A coalition of environmental groups, delta farmers and fishing organizations unveiled a campaign designed to derail the controversial plan to divert water from the delta to water users in the Bay Area and Southern California through underground tunnels.
The “Death of the Delta” campaign featured a coffin festooned with so-called victims of the plan including commercial fishing, the endangered delta smelt, and the Delta’s ecology.
“We can not find one river system that’s ever been restored by having its water removed from it,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.
The group spoke to the press prior to a public meeting to explain the complex plan which was seven years in the making. Governor Jerry Brown is pushing the plan as a compromise between restoring the delta habitat for endangered delta smelt and chinook salmon and the need for a consistent supply of water for the Silicon Valley and water users in Southern California.
The Delta’s water is already being pumped to downstream users.
“It is the source of supply of water for the underpinning of much of California’s economy,” said Nancy Vogel, the Public Affairs Director for the Department of Water Resources.
The plan calls for water to be pumped from the Sacramento River into underground tunnels from a point just south of Sacramento. Water officials say that would allow them to better regulate conditons downstream in the Delta.
But Delta farmer Steve Heringer said that makes no sense. He said too much water has been promised to downstream growers who decided to grow on arid land.
“If the water were there, fine take it. But it’s not there,” said Heringer.
Critics say the project is too expensive and too damaging to the Delta to be built for the benefit of large corporate farms that crave water.
But proponents say no set amount of water has been promised to anyone and that strict rules would apply.
“The pumping will be dictated by where the fish are and whether the pumping would harm the fish,” said Vogel.
The group hopes drastic changes to the plan will result from the public meetings. They also vow to go to court in order to stop the plan in it’s current form.