EPA Says Bay Delta Conservation Plan Could Violate Federal Environmental Law

August 30, 2014 8:55 am · 23 comments

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say California’s $25 billion plan to build an enormous pair of twin tunnels system to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to other parts of the state may violate federal environmental law and harm endangered fish.

In a 43-page letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service released on the EPA’s website on Thursday as part of the agency’s official public comment to the state’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the federal agency said it is concerned that the BDCP as currently proposed “may result in violations of Clean Water Act water quality standards and further degrade the ecosystem.”

The letter’s public release followed the California Department of Water Resources’ announcement that it would delay the BDCP to allow more time to review some 8,500 public comments on the project. The decision was partly prompted by the EPA’s feedback, said Richard Stapler of the California Natural Resources Agency.

The Department of Water Resources and other state agencies leading the BDCP environmental review will now revise some portions of the plan’s environmental impact report, although Stapler declined to specify which parts will be revised.

The state plans to announce the new release date for the revised portions in six to eight weeks. Once it’s re-distributed, the revised environmental impact report will be available for another round of public comment.

State agencies had originally planned to finalize the project by the end of the year but now expect to re-circulate the EIR “in early 2015,” according to the Department of Water Resources.

“All of the past comments are still part of the public record and environmental impact document, this will just add another layer of public comment,” Stapler said.

State officials have said the BDCP will create more reliable water supplies for the two-thirds of the state that get their water from the Delta while preserving and protecting native Delta fish, wildlife and plants with its proposed habitat conservation program.

The plan’s most prominent feature – the construction of two 35-mile-long, 40-foot-wide tunnels designed to send more water to Southern California and other parts of the state – has come under fire from groups that say the tunnels will drain the Delta and harm its water quality while boosting water quality and quantity in other parts of the state.

The EPA’s letter this week supported some of those criticisms, stating that while the BDCP’s proposed water transfer system would “improve the water quality for agricultural and municipal water agencies that receive water exports from the Delta, water quality could worsen for farmers and municipalities who divert water directly from the Delta.”

The proposed tunnel system would likely generate higher concentrations of mercury, selenium, chloride, salinity and pesticides in the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary, according to the EPA.

The EPA said the plan, which proposes three large new water intake facilities near Courtland in Sacramento County, is also likely to adversely affect native Delta fish species, including endangered Delta smelt, longfin smelt and Chinook salmon.

While the BDCP includes the restoration of more than 150,000 acres of native habitat in order to counteract these projected impacts, the EPA said there no real evidence that the habitat restoration would be effective.

“We are concerned that the analysis assumes a 100 percent success rate for habitat restoration, which is not consistent with our experience,” the EPA letter reads.

Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, executive director of Delta conservation group Restore the Delta and a vocal opponent of the BDCP, said the EPA’s findings underline the project’s “fatal flaws.”

The BDCP is seven years in the making and is meant to provide a more stable water transfer system from the Delta, which supplies water to 25 million Californians and 4 million acres of farmland.

Anon August 30, 2014 at 9:46 AM

Why are we pumping water anywhere to fill people’s swimming pools?

Silva August 30, 2014 at 10:22 AM

Thank you.

PH Dad August 30, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Well, hopefully somebody can drive a stake through Jerry’s lame ideas.

foonman August 30, 2014 at 10:33 AM

I wonder if they will be getting caught up in their own over-regulations? If so, they will just run over them and do what they want. It will be interesting to see what comes of this……betcha, saving the endangered delta wildlife wont mean squat anymore…………

Always Right August 30, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Jerry Brown’ legacy – billions wasted on a high speed train to nowhere and a half baked tunnel.

Who voted for this character?

Kirkwood August 30, 2014 at 11:08 AM

A major push to build the water tunnels is coming from the almond growers around Bakersfield. Have you seen this area? It’s a desert. Growers have abandoned row crops for high value, water hungry orchards, primarily almonds. 80% of the state’s almond crop is exported to China for it’s increasingly wealthy middle class. Do you know that it takes 6 gallons of water to grow one almond?

Cassius Clayton August 30, 2014 at 11:27 AM

I have a boat on the delta. My concern is that I wonder if the water level will decrease, it is already quite shallow in many places.

Marianne August 30, 2014 at 11:41 AM

There are too many endangered and almost extinct species in the delta. It’s about time they really understood this, I hope they stop the plans for tunneling.

Tara Firma August 30, 2014 at 11:48 AM

If these tunnels are built, the water from the bay will push our way. We will basically be living by salt water. You know what that would do for our water plants and oil refineries? They would no longer be able to treat that water for use and have to closed down. There will be thousands of people in this area out of jobs. The cost of potable water and gas will sky rocket and our economy will tank.

