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For Immediate Release: July 17, 2008

Restore the Delta Contact: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla PO Box 691088 Phone: 209-479-2053 Stockton, CA 95269 Email: Barbara [at] Restorethedelta.org http://www.restorethedelta.org


Stockton, California -- Restore the Delta, a Delta-based coalition including Delta farmers, environmentalists, everyday citizens, fishermen, business leaders, the faith community, and recreation enthusiasts, is calling into questions many of the findings in the Public Policy Institute’s Navigating the Delta, a report calling for a peripheral canal.

First, longtime Delta advocate, Tom Zuckerman, notes that the report’s conclusion that Delta islands with highways were worth saving, while others are not worth maintaining, is an unrealistic conclusion. “How can one maintain any semblance of land form, so as to protect highway structures, with an ocean essentially in the middle of a few islands? For that matter, without the semblance of land forms in the Delta, how would water and gas lines, the railroad, and shipping channels remain protected?”

Central Delta Water Agency’s Dante Nomellini further explains that the inter-relationship between Delta islands extends to seepage, wind-wave generation, and fishery and wildlife habitat. “One cannot simply flood islands without adversely affecting the ecosystem and infrastructure on the surrounding islands,” says Nomellini.

Second, 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. 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. Rerouting water will not solve that problem.”

Loyko also asserts that the report’s call for building a peripheral without limits in size is merely the means by which to take away the Delta’s last major fresh water source, and thereby would worsen Delta water quality.

Third, Restore the Delta’s Campaign Director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, adds that the report’s analysis of water quality is also faulty. “Their analysis assumes that water flowing into and out of the Delta remains unchanged when the point of diversion is changed. But everyone who lives, works, and recreates in the Delta knows that with less fresh water flowing through the Delta, more salt water will intrude into local waterways.”

In fact, the report makes a highly inaccurate assumption that water quality would improve for farmers near the San Joaquin River. Barrigan-Parrilla says that the report’s authors have not engaged in any conversations with local Delta experts, South Delta farmers – some of whom have lived on the land for ninety years.

Barrigan-Parrilla also adds that such changes in water quality to the Delta 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. 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.”

Last, Restore the Delta Board Member, Betsy Reifsnider, notes problems with the report’s conclusions regarding governance for the Delta and how these conclusions mirror problems with the Delta Vision Strategic Draft Plan. Reifsnider explains, “The PPIC Report concludes that consensus regarding Delta management cannot be reached. While that statement may be true on the surface, it unfortunately is a polite way of saying that local Delta experts should be left out of governance decisions.”

Reifsnider also adds that the Delta Vision process is calling for a governance council for the Delta comprised solely of governor appointees. “Where do Delta locals have the opportunity to assist with governing the Delta?” asks Reifsnider. “After all, who knows the Delta best?”

All contributors are available for interviews.


PRESS RELEASE from the Public Policy Institute:

Peripheral Canal Is Best Strategy To Save Delta Ecosystem, Ensure Reliable Water Supply

State Leaders Urged to Chart Sustainable Future for Ailing Region

SAN FRANCISCO, California, July 17, 2008 -- Building a peripheral canal to carry water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the most promising strategy to balance two critical policy goals: reviving a threatened ecosystem and ensuring a high-quality water supply for California’s residents. That is the central conclusion of a report released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Under current policy, water is drawn from the Sacramento River and sent south through the Delta to enormous pumps that deliver water to millions of households in the Bay Area and Southern California and millions of acres of Central Valley farmland. This approach, which disrupts the natural water flow, has threatened native fish and made the Delta attractive to invasive species. Furthermore, it is unsustainable. Projected sea level rise, crumbling ancient levees, larger floods, and high earthquake potential will inevitably result in a dramatically different Delta environment. This environment will have saltier water, which will be much more costly to treat for drinking and ultimately unusable for irrigation, the report says.

Although it would be best for fish populations if California stopped using the Delta as a water source altogether, this would be an extremely costly strategy, according to the report, authored by a multidisciplinary team including Ellen Hanak, PPIC associate director and senior fellow, and Jay Lund, William Fleenor, William Bennett, Richard Howitt, Jeffrey Mount, and Peter Moyle from the University of California, Davis.

The PPIC-UC Davis team 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,” Hanak says.

The new report, Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, builds on the findings of a 2007 PPIC study by the same team, which concluded that the need for a new Delta strategy is urgent. The new report was funded in part by Stephen D. Bechtel Jr. and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Among its recommendations:

Plan to allow some Delta islands to flood permanently. The state should invest in the levees that protect high-value land, ecosystem goals, and critical infrastructure – and allow lower-value islands to return to aquatic habitat.

Begin the transition from the current Delta management system. The current system is harming the native fish now, as federal court rulings have found. Over time, it will hurt the state’s economy. Natural forces will impose change on the current system, and planning for change now will make Californians less susceptible to the potentially much larger cost of earthquake, floods, or levee failures.

Develop a new framework for governing and regulating the Delta. With the proper safeguards, a peripheral canal can be economically and environmentally beneficial. It is a more cost-effective strategy than dual conveyance, which, because it relies on continued pumping through the Delta, is an interim solution. “Choosing a water strategy is just the first step,” UC Davis researcher Lund says. “The technical, financial, and regulatory decisions necessary to plan for a new Delta are enormous. The governor and legislature need to be involved in setting up a new framework to manage the challenge.”


The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.