Obama Administration Releases Report Announcing Support for Peripheral Canal

By Dan Bacher

On December 15, the Obama administration officially announced its support for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build a peripheral canal/tunnel, a project opposed by fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmentalists, family farmers and Delta residents.

A coordinated report issued by six federal agencies calls for the construction of a “new water conveyance system” – the peripheral canal/tunnel – to move water from north of the California Bay-Delta to corporate agribusiness on the side of the San Joaquin Valley and to Southern California water agencies.

The federal report, which complements a related report issued Wednesday by the Schwarzenegger administration, urges “continued progress toward completion of the California Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and supports major elements of the plan as a promising means of addressing the critical needs of both the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the state’s water delivery structure,” according a news release from the Department of Interior.

“After years of drought, growing stress on water supplies, and with the Bay-Delta in full environmental collapse, it has become clear to everyone that the status quo for California’s water infrastructure is no longer an option,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Salazar went on to praise Governor Schwarzenegger for developing “forward-thinking solutions,” in spite of the fact the Schwarzenegger administration has presided over the collapse of Central Valley chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail and young striped bass populations and the exporting of record amounts of Delta water from 2004 to 2006.

“Governor Schwarzenegger and the State of California have worked tirelessly and in partnership with us to develop responsible, forward-thinking solutions that can help us break the cycle of shortages and water conflicts,” Salazar said. “This is the moment to push forward with solutions, apply the best science available, and build a water future for California that is good for our economy, guards against the impacts of catastrophic earthquakes and other natural disasters, and helps restore California’s Bay-Delta to health.”

Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke also lauded the release of the “coordinated report.”

“Through the Interim Federal Action Plan for the Bay Delta, the Obama Administration has made significant progress working with California to address the State’s complex and long-standing water issues,” stated Sutley. “However, there is still much more work to do. Finalizing a Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a key part of establishing a long-term sustainable future for California’s water system. Any solution must address the dual goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem health, be science-based, and be developed with the full engagement of stakeholders. We look forward to working with Governor-Elect Brown to continue and accelerate our progress.”

“Over the long-term, rebuilding the ecology of the Delta and securing the reliability of California’s water delivery systems carries huge promise for growing jobs across California, from the salmon-dependent fishing communities of coastal California to the farming communities of the Central Valley to Los Angeles basin,” said Locke. “We will continue to focus on critical next steps, including applying the best scientific research available to inform sound decisions and long-term planning.”

Locke failed to indicate how two mutually exclusive goals – restoring salmon populations and the jobs that depend on them and providing increased, more “reliable” supplies of water for unsustainable corporate agribusiness on drainage impaired land and land developers in southern California – can be achieved at the same time.