The Peripheral Canal A Bad Idea Then - A Worse Idea Now

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Governor Brown has chosen to initiate "Water War Two." The first was his proposal to build a Peripheral Canal around the Delta that was roundly rejected by the voters in 1982. The governor staked his first tenure as governor on this dream, a dream that he now resurrects as, literally-a "Pipe Dream." The governor is poised to propose a $24 billion system of twin tunnels to convey water from the Delta to the thirsty south and to save the Delta.

I was one of the statewide leaders of the battle to defeat the original peripheral canal. As a farmer and legislator who has represented part of the Delta and almost all of the Sacramento River and its watershed, I know such a conversion is dangerous and unnecessary. It was in the 1980's and it is more so now.

State and federal officials acknowledge problems and have concerns but offer that these can be addressed as the project is being built. Astounding, foolish! What prudent person would sign a blank check like that?

An official at the state resources agency suggests, "We decided to embrace scientific uncertainty regarding the facilities operation, water flows, habitat restoration, and the response of fish." Embrace scientific uncertainty?  Despicable, disastrous! It is frightening how even science is ignored because it is inconvenient. These folks are trifling with future generations and with our pocket books.

The Legislature spent cumulatively thousands of hours addressing the vast complicated elements of a water plan, striving to balance quality and supply. Though thoroughly discussed, a peripheral canal or tunnel was not a part of the plan.  Many concessions were accomplished to ensure a balanced plan that ensured water supply, quality and addressed the concerns of Californians from all parts of the state.  Most significant to me was elevating human needs for water, which for a long time legislatively and in some courts have been seen as secondary to those of fish and other environmental uses.   

Ominously over the past couple of years the Resources Agency has proceeded to acquire farmland in the Delta for this tunnel project. Delta farmers were the first to suffer the arrogance of government having its way without specific statutory or fiscal authority and certainly without scientific or environmental review. 

During the formation of the 2009 water plan distrust and uncertainly were exhaustively addressed. Working with the Northern California Water Association and the Regional Council of Rural Counties I was able to write and secure vital Area of Origin projection language in the statute. We were able to limit the authority of the Delta Stewardship Council, the proponents of which were attempting to create a dictatorial "water czar" and a council with power to control water in California. Already, this council and its leaders are demonstrating their bureaucratic arrogance by quietly trying to ignore those constraints and exceed their proscribed authority.

These are the worst fiscal times in California's history and no time to contemplate either a $98 billion "Speed Rail" or a $24 billion "Peripheral Tunnel." Neither of these wild dreams have sound scientific or fiscal foundations.

It is increasingly clear that, in so many cases, we cannot trust the agencies of government and as citizens we must assert our authority over "run amuck" agencies and leaders who would impose their vision on us.   

I ask you to join me in strongly opposing these ill-founded proposals.  It is time to formally organize in our communities to oppose the "Peripheral Tunnel."