Speaking truth to the perceived powerless, Governor Jerry Brown told critics of his plan to build twin tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and ship its water to Central Valley farmers and thirsty urbanites, mostly in Southern California, that they should just “shut up” already.
Speaking of his critics, Brown told the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) this week, “Until you put a million hours into it, shut up, because you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.” His remarks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, were greeted with laughter and applause.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta (RTD), was not laughing. “We will not go away, and we will not shut up,” she said in a prepared statement, chiding Brown for having “his fingers in his ears.”
Environmentalists have called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) doomed since its inception eight years ago for treating the delicate ecosystem as an afterthought. Brown correctly said that environmentalists and locals have opposed a redirection of Delta water since before his father was governor in the 1960s.
They don’t believe the Delta will survive the diversion of fresh water, and that little is being done to rebuild levees, better protect endangered fish and wildlife and rebuild the habitat. The governor’s own Peripheral Canal plan during his first administration 35 years ago was a controversial failure at satisfying those who felt the largest estuary on the West Coast was about to be savaged.
Governor Brown recently tried to simplify the complex merger of Delta safety, environmental protection and water demands that has bedeviled his predecessors by splitting the plan in two and just building the damn tunnels. The $15-billion tab would be picked up mostly by water agencies and the $8-billion-plus worth of other stuff would be dealt with later.
The administration announced last month it is cutting $8 billion worth of environmental improvements in the old plan down to $300 million and reducing the area of wetland and wildlife habitat restoration from 100,000 acres to 30,000. By spinning off much of the environmental work, the administration can apply for permits of 10 years or less rather than 50-year permits that have more stringent requirements.
Last September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrote in a 43-page letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that building a couple of giant tunnels to divert freshwater from the Sacramento River around the Delta will probably threaten the habitat by increasing its content of salt, chloride, pesticides and other bad stuff.
Brown told the ACWA standing-room-only crowd that they were “on the front lines” of the drought and his administration wanted to “make it easier for you to build things.” A moment or two of silence would be appreciated.