TinFoiler August 30, 2014 at 12:32 PM

Everyone had better chime in now and stop this before you are paying $900 per month for water through an “enron” style water scam.
Once it’s built, it’s Too Late.

The Closer August 30, 2014 at 1:02 PM

@ #11

Judging by your post, you clearly are on the low end of that average.

@ # 11 August 30, 2014 at 1:08 PM

I am personally delighted to see you are part of the majority. Your average IQ is a testament to the CA School System.

We don’t elect leaders, we elect representatives. Only the foolish believe them to be leaders.

The only people at fault in California, for any of its problems, are the voters.

NVgatrr August 30, 2014 at 1:24 PM

Moonbeam’s tribute to Daddy cannot be allowed to happen. Daddy’s little project has already impacted the Delta and our East Bay water supply (as well as the water they already send south), and now Jerry wants to exacerbate the debacle? The BDCP needs to be placed on the ballot in the districts that are directly affected so that the the full impact of “public comment” is strengthened and enforced. This “plan” must go into the “round file”!

@13 August 30, 2014 at 1:37 PM

I see you are on the lower end of the IQ scale.

Here’s how it works, hope it’s simple enough for you;

In addition the Gov has line item veto to make sure it’s in order.

Please don’t vote in November in national elections, it will not make a difference in CA elections..

There is a summary of the budget process available on the Department of Finance website. To summarize the summary:

California’s Constitution requires the Governor to submit a budget by January 10 each year. If the spending in that budget exceeds estimated revenues the Governor has to recommend sources of additional funding.

The preparation of this budget is directed by the Governor’s Director of Finance, issuing guidelines to the agencies and departments. Current department funding is used as a base. Then a Budget Change Proposal is developed by each department to the Department of Finance for review and analysis.

There’s more to it but I thought this was all your little brain could handle.

Cat Wrangler August 30, 2014 at 2:07 PM

If the tunnels are implemented they will cause catastrophic damage to untold species, human and otherwise.

For those the tunnels were proposed to aid:

– Farms can adopt the successful water irrigation methods used in Israel that have turned a desert into a world supplier of freshly grown produce.

– Businesses can adopt water reclamation systems.

– So CA and Central Valley humans can adopt the succesful San Diego water reclamation system that turns waste water into drinkable water.

For the rest of us who had the wisdom and heart to make the SF Bay and Delta region our home – we will protect our Delta and the lives of all of the species it sustains.

CoCoOld August 30, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Just returned from a trip to southern California where EVERY lawn was GREEN and moist-looking. I was fuming. Then we drove by the Owens Valley and its former rivers and now I am rabidly angry.

If the politicians really want to help the water crisis, they should outlaw lawns on private property. Or we northern Californians should find some way to re-assert our water rights. If we don’t we will sacrifice OUR water tables to the god of green lawns in LA and San Diego.


ClayDen August 30, 2014 at 4:28 PM

We need to maintain adequate flow through the delta to keep salt water from the bay intruding and ruining the delta and our drinking water. I don’t recall anything about it during this drought, but I remember during the late 1970s drought that there was a real concern with CCWD drinking water having elevated sodium levels and we started having bottled water delivered. There is already too much water diverted south; lets not make it worse. Maybe this will be the impetus for splitting the state.

Tara Firma August 30, 2014 at 5:17 PM

The sad part is that this is not a voter approved issue. Brown made sure of that.

Always Right August 31, 2014 at 6:16 PM

@clayden – Los vaqueros reservoir solved those salt problems. The reservoir is recharged in the spring when the water is good. Even in drought years there is enough fresh water in spring time to top off the tank.

No need for dead lawns here in Claycord. We built the reservoir. Now we should enjoy the benefits.

Elwood August 31, 2014 at 7:32 PM

@ @5 Jerry’s Legacy #11

I believe someone must have hit Jerry in the head with the brick of economic ruin.

Elwood August 31, 2014 at 7:38 PM

This is the worst idea since the Peripheral Canal. Think Peripheral Tunnels.

The tunnels generate no water whatsoever.

All they do is move water south more efficiently, without moving through the delta and fish pooping in it and all that.

Curry August 31, 2014 at 8:20 PM

Why would any legislation allow the meandering tunnels through the delta anyway. The chaos it would cause would be tremendous.

Silva August 31, 2014 at 10:16 PM

Such a cocamamie idea. I can’t think we’ll let our beautiful and recovering bay become a sewer again.

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