The Terra News
30Jun/17Off

Environmentalists, fishing groups file lawsuits to block Delta tunnels plan

By PAUL ROGERS | progers@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: June 29, 2017 at 2:46 pm | UPDATED: June 30, 2017 at 4:50 am

Kicking off what are expected to be years of legal battles, a coalition of environmental and fishing groups on Thursday filed the first major lawsuits over California Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17 billion plan to build two massive, 35-mile-long tunnels under the Delta to make it easier to move water from Northern California to the south.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Bay Institute and Golden Gate Salmon Association filed two lawsuits in U.S District Court in San Francisco.
They challenged approvals given earlier this week by the Trump administration, which said the project won’t cause significant harm to salmon, smelt and other fish and wildlife.
“This version of the tunnels will wipe out California’s salmon fishery and the families and communities that rely on salmon,” said John McManus, executive director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association, based in Petaluma. “The problem is the state basically allowed the water users to design the tunnels and they’re so huge that the federal fish and wildlife agencies are basically throwing up their hands. It’s like they let the fox design the hen house.”
Officials with the state Department of Water Resources, which is overseeing the project, did not comment on the suit. Nor did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We don’t comment on active litigation,” said Shane Hunt, a spokesman for the service.

In this Feb. 23, 2016, file photo, a sign opposing a proposed tunnel plan to ship water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California is displayed near Freeport, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Brown is proposing to build two tunnels, each 40 feet in diameter, under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The idea is to divert water from the Sacramento River north of Sacramento near the town of Freeport, reducing reliance on the massive state and federal pumps at Tracy — which draw water south to cities and farms and are sometimes shut down to protect endangered salmon, smelt and other fish.
The environmentally sensitive Delta, an area of marshes, sloughs and islands between the Bay Area and Sacramento that is roughly the size of Yosemite National Park, is a linchpin of California’s water system. The Delta provides drinking water to 25 million people from Contra Costa County to Los Angeles and San Diego, and irrigation water to 3 million acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley and other areas.

Environmentalists, Delta farmers and some Northern California lawmakers call the tunnels project a water grab by Los Angeles and corporate farmers in the Central Valley that would harm the water quality of the San Francisco Bay and the Delta, and drive salmon, smelt and other fish to extinction.

Brown is counting on major water agencies in the state, including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Westlands Water District in Fresno and the Kern County Water Agency, to pay for the tunnels’ $15 billion construction costs through raising water rates and property taxes.
None of the agencies has yet committed to the project, but most are expected to vote over the next few months.
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/29/environmentalists-fishing-groups-file-lawsuit-to-block-delta-tunnels-plan/

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