It’s too bad the governor doesn’t see the hypocrisy of his approach to the delta tunnels project, which has clearly stated coequal goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability.
Brown told the Sacramento Bee in December that “ the best scientific thinking says California needs the project.”
It is a Trumpian fallacy.
Building the tunnels will produce a more reliable source of water for the bottom half of California, but federal scientists have been saying for years that the massive $17 billion project will also only make things worse for the fragile delta, the largest estuary west of the Mississippi that is responsible for much of the state’s drinking water.
A recently released draft analysis of Brown’s delta tunnels project — this one by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service — adds another scientific voice saying the project not only won’t help the salmon and delta smelt populations, it also will likely do additional damage.
Specifically, the draft report says, “ using the best science available, the Fish Agencies have provided evidence that some aspects of the proposed action will have significant adverse effects on listed species and critical habitat.”
Among other issues, it is expected that delta smelt habitat would be negatively impacted for 10 years during construction and that the project would result in killing an additional 7 percent of the Chinook salmon winter run, doing further harm to a valued endangered species. The scientists also say the proposed habitat restoration isn’t enough to offset environmental damage.
The report is undergoing review and is subject to change, but the conclusions about the detrimental impact on salmon runs and the delta smelt are similar to previous scientific reviews.
In 2016, the Delta Independent Science Board found gaping holes in the tunnel project. The board reviewed the project’s draft environmental impact review and found it contained no analysis of how the project would affect the existing delta levee system, the impacts of climate change or alternatives to building the tunnels.
In 2012, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences took a comprehensive look at the twin-tunnel plan and found it riddled with holes and inconsistencies, including the failure to examine the potential to reduce demand for delta water through conservation.
The science on the delta is clear. The only way to restore the delta’s health is to get more water flowing through it, not less. And if you believe Southern California water districts are fighting for a $17 billion system that will give them not a drop more water, you win a free tour of the Owens Valley.
Copyright © 2017 Chico Enterprise-Record.