The Save the California Delta Alliance (STCDA) has announced plans to block the California Department of Water Resources’ (CDWR) latest move to push forward with Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin-tunnels project.
On July 21, a Notice of Determination, which certifies the environmental impact report (EIR), was released by the CDWR, signaling the department’s intent to proceed with the tunnels plan.
According to Michael Brodsky, attorney for the STCDA, the group plans to file litigation in objection to the final EIR’s certification.
“We have 30 days to file our suit challenging the EIR and 60 days to file our suit challenging the financing plan for the tunnels,” said Brodsky.
The tunnels project, also known as California WaterFix, proposes two tunnels, each 40 feet in diameter, be buried 150 feet below the Delta’s islands and sloughs. The tunnels would draw water from the Sacramento River near Hood (about 20 miles south of Sacramento) and deliver the water to canals near Tracy, which carry Delta water south to the central valley farms and Southern California cities. The WaterFix project claims the plan’s goal is to bolster regional self-sufficiency in water supplies, reduce reliance on the Delta, recover native fish populations and bring reliability, restoration and resilience to California’s water supply.
But opponents of the project feel differently.
“These tunnels would deprive the Delta of its fresh water source and suspend the Delta in a chronic state of drought,” said STCDA member Frank Morgan. “Not only that, but construction of the tunnels would take 11 years or more, and with all the noise, vibration and blockage of waterways, we will lose a significant amount of our recreational business.”
Carl Wenske, STCDA member and manager of Bullfrog Marina, agrees.
“The tunnel construction route runs under Bacon Island, right across the river from us, and there is a geotechnical exploration site just north of us that will block passage of Middle River,” said Wenske.
Wenske further noted that boaters rely on the easy access of his marina for gasoline. If access is blocked, the 78-year-old business will struggle to survive.
To date, the STCDA has a solid track record in litigation against the tunnels. In 2016, the group won a preliminary battle in a lawsuit against the Delta Stewardship Council. Judge Michael Kenny of Sacramento Superior Court sided with the Discovery Bay group and found the Delta Plan invalid. Changes sought by the lawsuit will make approval of the tunnels more difficult.
“The first lawsuit was a warm-up; the main event is now,” said Brodsky.
Construction would involve enormous tunnel-boring machines, lowered to subterranean depths through access shafts excavated throughout the Delta. The earth removed from the tunnel bores and access shafts would be dumped on Delta islands.
The project’s EIR states that 30,000,000 cubic yards of ‘reusable tunnel material’ would be deposited into the Delta – as tall as Mount Shasta and large enough to cover a football field.
“They used to call it ‘tunnel muck,’ but they changed the name somewhere along the line for PR purposes,” said Mike Guzzardo, local real-estate agent. “Our community is not a dumping ground, and we are going to keep fighting until we stop the tunnels.”
In a 2015 review of the then draft EIR, the Delta Independent Science Board concluded the EIR “fails to inform weighty decisions about public policy.”
The science board members said they believed the California WaterFix’s promises to improve the EIR would not come soon enough. In a recent statement, the board declared the content would arrive far too late in the EIR process, especially since it is so critical to comprehending proposals and potential impacts.
“(CDWR has) fiddled around the edges since then, but the document is still fatally flawed,” Brodsky added. “It isn’t too late; we can and we will win this fight.”
The STCDA is holding an informational fair at the Bullfrog Marina on Saturday, July 29, from 1 to 5 p.m. The public is invited to attend.