From Burt Wilson, Public Water News Service.
Last Fall the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) had received over 40,000 complaints against its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) concerning its twin tunnels and habitat restoration plans. The BDCP was worried because failing to pass strict environmental regulations would prevent the BDCP from being included into the Delta Plan which was administered by the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC). Thus the $249-milliion spent so far would all go down the drain and the BDCP’s $68-billion project would, along with 1982’s “Peripheral Canal,” become just another loser in California’s continuing water wars.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR), the lead agency on the tunnels project, saw all these complaints and immediately saw that the Delta tunnels were threatened. The jig was up! So they stopped all work and went into hiding for a few months in order to come up with some other way to by-pass those dreaded environmental regulations. They were looking for something that would give the BDCP clear sailing through the DSC’s vetting process and result in its inclusion into the Delta Plan and subsequently be given a permit to build.
What did they come up with? They piece-mealed the BDCP!
Piece-mailing is a common practice among government agencies. When a project is so big that a failure in one area could cause the whole project to fail, they just split it into smaller pieces where complaints would only affect a small part of the project and leave the major components to pass almost unnoticed. Piece-mealing has long been debated as deceitful and dishonest and it has been said that when big bucks are involved a lot of government officials look the other way.
So on June 15th, the DSC released an official letter that detailed the bifurcation (read: piece mealed) of the BDCP into two subdivisions: 1) The California WaterFix (the tunnels), and 2) the California EcoRestore (the habitat restoration). But one particular paragraph caught my eye. It read: “The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) was anticipated to result in a 50-year Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) with the goal of recovering the Delta’s endangered or threatened species by improving conveyance of water from the Sacramento River to the South Delta pumps…etc…etc.”
Wow! This was the first time I had ever heard anything about a Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) so I did a little research and found out this has been around for a long time. That the BDCP included it in their plan, to my thinking, was to give it environmental creds. But including the NCCP served served the BDCP well as it enabled them to call their tunnels plan a “Conservation” Plan.
You see, back when the BDCP began, its leaders knew it was vitally important to present the BDCP as a “Conservation” plan. If it were left to be just a twin tunnels plan it would surely be characterized rightly as a “Water Grab” and quickly identified with the Peripheral Canal.
The NCCP is a collection of various environmental rules and regulations and lodged as Chapter 10 of the Fish and Game (now Wildlife) Code. Checking the F&W website I have noticed that just in the last two days, they have buried the NCCP deeper.
Click here to read Chapter 10
Stay with me as the plot thickens! The NCCP was already a fixture of the State Water Code which was amended in order to demand that it would be a requirement for the BDCP in order to be included into the Delta Plan! Here is the code:
(a) The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) shall be considered for inclusion in the Delta Plan in accordance with this chapter.
(b) The BDCP shall not be incorporated into the Delta Plan and the public benefits associated with the BDCP shall not be eligible for state funding, unless the BDCP does all of the following:
1) Complies with Chapter 10 of the Fish and Game Code.
Now here’s the clincher: In the same letter where the DSC told of breaking up the BDCP into the WaterFix and the EcoRestore, they also wrote: “Because the preferred WaterFix alternative will not be an NCCP, it will not be automatically incorporated into the Delta Plan. Instead, the Department of Water Resources will need to certify the project’s consistency with the Delta Plan pursuant to Water Code section 85225 and the Council’s Delta Plan implementing regulations, as will EcoRestore’s individual habitat restoration projects.”
Bingo! So it turns out the BDCP had to be split up in order to escape the NCCP conservation plan which was originally included to help it!
So, in one fell swoop the DSC, the BDCP and the DWR have averted any real environmental regulations which might hold up the vetting process and have instead established a new vetting route in which the whole process has been greased in their favor. The 40,000 complaints about the BDCP are now no longer permitted to be a part of any future vetting process.
There you have it! By piece-mealing the BDCP the DWR, aided by the DSC, was able to by-pass all those environmental restrictions they created in the beginning!
And what does the State Water Code, section 85225 say:
85225. A state or local public agency that proposes to undertake a covered action, prior to initiating the implementation of that covered action, shall prepare a written certification of consistency with detailed findings as to whether the covered action is consistent with the Delta Plan and shall submit that certification to the council.
Thus the BDCP tunnels will not have to encounter environmental restrictions in an EIR because there won’t be any EIR! Now, as the California WaterFix, all they have to do is write a letter to the DSC of how grand and glorious twin tunnels would be in the Delta. And according to this new law, the DSC will counsel the BDCP all the way through the process! My friends, now we know why they call it the WaterFix–because the “fix” is really in!
Now, what about those 40,000 letters of complaints? Where does that leave us tunnel critics? Let’s go to the State Water Code again:
85225.10.(a) Any person who claims that a proposed covered action is inconsistent with the Delta Plan and, as a result of that inconsistency, the action will have a significant adverse impact on the achievement of one or both of the coequal goals or implementation of government-sponsored flood control programs to reduce risks to people and property in the Delta, may file an appeal with regard to a certification of consistency submitted to the council.
This means tunnels opponents will have to start all over–except in certain cases–on the complaint process–which is underway as we write this–knowing that the changes made by the DSC, DWR and BDCP will eliminate any stringent environmental regulations and therefore smooth the way for the tunnels to be adopted into the Delta Plan.
Personally, I think this whole disingenuous scam is one for the attorneys. Only a conspiracy by the water agencies could lead to such a subversion of the public trust. And then there’s Gov. Brown hiding in his office as a co-conspirator. Well, California now has its own version of “Watergate!”
The significant part to me is that these supposed champions of the public trust have actually orchestrated their own betrayal of that trust. Sure, they thought their fine hand in suppressing environmental regulations would never by exposed. Well, think again. Their actions are a blatant disregard for the public and especially the people who filed complaints thinking they would have an effect. They have consciously violated our trust and any oath of office they took. They should resign.
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