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$67B Tunnel Plan Despised by Nearly Every Environmental Study and Agency Gets Environmental Award Nomination

Photo of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, US Dept of InteriorA group called the "North American Strategic Leadership Forum" selected Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build two massive tunnels under the Delta as the "Project of the Year" for 2014. The very same $67 billion plan that also comes with scathing criticisms from the National Academy of Sciences Sciences, a panel of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service scientists, the Delta Independent Science Board, and of course, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It is nothing new for organizations to bestow awards to undeserving politicians, projects and organizations. In recent years, big "environmental" NGOs have given environmental leadership awards to politicians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, two of the worst Governors for fish, water and the environment in California history, to curry favor with them.

Among the groups to give Schwarzenegger awards for his "green" leadership, in spite of his war on salmon, the Delta and the oceans, included the Hudson Riverkeeper at their annual "Fishermen's Banquet" in New York City in April 2010.

Then the Monterey Bay Aquarium and an array of corporate "environmental" NGOs gave the very undeserving Governor Jerry Brown the "Ocean Champion" award in 2012.

In October 2013, The Blue Green Alliance had planned to give Governor Jerry Brown the "Right Stuff" award in San Francisco, but he didn't show up because of the protest by environmental and Native American activists outside the hotel where the event was held.

However, the North American Strategic Leadership Forum recently topped even these shamelessly pandering organizations in their attempt to greenwash anti-environmental politicians and projects by honoring the California Department of Water Resources' Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels.

The Forum, which "draws more than 500 industry executives from all aspects of an infrastructure project lifecycle — including lenders and investors, law, design, engineering and construction firms, and owner operators — to focus on projects with business opportunities available within the next 3-18 months," just honored the Bay Delta Conservation Plan as the "Engineering Project of the Year" in Washington D.C.

It gets worse. The BDCP was also named a finalist for the categories of "Strategic Project of the Year" and "Green/New Project of the Year."

Water activist Jerry Cadagan commented, "To once again steal from humorist Dave Barry, 'we are not making this up!'"

It is interesting that the California Department of Water Resources applied for these awards, but did not publicize receiving them.

The forum features the following description for the BDCP:

Bay Delta Conservation Plan Tunnels
Subsector: Water Transmission
Location: California
Value: US $25 billion
Stage: Planned
Project Sponsor: California Department of Water Resources
Project Presenter: Jim Macrae, Senior Project Manager, California Department of Water Resources

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is a part of California's overall water management portfolio. It is being developed as a 50-year habitat conservation plan with the goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and securing California water supplies. The BDCP would secure California's water supply by building new water delivery infrastructure and operating the system to improve the ecological health of the Delta. The BDCP also would restore or protect approximately 150,000 acres of habitat to address the Delta's environmental challenges.

This forum gave Jerry Brown's Peripheral Tunnel Plan, potentially one of the most environmentally destructive projects in California history, "Engineering Project of the Year" for 2014 and listed the boondoggle as a finalist for the categories of "Strategic Project of the Year" and "Green/New Project of the Year"?

Apparently the leadership of the forum is not aware of the scathing criticisms of the project by an array of science panels, ranging from the National Academy of Sciences Sciences, to a panel of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service scientists, to the Delta Independent Science Board.

Nor was the group apparently aware of the state and federal government's decision to delay the $67 billion proposed project until sometime in 2015, following the 43-page comment letter by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slamming the Bay Delta Conservation Plan's draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).  

The forum leadership apparently knew that the scathing EPA comments came on top of some 4,500 pages of searing reviews by municipalities, counties and water agencies that would be adversely impacted by the project, almost 2,000 pages of highly critical comments by environmental and fishing organizations, hundreds of pages of harsh analyses by government agencies and stinging comments from many thousands of California citizens reveal that BDCP is suffering from a congenital terminal illness, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California

The EPA diagnosis pointed out that operating the proposed conveyance facilities "would contribute to increased and persistent violations of water quality standards in the Delta, set under the Clean Water Act," and that the tunnels "would not protect beneficial uses for aquatic life, thereby violating the Clean Water Act."

The letter noted that the EIR/EIS "assumes a 100 percent success rate for habitat restoration, which is not consistent with our experience, or supported by restoration ecology and conservation biology academic literature and scientific investigation" and detailed the likelihood that proposed habitat restoration would exacerbate the production and transport of methylmercury."

EPA also criticized the failure to analyze upstream/downstream impacts and observed that there is broad scientific agreement that "existing freshwater flow conditions in the San Francisco Estuary are insufficient to protect the aquatic ecosystem and multiple fish species, and that both increased freshwater flows and aquatic habitat restoration are needed to restore ecosystem processes in the Bay Delta and protect native and migratory fish populations."

The agency identified serious inadequacies in the level of analysis, the restoration and adaptive management programs, finance plan, selection of alternatives and found numerous major flaws in the specific effects determinations and impact analyses.

Does that sound like a project that deserves "Engineering Project of the Year" award and warrants being listed as a finalist for "Strategic Project of the Year" and "Green/New Project of the Year?"

Only folks who live a parallel universe devoid of logic, science and common sense would give grant ANY award to a $67 billion project that will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

EPA's comments on the BDCP EIR/EIS and more information about the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance can be found at: http://www.calsport.org.  

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