Friday, July 18, 2008

PPIC Report on the delta appear biased.

I had planned to write a post today about the real need to protect biodiversity. However events changed my plans. You are already seeing the spin machine going to work to sell the peripheral canal concept. The most recent action is the release of a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California, a supposedly non-partisan (but not necessarily non-biased) think tank that does what someone will pay them to do.

This PPIC report, especially with the current drought in question, is getting a lot of play on the television news. Most of it comes without any commentary from those with opposing view, of which there are many.

Restore the Delta had published their own position just prior to the PPIC report's publication. It was an update commenting on the work that had been going on in Sacrament. However, things changed rapidly. Almost as soon as the PPIC report was available, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla issued a rejoinder that has yet to receive proper media attention.
I cite this press release in it's entirety as it is not yet up on their web site.
Press Release from Restore the Delta

Stockton, California
July 17th, 2008

Restore the Delta
PO Box 691088
Stockton, CA 95269

Contact: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
Phone: 209-479-2053


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 Zukerman, 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.

About Restore the Delta

Restore the Delta is a grassroots campaign committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta - a coalition of Delta residents, business leaders, civic organizations, community groups, faith-based communities, union locals, farmers, fishermen, and environmentalists - seeks to strengthen the health of the estuary and the well-being of Delta communities. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Restore the Delta
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
phone: 209-479-2053

Barbara raises the substantive issues. We also have to look at the possible bias of the team that put this together. One of the "funders" of the study was Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. Bechtel, along with his son Riley, is Co-Owner of Bechtel Corporation. The history of Bechtel Corporation in dealing with water is one of aggressive privatization, back room deals to support no-bid contracts (just like in Iraq). They even had the audacity to start charging farmers in Ecuador and Bolivia for the water that fell on the farm because that was water that Bechtel claimed was their's by contract and which was to be resold to cities. Bechtel sued the government of Bolivia when they voided the contract.

Bechtel lost the suit. But this illustrates that manner in which they would be expected to deal with the Delta. The PPIC report un-surprisingly came to the conclusion that a peripheral canal was required and who would be in a better position to build, own and operate such a facility?

Something smells like dead fish.

This is a time when I hope that Greens all over this state will lose no time in contacting their local media and demanding that they note the potential bias in the PPIC report and that they allow Restore the Delta to offer the counter arguments.

Come to think of it, I did write a post about biodiversity. If Bechtel and the PPIC "experts" carry the day, the delta will become a very different place and we will have all lost.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis of the PPIC report, even if poorly framed. The press release you cite seems to make several unsubstantiated claims regarding the quality of the research, the validity of the analysis, and the intentions of those involved. If anyone seems to making hasty assumptions, it would appear to be those issuing spur-of-the-moment critiques and not those carefully outlining the results of years of academic study. I've read the initial PPIC report, and it now-available companion, and have found their analysis and projections to be quite valuable for life in the Delta. Better luck next time!