Obstructionism Will Destroy Our Precious Delta

February 9, 2016 - Last week, the Sacramento Bee published an opinion column by State Building Trades President Robbie Hunter supporting Governor Jerry Brown’s California Water Fix proposal to improve water transport through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and protect fragile delta habitat, and calling for an end to obstructionist tactics aimed at stalling the program.

Here is the column in its entirety.

The Sacramento Bee

February 1, 2016

Obstructionism will destroy our precious Delta

Advocacy groups such as Restore the Delta are standing in the way of solutions

Ecosystem, levees and water supply are at risk with more delay

Gov. Brown’s California WaterFix is the only viable solution

By Robbie Hunter

Special to The Bee

Protecting our water supplies and the Delta’s environment requires real solutions and timely action on the California WaterFix. Unfortunately self-serving groups with misleading names such as Restore the Delta are advocating the surest way to destroy the Delta – doing absolutely nothing to protect it while standing in the way of progress.

Almost 10 years ago, the respected Public Policy Institute of California warned of “catastrophic” risks facing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the water supply for nearly two-thirds of Californians: “If California fails to act on it soon, we risk the loss of native species and important ecosystem services – and face significant economic disruptions.”

Since, there has been much debate and planning, but little concrete action. Scientists with the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis recently warned that the Delta is in crisis.

Despite the severity of the situation, Restore the Delta continues to push for delay rather than solutions. The group has fought against every legitimate plan to restore the Delta, and its irresponsible actions jeopardize the very Delta it claims to want to protect.

Californians depend on the water that flows from the Sierra through crumbling Delta infrastructure. Many mistakenly believe this water is traveling only south, but Northern California also relies on this water source, including 3 million people in the Bay Area.

Restore the Delta has vociferously opposed Gov. Jerry Brown’s California WaterFix, the only viable solution to protect the Delta environment and secure water deliveries. The plan is the product of nearly a decade of planning, research and environmental analysis. Building a modern pipeline to distribute water from the Sierra will restore more natural river flows and make other environmental improvements that scientists have been recommending for years.

Restore the Delta has no viable alternative. Instead, it advocates for curtailing water deliveries to 25 million residents in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California and wants to force Valley family farmers to fallow their fields. Shockingly, Restore the Delta also supports maintaining the current system of outdated pumps that are responsible for reverse water flows that kill fish and harm the ecosystem, and for sucking additional salt water into the Delta.

Restore the Delta even opposed $140 million in Delta habitat restoration funding in the 2014 water bond. The bond it opposed also included nearly $300 million for needed Delta levee improvements.

And the group is dangerously disingenuous about earthquake risks in the Delta. Seismologists at UCLA have warned that “the seismic risk is real and it’s serious.” Restore the Delta recklessly dismisses scientists’ concerns, claiming that “the majority of the levees are fine; others can be upgraded to be fine, and none of them has ever failed in an earthquake.”

Californians can’t afford to sit back and allow groups such as Restore the Delta to continue to be obstructionist while our water supplies continue to dwindle, communities suffer and the Delta’s environment continues to degrade. It’s time to move forward with the California WaterFix.

Robbie Hunter is president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. He can be contacted at [email protected].

 

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