The federal
and state taxpayers will be responsible for much of the BDCP’s habitat
restoration costs. Most of the state’s share of Delta restoration costs is
built into the $11 billion water bond on the November 2014 ballot.
Critics fear that the BDCP’s proposed twin tunnels will only
continue if not actually increase the dewatering of the Delta – the West Coast’s
largest fresh water estuary – and contribute to the further decline of native
Delta fish species towards extinction, increased water pollution in the Delta,
and the loss of tens-of-thousands of acres of rich Delta farmland and wildlife
habitat. Even worse, details hidden in the 40,000 page EIR/EIS hint that
continued and expanded Delta exports through the twin tunnels, coupled with the
impacts of climate change, will drain the major reservoirs in northern
California and result in dramatic and severe changes in river flows downstream.
According to the BDCP EIR/EIS, the operation of the twin tunnels,
coupled with the impacts of climate change, will drain Trinity Reservoir by up
to 19%, Shasta Reservoir by up to 20%, Folsom Reservoir by up to 31%, and
Oroville Reservoir by up to 32%. The
result may be even lower flows (particularly in the fall) in the Trinity,
Sacramento, American, and Feather Rivers than we are witnessing now during one
of California’s driest years on record. The Sacramento River’s flow
downstream of the project’s three new water intakes (located just south of
Sacramento) will be reduced all year long.
The 45 mile-long twin Delta tunnels and their fresh water intakes,
forebays, tunnel debris disposal sites, and additional facilities will eat up at
least 5,700 acres of Delta farmland and wildlife habitat. Some of the
facilities and debris disposal sites will be located on Brannan Island State
Park and on conservation land purchased with public funds to provide habitat
for the threatened sandhill crane. The diversion intakes, access roads, lights
and other urban intrusions associated with these facilities, will be directly
adjacent to the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Delta Meadows State
The BDCP will create new political impetus behind raising
existing dams and building new ones on northern California rivers to store and
feed more fresh water into the tunnels. The plan to raise Shasta Dam and
enlarge its reservoir is directly tied to the BDCP’s Delta tunnels. The federal
government’s own environmental report for the Shasta Dam raise admits that all
of the water produced by the enlarged reservoir will be sold to water
contractors, 75% of them located south of the Delta. Raising Shasta Dam will
flood segments of the McCloud and Sacramento Rivers eligible for federal Wild
& Scenic River protection, violate state law intended to protect the free
flowing McCloud, and perpetuate cultural genocide by flooding the remaining
homeland of the Winnemen Wintu Tribe.
Another project likely to be boosted by the Delta tunnels is
the Sites Offstream Storage Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley. The reservoir
would be filled by diversions of fresh water from the Sacramento River (Sites
diversions could take as much as 67% of the river’s average flow during April
according to one computer model). The diversions would significantly reduce
flows in the Sacramento River needed to maintain its healthy riparian and
aquatic habitats, which are home to numerous threatened and endangered wildlife
and fish species, including salmon and steelhead. State officials admit that
the Sites Project is only cost effective if all of its water is sold to water
contractors, even though the same officials promise vague environmental
benefits that will supposedly be provided by the reservoir.
The BDCP tunnels may even reinvigorate the controversial
Auburn Dam on the American River (a project that has risen from the political
ashes so many times that it has been called a “Zombie” dam). But the ultimate
target to feed the Delta tunnels would be revival of the Dos Rios Dam project
on the Eel River, with tunnels beneath the Coast Range to send more fresh water
to the Delta for export. Even Ronald Reagan couldn’t stomach that, so he spiked
the Dos Rios project when he was Governor of California in 1969.
The big problem with the BDCP’s proposed twin tunnels is the
difference between the government’s stated intent on how the project will be
operated and its actual physical capacity to do harm. Astoundingly, government
scientists still don’t know how much fresh water the Delta needs to survive and
thrive as a functioning ecosystem. Governor Brown’s solution is to build the
tunnels and diversions, and figure out later how much water the Delta needs. The
long history of broken promises, failed reforms, and violated laws in regard to
water operations in California simply underscores the uncertainty of the BDCP.
When it comes to this project, it’s caveat
emptor (let the buyer beware).
California doesn’t need to build these massive twin tunnels
and diversions to meet its water supply needs. A truly sustainable water plan
for the state would focus on increased water conservation and efficiency,
treating and recycling waste water, cleaning up polluted groundwater, capturing
and treating storm water, and reducing irrigation of drainage-impaired lands in
the southern Central Valley. The environmental, social, and monetary cost of
these sustainable solutions is much less than what is proposed by the BDCP.
California’s beleaguered Delta needs your help. Please
attend a BDCP public meeting and speak out for the true protection and
restoration of the Delta. For BDCP public meeting times and locations click here, and to
send your email opposing this disastrous project take action below.
I oppose all alternatives in the BDCP that propose construction of new diversions and tunnels under the Delta
Dear [Decision Maker],
Thank you for receiving public comments in response to the Draft BDCP Plan and Draft EIR/EIS.I oppose all alternatives in the BDCP that propose construction of new diversions and tunnels under the Delta. I oppose the project because: It is too costly (up to $54 billion with interest and other hidden costs) and the general public should not have to cover any of this outrageous, including habitat restoration costs. These should be paid by those who receive the water (since the Delta diversions degraded the habitat in the first place). Operation of the diversions and tunnels threaten to dewater major upstream reservoirs in northern California and reduce downstream river flows, to the detriment of fish, wildlife, recreation, and other public trust values. Diversion and tunnel facilities would adversely impact too much Delta farmland and habitat, harm Brannan Island State Park, infringe on the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, and degrade other essential conservation lands. You cannot restore Delta habitat without first determining how much fresh water the Delta needs to survive and thrive. Restoration of fresh water flows from the San Joaquin River in the south Delta are particularly important. The tunnels will need more upstream storage facilities to feed fresh water into them. These include raising Shasta Dam, building the Sites Reservoir, and possibly reviving the Auburn Dam on the American River and the Dos Rios Dam on the Eel. The environmental, cultural, and financial impacts of these controversial projects are a significant foreseeable but ignored impact of the BDCP.
Sincerely,[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]
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