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Newsom’s vow to ram tunnel project through bigger threat to Delta than climate change
Correct Dennis Wyatt mug 2022
Dennis Wyatt

Either the science is wrong or Gov. Gavin Newsom has no idea of what he is doing.

On May 19 to much fanfare, Newsom, vowed to fast-track water and green projects. That means cutting off the boa constrictor like tentacles of the California Environmental Quality Act enacted into law in 1970. It has since morphed beyond its original intent thanks to the ever expanding blob known as the state bureaucracy, court decisions and subsequent sessions of the California Legislature.

Newsom, like any politician worth their salt, isn’t allowing a good disaster go to waste. Citing drought-related issues and climate change, Newsom wants to gut the bloated approval process CEQA has created.

This includes a dubious $20 billion or more endeavor known as the Delta Tunnel.

It’s been called other things over the years.

In 1951, when a 40-year-old engineering dream outlined by Lt. Robert B. Marshal of the U. S. Geological Survey started rolling forward in earnest, it was called a Delta Cross Channel.

Then in 1982 when environmentalists and farmers joined forces to help voters send a ballot measure funding such a project down in flames, it was called the Peripheral Canal.

It was resurrected in 2009 as the Twin Tunnels before Newsom in 2019 made it a seemingly less draconian project in a bid to get everyone to swallow the medicine for California’s ills. It is an idea hatched 72 years ago by development that you could argue set the stage to set manmade climate change into overdrive in the Golden State.

No single act of man has transformed California and its growth more than the Central Valley Water Project and the State Water Project, of which a Delta conveyance is the crowning act.

Newsom believes sea levels are rising. The science — and earth’s cyclical ocean history — confirms it.

The only disputed aspect is how fast and how soon.

There are those that say it will happen over the course of hundreds of years.

There are others — including Newsom — that align with the models that show the clock is ticking down to 70 years or less.

And days before Newsom vowed to become the man that bureaucratic red tape fears the most, the strong prospect of the advent of another major El Nino prompted the sooner-than-later crowds to lop decades off of their projection,.

One would assume that a 10-foot rise in the sea level would devastate the California coast. Guess again. It would impact it no doubt but the amount of land area involved is a mere drop in a gallon of water compared to what devastation awaits the Delta and areas including Stockton, Sacramento, Natomas, Weston Ranch, Tracy, Lathrop, and parts of Manteca.

Also on a much bigger hit list — but significantly less than the Delta — than the coast is the San Francisco Bay south of the Bay Bridge to San Jose.

Go to interactive maps and see for yourself. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a good site. Even better is the site that is ironically what Newsom’s own administration has put in place.

How does diverting 4.5 million acre-feet of water from the Delta via a bypass tunnel protect the Delta or more than a million people from Sacramento to Lathrop? It doesn’t. If anything, the absence of fresh water to push back against rising seawater will aggravate the situation.

The “cross channel” was never about managing anyone’s water except imports from  the north state the Los Angeles Basin takes and large swaths of corporate farms use on questionable soil in the southwest portion of the Valley,

It creates no more water storage.

What it does is remove 4.5 million acre-feet of water from the Delta ecological system each year with the “project” ability to take another 400,000 acre-feet, and a design capacity to divert much more.

That 4.5 million acre-feet of fresh water would be replaced by only two things: 4.5 million acre-feet of seawater; or upwards of 4.5 million acre-feet of water from San Joaquin Valley Basin with the most likely targets being the combined watershed of the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.

Either option helps devastate the Northern San Joaquin valley counties of Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin.

That means the most eminent as well as clear and present danger to California from the sea reclaiming land in the Delta is Newsom and not climate change.

Research by scientists shows increased salinity will devastate ecological systems and push endangered fish species to the brink. It also will increase salt water intrusion into aquifers that cities such as Tracy, Lathrop, and Stockton depend on as well as that of farmers.

This means sacrificing the Delta and the economic prosperity and viability of Central California cities just so Los Angeles wouldn’t have to pay for unsightly, expensive desalinization plants that will impact a speck of the environment compared to the Delta damage in  order to have adequate water supplies.

In the end, so wealthier coastal cities and corporate farmers can prosper, Newsom is pursuing a path where the most vulnerable and poorest region of the state — the San Joaquin Valley — will be sacrificed.

Is Newsom doing this deliberately? Highly doubtful. But Newsom is doing California no favor by buying into a 112-year-old idea forged in an era when clear cutting redwoods and draining the state’s largest lake — Tulare — was considered progressive.

Why not a barrier system — with locks and fish ladders — that protects the flow of water bound for LA, protects the environment and addressing rising sea levels at the same time?

As it stands now, Newsom is cheerleading a Delta solution born in the heyday of environmental destruction and is highly likely to exacerbate issues dealing with climate change as opposed to protecting the environment from them.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia.