Soapbox

Gov. Brown’s ‘Water Fix’ is not a real solution for the Delta

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton speaks at the state Capitol at an Oct. 30 rally in opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnel project.
Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton speaks at the state Capitol at an Oct. 30 rally in opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnel project. rbenton@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to build tunnels to isolate the Delta from its natural water supply has been repackaged as the “California Water Fix.”

It’s curious terminology indeed. Surely he can’t mean fix as in a “solution,” since this proposal solves none of the water problems plaguing California. His twin tunnels will produce no “new” water in the face of the annual shortage of at least 5 million acre-feet resulting from a promise to deliver more water than is available in the Sacramento River watershed.

Nor will Brown’s plan “fix” the fisheries dependent on Delta waters, which have been brought to the edge of extinction by reliance on water exports from the Delta. In fact, the operation plans for the tunnels would continue current pumping practices from channels in the south Delta in drier years. Fortunately, federal regulators saw through this charade and the attempt to gain long-term approvals were abandoned.

Nor does the proposal “fix” or even address the flood protection problems in the Delta, which threaten big portions of its cities, several major highways and rail lines, critical electrical and natural gas transmission facilities and freshwater supply facilities for Delta and Bay Area communities.

So maybe this is the “needle in the arm” type of fix, creating temporary euphoria and an escape from reality, but leaving nothing to face the future.

True, some jobs would be created to build this Chunnel-size boondoggle, but temporary construction jobs will disappear. Investing in regional water sustainability would create far more jobs per each million dollars spent, according to University of Pacific economist Jeffrey Michael.

Those who receive water will face significantly higher water costs and increased taxes to repay the $15 billion to $50 billion cost of the project without any meaningful increase in water supply. Water will go to the highest bidders to plant more almonds and pistachios in the desert for overseas export without addressing existing water shortages and quality issues that are impacting families and businesses throughout the state. Perhaps most importantly, we will have squandered the money which could have actually addressed and resolved these problems.

No, what this “fix” has been is the “Tammany Hall” type, in which the politicos make decisions that can’t withstand the light of day. There is no planned vote of the people, or even a vote of the Legislature or Congress authorizing this proposal.

Water has always been and should be a public discussion in California. In 1933, California voters authorized funding for the State Water Project. In 1982, voters rejected the peripheral canal. But the California Water Fix has never faced public oversight and was written behind closed doors, by and for special interests. Rather than provide responses to the thousands of comments from concerned citizens on environmental documents before moving forward, the governor is attempting to push through permitting of the proposal.

We need real solutions to our water problems, not needles in the arm and backroom deals. We need to spend our money to integrate flood control and water supply opportunities; reduce our export demands on the Delta so its people, farms and creatures can prosper; and conserve, recycle and reuse our available water supplies.

The California Water Fix doesn’t fix anything at all.

Joan T. Buchanan of Alamo served in the state Assembly from 2008 to 2014 and can be contacted at Joantbuchanan@gmail.com. Michael J. Machado of Linden served in the state Senate from 2000 to 2008 and can be contacted at mmfrmrpublic@gmail.com.

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