Greens Scorch Giant Calif. Water Project


SACRAMENTO (CN) - California suppressed hundreds of public comments on the $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which would send water south from the Delta in two giant tunnels, according to environmental groups that released them on Thursday.
     Friends of the River posted the comments on its website, with testimony from several public agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Water Resources Control Board.
     The comments and testimony are about Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to build two tunnels to transport water southward from the Delta.
     Friends of the Delta obtained the comments through the Freedom of Information Act. They contain comments on both sides of the tunnel project.
     "Thousands of comments from individuals have also been suppressed by the Brown Administration," Friends of the River senior counsel Bob Wright said.
     "Since the BDCP agencies are not airing both sides of the issues, in the traditional American way, Friends of the River is now doing the government's job of informing, as opposed to propagandizing, the public."
     Environmental groups say the Brown administration did not release comments that criticize the impact the tunnels will have on water levels in the Delta. Shortly after drafts for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan were released in 2013, the website was shut down for public comment.
     "The deliberate suppression of independent comments on the BDCP website is calculated to deceive the public about the adverse environmental effects and true costs of the water tunnels," Wright said in a statement.
     The tunnel plan, released in 2013 as part of the BDCP, calls for twin 30-mile tunnels to run south from Sacramento to Tracy. The tunnels would stop reverse flows caused by the current and outdated Delta water pumps, along with new fish screens intended to benefit salmon other species in the estuary. The tunnels had an initial price tag of $14 billion.
     The controversial plan has stalled due to criticism and public comments about its environmental impact report. The California Department of Water Resources announced last summer that the plan was delayed and needed more work, and says it is still reviewing more than 30,000 comments.
     Environmental groups say the release of the comments show the Brown administration cherry-picked public comment in order to create support for the Delta tunnels.
     "Instead of following the law and allowing public access to crucial comments critical of the tunnels boondoggle, the tunnels proponents are hiding information and attacking tunnels opponents," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.