GOP wants water conveyance in bond

GOP wants water conveyance in bond


deltaFactsWill Gov. Jerry Brown’s Twin Tunnels project for the California Delta still make it into the $11 billion water bond projected for the November election? It’s still possible.

The bond has been postponed twice already because legislators didn’t think it would pass muster with voters in 2010 and 2012. But the ongoing state drought gives it more urgency this year.

The new wrinkle is that Republicans now are part of the negotiations because putting the bond on the November ballot requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature. Democrats still have a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly. But due to scandals that have suspended three Democratic senators earlier this year, that supermajority was lost in the Senate.

And Republicans from drought-stricken areas want the water the tunnels would convey. The GOP’s new point man in this legislative water war is state Sen. Andy Vidak of Hanford. Vidak said he would not vote for the proposed bond bill unless funding for conveyance is included.

By putting tunnels underground to convey water southward, a water highway interchange could be created that separates fish water and farm water for the first time, pleasing both environmentalists and farmers.

The public’s concern about the tunnels is mainly the final $15 billion cost.  Northern Californians say it is a “boondoggle” that will cost $67 billion. But that is with bond interest.

Water bonds are tax-exempt, which usually knocks about 2 percentage points off the bond interest rate. If the bond rate were the same as the inflation rate the state would be borrowing money for free. If the inflation rate were higher than the bond interest rate, then the state would be paying back less than $15 billion on the bond. Most investors consider 3 percent inflation a historical benchmark today.


But on Monday, two powerful Democratic legislators, State Sens. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Lois Wolk, D-Davis, opposed the project on the Senate floor. Wolk cautioned that including the Twin Tunnels likely would lead voters to reject the bond.  Previous polls have found weak support for the project.

Wolk also was upset at Republicans changing their minds on including the Twin Tunnels in the bond, backing off from the previous agreed deal for the water bond without the tunnels. Wolk’s bond proposal includes three new dams, underground water storage and environmental re-creation of the Delta for fish.

Wolk openly told Republicans on the Senate floor, “At some point, you need to stick to your word. You ask for things and you … get what you want … and it’s time to say yes.”

But Republicans don’t have to say “yes.” The loss of the Democratic supermajority changed that.

And Republicans have been picking up legislative seats in Democratic strongholds in the Central Valley over the hot issue of “fish versus farmers.”

Bond monies would go for alternate water conveyance plan

Steinberg, the former Senate president pro tem, was interviewed on NBC TV News Los Angeles by Conan Nolan and said the tunnels have to stay out of the water bond to avoid a North-South water war.

Steinberg acknowledged that Brown and a majority of legislators favor of the tunnels. Surprisingly, Steinberg said, “Money [in the bond] will go to helping support the agenda of those who want to see some form of alternative conveyance built.  It’s how it’s done.”

Nolan was quick to retort, “The governor has not said whether or not he will support putting an alternative on the ballot for the water.”

Alternative plan

On June 22, Central California businessmen and farmers urged the state to abandon the current water tunnels part of the Water Plan for a less expensive plan called the Western Delta Intake Concept.  The proponent of the WDIC is water engineer Robert Pyke.

Bill Berryhill, a Stockton farmer and former Republican Assemblyman, supports Pyke’s conceptual plan. Berryhill has formed the Citizens Coalition for Delta Protection to try to get the Legislature to adopt Pyke’s concept.

But Pyke’s concept would do nothing to re-create uninterrupted fresh water fish flows for salmon from the San Joaquin River to the Bay Delta and ultimately the ocean. In 1982, voters defeated a ballot proposition to build the Peripheral Canal that today would be about half of the cost of the proposed tunnels.

The Senate has until Thursday to adopt the water bond or it will not appear on the November ballot in the middle of the drought.


Write a comment
  1. Gene Beley
    Gene Beley 25 June, 2014, 14:45

    Wayne Lusvardi, I think you have misunderstood Dr. Pyke’s Western Delta Intake Concept (WDIC). One of the beauties of his plan that should please everyone is it allows the water to flow through the Delta before it is taken and put in tunnels to go to the Clifton Forebay. Almost every objection to the twin tunnels is overcome with Dr. Pyke’s plan and is acceptable to most Delta farmers. It’s a win-win for everyone. Whereas even BDCP has been telling everyone (at least out of one side of their mouths) that the tunnels will not deliver any more water than their past quotas, the WDIC has a chance of delivering more water southward for a lot less cost. As Dr. Pyke likes to say, “What’s not to love about this plan?” You might want to reference an article I wrote in the Central Valley Business Times earlier this week at:

    That article comes complete with videos of Dr. Pyke giving a complete history of water in California and telling about his WDIC, plus three endorsements from pear farmer Tim Neuharth, Wildhorse Consulting lobbyiest Sean Doherty, and Delta Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Bill Wells, who has a seat on the BDCP.

