Opinion

Twin tunnels, Delta and Tuolumne are all connected

California WaterFix is Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build twin tunnels under the Delta to move water directly from the Sacramento River to the California Aqueduct, which serves the urban and agricultural interests of Southern California.

These twin tunnels are supposed to prevent damage to the Delta ecosystem caused by direct pumping of water from the south side of the Delta.

The governor says that no one will get more water and no one will get less water with the tunnels project.

So why would water users in Southern California come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to construct these twin tunnels when there is no new water for them?

Their answer is that they need reliability and consistency.

The amount of water Southern California receives from Northern California varies each year. The amount is dictated by federal and state agencies and is based on the amount of rainfall and snowfall and how much water is stored each year in Northern California reservoirs. Environmental concerns also factor into the equation, and threats to the Delta ecosystem can temporarily halt the pumping of water from the Delta.

For example, in 2007, a federal agency ordered the Delta pumps be turned off to help a species of smelt found only in the Delta. So, no water flowed to Southern California.

That begs the question, if the twin tunnels provide Southern California with consistent and reliable water by pulling water directly from the Sacramento River – before it ever gets to the Delta – who makes up for the reduced amount of water that flows into the Delta?

Gov. Brown’s solution? Take it from the east-side tributaries – the Tuolumne, Merced, and Stanislaus rivers.

For the governor, the State Water Resources Control Board and many of the special interest groups that profit from our state and federal water systems, this is a no-brainer.

For them, water from our rivers is new water – which can be used to offset their own, over-obligated water sources.

And they get it for free.

That is why the state water board is so insistent on an enormous increase in flows from the Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers.

The governor would have us believe the tunnels are not related to flows. His agencies claim survival of salmon is the reason for sending water down the river. They ignore the science and demand more water.

Without the new water, approval of the tunnels becomes more problematic. The tunnels guarantee water goes south before it reaches the Delta. With less freshwater flowing in from the Sacramento River, the Delta becomes saltier. And the state water board cannot have the Delta get saltier. Hence, the need for greater San Joaquin River flows.

We become the sacrificial lambs.

The state water board wants us to release over 1 million acre feet down our Tuolumne River and into the Delta in some water years. Historically, this is the water we use to fill Lake Don Pedro – the largest reservoir in California constructed without federal or state help. This will create another “permanent regulatory drought” that will decimate one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. The state knows this; its plan says the damage is “significant and unavoidable.”

How can the state water board ask anyone for that kind of sacrifice?

Water board officials refused to discuss the impacts of this flow project on drinking water, groundwater and irrigation water with our local governments and education officials, let alone our water and agricultural industries. The failure of the water board to discuss the assumptions and data behind the flows proposal with the people most impacted – before determining their recommendations – suggests they already had their minds made up.

They forfeit any confidence we might have had, or would like to have, in our state administration.

What can you do?

First, go to worthyourfight.org to read the facts and sign our petition. Second, write to Gov. Brown and tell him what you think of his plan to take our water. Also let Felicia Marcus, state water board chairwoman, know. Then tell all of your friends and relatives across the United States that our food source is being threatened by the Delta tunnels and Gov. Brown. Attend the meetings and rallies and voice your opinion.

If they don’t listen, prepare for the new Dust Bowl (not the beer) right here – in one of the most productive agricultural economies in the world.

Dr. Rob Santos is a Turlock veterinarian and Turlock Irrigation District board member; Paul Campbell is U.S. Air Force veteran, Modesto businessman and member of the Modesto Irrigation District board.

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