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Fri, Mar

Damn the Delta Conveyance Profiteers

STATE WATCH

ACCORDING TO LIZ - First it was the Twin Tunnels and then it was the California WaterFix, and now it’s the Delta Conveyance Project.

Any way you cut it, it’s a boondoggle wrapped up in controversy with significant negative environmental implications. 

The current iteration is just another in a long line of projects driven by special interests and a hundred years of poor water policies. 

The original systems that moved water throughout California were built as pork approved by folks in Congress to benefit wealthy investors (and the politicians they supported), and as part of a game of brinksmanship between the Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation, the State Water Project and a consortium of bought and paid-for politicians at all levels of government. 

Local water agencies have always been driven by political insider considerations, historically by agricultural interests, and by cities growing exponentially in near-desert environs. 

The avowed intent of the Delta Conveyance Project is to modernize the state’s aging infrastructure in the Delta, to address sea level rise and climate change, and to provide clean reliable water to future generations.

 

Yes, millions of people in disadvantaged communities depend on the State Water Project as a source of safe and affordable water but the state needs to stop playing the ‘disadvantaged community’ card when it’s not willing to provide education, healthcare, affordable housing, stop gentrification, and restrict polluters that are, in many ways, more serious problems. 

And what about those who are being forced off their land and out of their houses by demands of corporate profiteers? Who are losing their farms and homes because Big Ag is draining the ground water out from under them for corporate profit and the State refuses to step in and help them. 

California dedicates around 10% of its water – over or 80 million gallons annually – to grow almonds. One pound requires 1,900 gallons…1.1 gallons per nut. 

Hmm… is the true purpose of the much-ballyhooed project to benefit the profiteers themselves – the Stewart Resnicks, as well as mining and fossil fuel interests, and Wall Street investors? 

How about making the biggest users accountable – not individuals dependent on wells but Big Ag and Big Oil and mining which are accelerating depletion of California’s water supply and poisoning our groundwater? 

If rain and snow fall in the winter and spring... but the greatest demand (and need) is in the summer and fall. It’s simple, we all need to adapt. 

First and foremost, the state should focus on resolving the up to 50% of water lost to evaporation and seepage from open reservoirs, the California Aqueduct and much of the Colorado River system infrastructure. 

Then require agricultural concerns to pay closer to market-rate prices to force them to stop their profligate use of water allotments, implement water conservation measures and move to crops more suitable to California’s climate. 

California is also overdue for a hundred-year flood; it’s been 160 years since the great Flood of 1862 that put the entire Central Valley including the city of Sacramento under six to twenty feet of water: Are we prepared? 

For the scope of such flooding in today’s hugely more populated California? For contamination of both agricultural land and the state’s water system? For the inundation and destruction of cities’ infrastructure? 

Sea level rise is another concern since slow-moving saltwater intruding into the Delta can contaminate the state’s water supply.

  

Over the decades, not only have the existing dams and infrastructure been incredibly environmentally damaging, they also use huge amounts of electricity – all the more profit for power generators and a significant component driving more fossil fuel use. 

Construction will have further impact on our wildlife, natural habitats, and ecological systems up and down the state. And demand more power. 

A pumping plant is needed to lift the water from the conveyance system tunnel up to the existing Bethany Reservoir. Pumping uphill requires huge amounts of power requiring more dams, more environmental damage and more profit.

Will the Delta Conveyance Project reduce energy needed to move water? Or use more? To what extent is the tunnel susceptible to earthquakes? 

The proposed project addresses some of the existing problems but why not fix instead of replacing? Demolition and construction is wasteful of money and material, and leaves scars on the land that will persist for generations unless developers are forced to provide remediation. 

Which they won’t be. They will either be protected outright in the deal-making or waivers will be issued – nudge-nudge, wink-wink. 

Climate change is only aggravating the state’s water challenges. 

There is no question of the NEED and many compelling reasons to modernize the infrastructure that moves water through the Delta. 

But first we must DEMAND our government put the Delta Conveyance Project aside and stop pursuing piecemeal approaches by a plethora of special interests. 

Our elected leaders should mandate that the State Water Project engage in holistic methodologies to preserve our land and air, our marine and ecosystem habitats as well as our water in conjunction with the need to establish a sustainable and resilient California for all including respect for the rights of the state’s indigenous peoples. 

To what degree can we continue to tolerate poor short term policies, too often driven by rapacious short term corporate greed? 

The state needs to insist inhabitants and agriculture readapt to a semi-arid climate and revert as much as feasible to the natural river system. 

Yes, California needs to improve the state’s water supply system. By reducing the use of water for crops unsuitable for our climate, by stopping the use of state water to grow alfalfa and other high-water use crops for export, functionally exporting our water to foreign countries for corporate profit. 

Beef cattle require about eight gallons of drinking water per pound… but when you add in the water needed to grow feed, the water cost tops out at 1,900 gallons. Per pound. 

How many carnivores concerned about California’s water can justify eating red meat at every meal? 

Net water use is better for dairy cattle because they are less likely to be corn-fed and produce over 2,300 gallons of milk per year. Per cow. 

Cheap water, subsidies, and tax breaks for Big Ag and its investors must stop. The poisoning of our lakes and rivers and air by chemical fertilizers and insecticides has got to stop. The contamination of our groundwater from mine tailings, fracking fluid, animal waste and landfill-leaching must end. 

Housing and farms should not be built on flood plains, homes and businesses should not flaunt luxuriously green lawns, dams should be judiciously but expeditiously removed and all efforts be made to restore the ecology of the state before California itself becomes a vast wasteland. 

With thanks to the Sierra Club and other groups that lobbied for an extension to the 60-day Comment Period that was to end this month, Californians now have until December 16, 2022 to engage and comment on the Delta Conveyance Project and its Draft Environmental Impact Report.

 

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)