    Hope this is helpful to all.

    Reply this comment
  2. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 25 June, 2014, 17:01

    From what I understand of Pyke’s innovative alternate plan is that it does let water flow through the Delta as you state — but in the wrong direction. Water has to flow from the San Joaquin River northward to the San Francisco Bay for fish flows and southward for farmers and cities. Maybe there is some magic in Pyke’s engineering that lets water flow in opposite directions at the same time by gravity flow, but lacking that it is inconceivable that it would comply with the co-equal goals of fish and farmers/cities. I grant you that it would be what Delta farmers understandably would prefer. But I also notice that neither the National Resources Defense Council or the other fish advocacy interests have supported Pyke’s plan. Conceptually, the best way to solve the “fish versus farmer” problem is to put water for each in separate conveyance systems. Unfortunately, northern California is where most of the environmental interests are and they want fish flows re-created to a time in the, say, 1800’s when fish could get to the ocean; and at the same time these same interests don’t want the Twin Tunnels. In Pyke’s concept water flows westward from the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers. This concept has not been costed out by third parties nor endorsed by major environmental organizations of which I am aware. Pyke’s concept is appealing to Delta farmers because it looks like it would keep more water in the Delta instead of flowing southward. But how long would that last before environmental interests diverted the westerly flowing water and water wars would again result? This is what is called the Tragedy of the Commons or Common Pool of water from which each must depend. Without proxy property rights of separate conveyance systems the Delta water wars will wage forever. Pyke’s plan is an intriguing proposal but I don’t see the governor, state senate president, assembly speaker, or the powerful committee chair Lois Wolk supporting it. The endorsement for the Pyke Plan understandably come from Delta Chamber, farmers and lobbyists. And certainly the ultimate Delta Plan should not be just co-equal to just fish and farmers/cities but to the Delta farmers wherever possible. But those farmers do not have locked in primary water rights if I am correct. I appreciate the discussion and respect the Delta farmers interests in this matter.

    Reply this comment
  3. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 25 June, 2014, 17:08

    More comment: Perhaps a reservoir inside the Delta could be engineered that would be dedicated to Delta farmers but then those farmers should have to pay for that in water rates. If Delta farmers are getting a free ride on Delta water today and want that to continue without perfecting some legal right to the water, I would not give the Pyke concept much of a chance. And the Delta farmers would have to pay a fair share of any cleanup costs from ag runoff. Good discussion.

    Reply this comment
  4. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 25 June, 2014, 17:47

    There is an old saying that “everyone wants the water to flow to their mill,” their farm, their city, or their land with potential water views for water-oriented real estate development without paying for it. The same holds true for the commercial fishing interests who want fish full rivers or lakes paid for by southern farmers and cities while they reap a windfall. The southern farms and cities already know they are going to have to pay for the bulk of the Twin Tunnels while the costs of fish habitat re-creation in the Delta would have to be shared by nearly everyone. It is probably too late in the game, but it would seem to me that getting some “skin in the game” of offering to pay for some of the Delta eco-re-creation costs might buy some political leverage with politicians. But then again, that may entail small family Delta farmers having to pony up monies they don’t have or changing to higher yield/higher price crops that aren’t a fit for the Delta. During the sub-prime loan crisis from 2007 and continuing banks had no skin in the game but wanted taxpayers to bail them out. This backfired on them. Like I wrote above, perhaps finding a way to get some skin in the game would purchase some political capital. The Delta is a way of life not just a corporate farm. It would be a tragedy if the Disneyland-like Frontierland re-engineering of the Delta meant the end of that way of life. Waiting for the river to be diverted to my mill or farm may not be a winning strategy. If water were diverted to a westerly, instead of southerly, outlet with a high outlet elevation that only allows southerly flows in the very wettest of years, but Delta farmers think that southerly farmers and cities are going to pay for that it is either naive or waiting for “found money.” Southerly farms and cities are not going to pay the costs of re-plumbing the California Aqueduct system and then re-creating historic fish flows only to end up not being able to get emergency water when needed. I think the key is finding a place at the bargaining table and that truly means become a stakeholder not a freerider. I hope you find these remarks helpful and not unreasonably critical.

