Governor Newsom: Water is Life, No Delta Tunnel

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California’s salmon rivers are at a crisis point. A recent report stated over 45% of California’s fisheries are facing extinction within 50 years. The Klamath River spring chinook and coho salmon are currently facing extinction, and the Sacramento River/ Bay Delta winter run salmon, Spring Salmon, delta smelt, and green sturgeon are all imperiled. Loss of habitat, low river flows and poor water quality are the main issues impacting the fish in both watersheds. The Trinity River, the Klamath’s largest tributary, has been dammed and diverted to the Sacramento River, and is delivered to Central Valley Project contractors such as the Westlands Water District. The Bay Delta, Sacramento River and Klamath-Trinity River salmon declines are connected to overallocation of water to the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.

This situation has been made much worse by bad water management during recent droughts and ocean impacts from climate change. Even fish that are not endangered such as the Klamath and Trinity River fall run Chinook are facing rapidly dwindling numbers, which means that members of California’s three largest Tribes, the Yurok, Hoopa Valley, and Karuk Tribes do not have access to an essential food source. Most Delta and Sacramento River Tribes have not had access to salmon for many decades.

Commercial fishing and coastal communities are also suffering from the economic impacts from loss of salmon. This year only 47,261 salmon returned to the Klamath and Trinity Rivers out of the 97,912 that were predicted. This severely impacted people in Northern California and Southern Oregon.  All available science points to the fact that floodplain and estuary restoration, access to cold water habitat and improved flows will be essential if salmon are to survive climate change in California.

Now the state of California is taking public comments on the plan to build a new 7000 cfs diversions that would be feed by California's most important salmon River. At public hearings on the Delta tunnel proposal  hundred of people from at least eight Tribes, four fishing organizations and many social justice and environmental groups testified against this proposal. Concerns came from all over the state and ranged from concerns about increased water bills from L.A. to concerns about possible fish kills from diversions and lack of salmon fishing seasons in Del Norte County. Delta Tribes also expressed opposition due to the desecration of cultural sites from the construction of the tunnels and residents of Stockton, California said they will have to deal with the health impacts from tunnel construction and diminished water quality.

Luckily the people of California do not need this tunnel. Californians are saving water and support conservation to save the environment. Unfortunately, large water brokers and corporate agriculture interests, such as the Westlands Water District, know there is money to be made from water. In 2017 Donald Trump appointed a Westlands Water District lobbyist, David Bernhardt  to head the Department of Interior, and he has created several new plans and rules that would harm California’s salmon. California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom has also prioritized water deliveries over the environment thus far, but did recently challenge one of these plans in court.

Currently proposed state and federal processes threaten California’s rivers include;

* The Trump Water Plan for Long Term Operations of the Central Valley Project,

* Shasta Dam Enlargement,

* The Long Term Operations of the State Water Project,

* The Proposed Sites Reservoir,

* The Twin Tunnels proposal, which is now the One Tunnel,

* The Westlands Water District and other CVP water district permanent water contracts,

* The Governor’s Water Resilience Portfolio. This document lays out the Governor’s water priorities and the one tunnel proposal and Sites Reservoir are top priorities in the document.

These projects are all connected as the Sites Reservoir project and its new diversions, the Trump water plan, and the Long Term Operations of the State Water Project would allow more water to be diverted and stored from the Trinity and Sacramento River systems and Bay Delta, and the tunnel would allow this water to be moved south. The Governor’s water portfolio and Trump actions make sure all of these new reservoirs and diversions are prioritized on the state and federal level above salmon and communities. 

Public comments on the Delta Conveyance Scoping are due on March 20, 2020 by 5 p.m. and may be submitted via email at DeltaConveyanceScoping@water.ca.gov or mail at P.O. Box 942836, Sacramento, CA 94236.