Expediency is the motto of the administration of Governor Jerry Brown.
We know this thanks to Chuck Bonham.
The California Department of Fish and Game Director told the Associated Press that Brown is scaling back habitat restoration in the Delta that’s tied into the Twin Tunnels project in favor of something that is more realistic to achieve in the remaining four years of the governor’s term. Then he let slip an inconvenient truth. Bonham said it was unclear what impact climate change will have on California’s water picture. Precisely.
Since Brown’s mantra is to do everything to prepare for climate change from building high speed trains to nowhere and taxing carbon-based energy into oblivion, then surely even he can see the double-standard created with his second shot at sacrificing the Delta and the economies of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to appease the water gods of the Metropolitan Water District and farmers that get around using Lear Jets instead of Ford 150s.
Climate change would mean more conditions like the Delta is seeing now. Taking fresh water out of the Delta under such circumstances could create an unprecedented ecological disaster.
The bureaucracy that Brown oversees last week made the supposedly startling announcement that they could only count one Delta Smelt during a survey. Now that doesn’t mean that there is just one of California’s most important creatures left swimming around in the Delta. It’s just that the numbers are shrinking due to a combination of lower water flows and more brackish water that is changing the ecological balance of the Delta in the fourth year of a severe drought.
What is happening now to the Delta environment and Delta Smelt is precisely what will happen when you have all the fresh water the state moves to Los Angeles et al and corporate farmers deep in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley bypass the Delta in normal or even wet years. It will make the Delta unsustainable for wildlife as we now know it.
A much cheaper solution to address salt water intrusion is being done currently in the form of a $28 million emergency “dike” to keep salt water at bay as fresh water flows into the Delta slow to a trickle. While a more effective salt water barrier would have to cover more area and cost more money it would still be a lot cheaper than the $22 billion bore job.
So if the Twin Tunnels are built where will the state obtain the fresh water for pulse flows and such to keep the Delta Smelts happy as clams plus the long list of other endangered fish and species? The same place they are getting it now — from reservoirs that don’t supply Los Angeles and corporate farmers. Topping the list is New Melones Reservoir. Of course you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. But then again as water bypasses the Delta in a good water year, the state simply siphons off improved precipitation on the Stanislaus River watershed. The bottom line is the prospect of New Melones Reservoir being lined with concrete to create the world’s largest skate park for summer recreation is a distinct possibility even in wet years.
Right now water heading to the Tracy pumps to journey south is serving a dual purpose — quenching Southern California’s thirst and helping the environment.
Wednesday’s announcement of state plans to scale back wetland and wildlife habitat restoration plans for the Delta from 100,000 acres down to 30,000 acres while trimming the cost from $8 billion to $300 million was also an unintended scathing indictment of the bureaucracy.
The state powers that be said they were frustrated with how difficult it was to secure federal permits from federal wildlife agencies. Now the state knows how the private sector and local government agencies feel when they deal with the state government as well as the federal government.
Bureaucratic red tape dispensed by Sacramento makes getting even a reasonable request for a permit when dealing with levees or water issues about as grueling as the 100 Year War.
The worst instant in terms of deadly consequences was how a reclamation district near Arboga in Yuba County tried for years to get state permission to kill burrowing rodents that were weakening the integrity of the Feather River levees. Before approval came, the weakened levee collapsed in 1997 and killed three people, destroyed 322 homes, and put 15,000 acres of productive farmland underwater.
The state typically suspends environmental regulations that govern everyone else when it gets in a way of its objectives as the governor did with high speed rail. But in the Delta the state is stuck answering to a higher authority — federal bureaucrats.
So now instead of doing what they said was the minimum needed to counter the impacts funneling water into tunnels to bypass the Delta would do to the environment, the state is scaling back Delta restoration simply because it is more expedient to do so.
Perhaps if they bored a third tunnel for a high speed rail line to go under the Delta, the state would spare no expense even if it destroyed the Delta Smelt.