Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 13, 2015

Contact: Chelsea Tu, (415) 436-9682 x 320,

California's Controversial Twin Tunnels Water-export Plan
Abandons Fish Protection, Public Participation

Brown Administration Kills Provisions to Help Delta's Endangered Salmon, Smelt

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— California’s $25 billion twin tunnels project to divert water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta to Southern California and industrial agribusinesses no longer includes provisions to protect habitat for endangered salmon and smelt and more than 50 other imperiled species, according to a report by the San Jose Mercury News. According to the article, the Brown administration has now removed the habitat conservation component from the project, which is now focused solely on tunnel building.

“The new plan is a giant step backward. If it goes through, this massive project’s boosters will be able to build these tunnels without having to do anything to protect our wildlife and waters — and will neatly sidestep input from the public,” said Chelsea Tu, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This backdoor process will waste more taxpayer money and kill more Delta species like endangered salmon and smelt.”

Since 2007 state and federal water contractors and public agencies have spent more than $240 million just in planning the so-called Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which would green-light the water-export tunnels in exchange for promised measures intended to benefit the Delta environment.

The new plan would be subject to review only under Section 7 of the federal Endangered Species Act, which could only require federal wildlife agencies to determine whether it will harm 21 wildlife species that are listed or proposed to be listed under the Act. Under the previous approach, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan planned to protect 57 imperiled species. A Section 7 consultation would only take place among federal agencies and would likely not contain mandatory mitigation requirements or a public participation process.

Widely opposed by conservationists, Delta farmers, California taxpayers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the plan proposes two massive, 35-mile tunnels between the Sacramento River and State Water Project pumps to the south of the Delta, which would dewater the Delta to send water to Southern California. Freshwater in the Delta would be sharply reduced, decimating sensitive aquatic species including chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead trout, Delta and longfin smelt, and green and white sturgeon. The plan would also destroy the food and habitat availability for migratory birds and terrestrial species that depend on the Delta ecosystem to survive.

“As drought becomes the new normal, California cannot afford to continue lose Delta species that are already on the brink of extinction,” said Tu. “Instead of siphoning more water from the Delta to fuel speculative sprawl and export agribusinesses, California can solve its water crisis by adopting a combination of water conservation, efficiency, reuse and desalination strategies for both cities and farms. The state and the nation should invest in these proven strategies, instead of wasting tax dollars to perpetuate water exports at the expense of the fragile Delta ecosystem.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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