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Restore the Delta Challenges Public Policy Institute's Support of Peripheral Canal

by Dan Bacher

Restore the Delta, a coalition including Delta farmers, environmentalists, fishermen, business leaders, the faith community, recreation enthusiasts, and everyday folks, today issued a powerful statement calling into question many of the findings in the Public Policy Institute’s "Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta," a report calling for a peripheral canal. I urge everybody concerned about the fate of the California Delta and the state's fisheries to read their critique of the report's conclusions.

The Public Policy Institute (PPIC)-UC Davis team's report concludes that "a peripheral canal is not only more promising than the temporary and ultimately unsustainable 'dual conveyance' option – which combines the current approach with a canal – but is also the best available strategy to balance two equally important objectives."

“Coupling a peripheral canal – the least expensive option – with investment in the Delta ecosystem can promote both environmental sustainability and a reliable water supply,” said Ellen Hanak, PPIC associate director and senior fellow.

The report was authored by a "multidisciplinary team" including Hanak, Jay Lund, William Fleenor, William Bennett, Richard Howitt, Jeffrey Mount, and Peter Moyle from the University of California, Davis.

In spite of the team's contentions, building a peripheral canal like the one that Senator Dianne Feinstein and Governor Arnold "Fish Terminator" Schwarzenegger are pushing for will only make the dramatic declines of Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead, delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass and other fish species even worse. There are no examples in U.S. history that I know of where the construction of a canal resulted in increased flows for fish and wildlife.

Make no mistake about it: the Delta's problem is not that it lacks a canal. The problem is that its water is over allocated, much of it to toxic land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that should have never been put into agricultural production. To restore Central Valley chinook salmon and California Delta fish species, more water must be allowed to flow NATURALLY through the Delta, not less.

In spite of the hypocritical rhetoric that Feinstein and Schwarzenegger and the Public Policy Institute's authors spin about "ecosystem restoration," the only purpose of the peripheral canal is to create the capacity to export more water from the Delta. We need increased conservation of water so that we can restore Central Valley salmon, delta smelt, longfin smelt and other fish to historical levels, not increased water exports.

Restore the Delta Board Press President Bill Loyko questions how constructing a peripheral canal could possibly solve water needs throughout the state. “A peripheral canal, first and foremost will not make more water," he said. "The present problem with California’s water system is that it is short 5 million acre-feet of water annually to meet current state needs."

Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta campaign director, contends that changes in water quality to the Delta produced by a peripheral canal will result in "economic chaos" for the region.

“Neither the PPIC Report authors nor officials with the State have done a full-scale economic analysis of how a change in water quality with the operation of a peripheral canal would impact farming, recreation, or fisheries," she stated. "It is estimated that Delta farming alone contributes $2 billion per year to our local economy, and recreation like boating and fishing another $750 million. If the Delta is made into a salty inland sea, the economic impacts will be devastating to those living in the surrounding five counties of the Delta.”

The Public Policy Institute's authors, by supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger's peripheral canal, are steering the Delta ecosystem over the precipice of disaster in the same manner that the captain and crew of the Titanic "navigated" that ship into a big iceberg!

Restore the Delta Contact:

Restore the Delta Contact: 

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla PO Box 691088 
Stockton, CA 95269
Phone: 209-479-2053  
Email: Barbara@Restorethedelta.org 

Restore the Delta Press Release: