Water Board resumes Delta Tunnels hearing, rejects motions by opponents

Article from Indybay.


by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Feb 21st, 2018 7:31 PM

The State Water Resources Control Board today announced that the hearing on the petition by the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to change the point of diversions for the Delta Tunnels project will resume as scheduled tomorrow, in spite of a change in the project by the state and federal governments from the twin tunnels to a two phase project.

The Board will reconvene the hearing tomorrow, February 22, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Coastal Room at the CalEPA building, rejecting the pile of recent motions by cities, counties, water agencies, conservation groups, fishing groups and farming organizations to stay the hearing.

The Delta Tunnels opponents not only argued for a stay in the hearings because of a recent change in the project, but as a result of emails disclosed under California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests filed by Patrick Porgans of Porgans and Associates.

The emails obtained by Porgans revealed that Water Board officials apparently apparently violated the Board’s own ex parte rules by holding many meetings and email contacts discussing with DWR staff modeling and other technical issues associated with the tunnels permit applications.

Rather than delaying or stopping the hearing to resolve the accusations of exparte violations, the Hearing Officers only said in their letter that…” the prohibition against ex parte (i.e., “off-the-record”) communications to the State Water Board Members concerning substantive and controversial procedural issues related to California WaterFix is now in effect.”

Delta Tunnels protestants responded with outrage to the today’s ruling, accusing the Water Board of discarding due process and forging ahead with the project in spite of the all of the evidence pointing to Governor Jerry Brown’s “legacy project” being disastrous for for fish, wildlife, water and the people of California.

”The State Water Resources Control Board has discarded due process, abandoned any pretense of being an independent regulatory agency, and revealed its intention to approve this disastrous project regardless of testimony and evidence,” said Bill Jennings, executive director for California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

Likewise, Bob Wright, Friends of the River senior counsel, stated, “The State Water Resources Control Board has had two faces. With one face they told the public and protestants, no ex parte (secret and private) communications with us. With the other face, they had numerous ex parte meetings with the Department of Water Resources to secretly help DWR get approval for the diversion change they need for the water tunnels.”

“The State Water Board today has shredded the last bit of faith we had that the hearing process would be conducted fairly and equitably—that the Board would hold to a standard of conduct that would be above reproach, regardless of the decision they may make on Governor Brown’s tunnels fiasco. Clearly, they are under the thumb of Governor Brown, and no longer function in an independent manner,” concluded Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta.

During the public comment period at the last board hearing on February 8, Pennie Opal Plant of Idle No More SF Bay eloquently urged the board to reject the petition required to build the California WaterFix, revealing what is at stake if the project is ever built.

“I am a signatory to the Indigenous Women of the Americas – Defenders of Mother Earth Treaty Compact 2015. We can’t live without water and neither can our non-human relatives. The WaterFix is a water theft. You cannot approve the WaterFix,” urged Plant.

”From my heart to yours, especially to the women, our babies swim in the seas of our wombs. Please protect this water and the life that lives inside of our bellies. Please protect this sacred system of life that swims in the Delta. If we don’t protect the Delta now, it’s going to be damaged beyond the capability to maintain human and non-human life. It’s up to us,” she stated.

A large number of other Delta Tunnels opponents, including representatives of Restore the Delta, North Delta Cares, Friends of the River, NRDC, Save the Delta Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sacramento Valley water districts, Delta farmers, business owners, fishing groups, San Joaquin, Sacramento and other Delta counties, the cities of Stockton and Sacramento, an array of water agencies and many other organizations filed motions to stay the Delta Tunnels evidentiary hearings.

While Jerry Brown often poses as the “resistance” to Trump, he is in fact a close collaborator with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Trump administration on the Delta Tunnels.

Background from the Water Board: The State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) is holding a hearing to receive evidence relevant to determining whether the State Water Board should approve, subject to terms and conditions, a joint petition filed by the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) to add three new points of diversion and/or points of rediversion of water to specified water right permits for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project associated with the California WaterFix Project (California WaterFix). The hearing will also inform the consideration of an application for a water quality certification pursuant to Clean Water Act section 401 for California WaterFix.

To read the full hearing letter and links, go to: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/bay_delta/california_waterfix/water_right_petition.shtml

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