    Reply this comment
  5. Rogene Reynolds
    Rogene Reynolds 26 June, 2014, 18:43

    Mr. Lusvardi, please accept a few comments from a lifelong Delta resident:
    First, Delta family farmers are not “freeriders”. They farm with riparian rights. They cannot sell their water, but have priority to pump natural flows for beneficial uses on their land. Second, every “higher yield/higher price crop” can and is grown in the Delta: asparagus, processing tomatoes, field corn, truck crops, wine grapes, almonds, olives, alfalfa, wheat, pears, apples, blueberries…to mention a few. (Check out the Delta Protection Commission Delta Sustainabiltiy Report for more details.) Third: Delta farmers and their reclamation boards, charged with maintaining non-project levees, do not wait for “found money”. The levee subvention program, cooperatively managed with the State is not naive charity – it is an ongoing program which works well to support this levee infrastructure, thereby protecting Delta lands, state infrastructure (roads, railroads, gas fields, cities…) and the environment as well. The BDCP and its tunnels, indeed, would spell the death of our way of life. Not just because they would siphon away the freshest water from the Delta, but because the bogus “ecosystem restoration” would condemn over 100,000 of prime farmland, and then render the rest managed for habitat first – farming later. There are over 60,000 acres of Delta lands already dedicated to habitat – and more to follow under the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan. Why should we sacrifice more to “mitigate” for tunnels which would increase salinity in our water? (The BDCP EIR/EIS repeatedly acknowledges this fact.)

    I do not understand what you mean by “commercial fishing interests who want fish full rivers or lakes paid for by southern farmers andd cities”, unless you are referring to the CVPIA restoration funds. If that is the case, the CVP was found responsible for the destruction of fisheries, and what CVP users are paying for restoration is only that which is due for the damage done by the projects.

    Bottom line – Delta farmers aren’t looking for any favors – they are just trying to prevent the State and water exporters from destroying this region. Over seven million acre-feet annually has been promised in SWP and CVP contracts. This Delta does not have that much water.

    As for findng a place at your “bargaining table”, maybe you should contact our San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors (Larry Ruhstaller or Ken Vogel would be a good place to start) to learn how our county and the rest of the five-county region have been effectively shut out of “bargaining”.

    Mr. Lusvardi, I live where Middle River runs backwards when the pumps are on. I invite you to come visit me, enjoy a Delta tour, talk with some Delta farmers…and learn more about what you are trying to comment about.

    If this post is too long, please accept my apology. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Rogene Reynolds, South Delta (209) 992-8090

    Reply this comment
    • Wayne Lusvardi
      Wayne Lusvardi 27 June, 2014, 01:22

      Great reply
      Thank you for educating all of us.

      Please explain to readers why you believe the Pyke Plan will work.


      Reply this comment
  6. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 27 June, 2014, 08:57

    1. Pyke’s concept is about retaining more water in the Delta and says nothing about retaining more land from eco-system designation.

    2. Your statement: “Not just because they would siphon away the freshest water from the Delta, but because the bogus “ecosystem restoration” would condemn over 100,000 of prime farmland, and then render the rest managed for habitat first – farming later.” QUESTION: Is the BDCP acquiring this 100,000 acres and is the “remainder” going to have habitat easements on them?

    3. Your statement: “Why should we sacrifice more to “mitigate” for tunnels which would increase salinity in our water?” QUESTION: Acquiring land for mitigation typically has to be purchased voluntarily although in rare cases eminent domain is used. Any increase in salinity would be a damage and a taking that would require just compensation (although I realize farmers want their land and not the compensation).

    4. If farmers have riparian water rights then the Twin Tunnels wouldn’t be touching that water because it doesn’t take any of that water today, right?

    Reply this comment
  7. Rogene Reynolds
    Rogene Reynolds 29 June, 2014, 15:21

    1. I do not at this time endorse Dr. Pyke’s plan. Although a western outtake would possibly be better for in-Delta water quality, the impacts to San Francisco Bay and fisheries have not been studied to my knowledge. Ecosystem restoration is a part of the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan – with or without the BDCP.

    2. Read the BDCP documents. “Reserve Areas’ encompassing most of the Delta will be established, in which “habitat friendly farming” will be the norm.
    As part of its policies regarding farmers in the Delta, they will be retrained to become “habitat managers”. Looks like “Mother may I?” farming to me.

    3. Read the BDCP documents. Does anyone really believe 100,000 acres of farmland will be made available for sale at the prices the BDCP proposes? “Eminent Domain” should not be an option for restoration – 100,000 condemned acres? Why should anyone be forced to sell? Communism looks the same. Mitigation for salt damage? Not realistic considering the State’s track record on holding CVP and SWP to current Delta salinity standards.

    4. Although riparian rights ensure water – we cannot farm with salt water. (I seem to remember salting the land as an ancient measure to insure victors would not have to deal with the vanquished.)

    There were very good reasons my ancestors chose to settle in this Delta. Fertile soil, good water, access to markets…to name a few. It is not reasonable to ask Delta farmers to give up their livelihood so crops can be grown in the southern San Joaquin desert. The state is picking economic winners and losers here.

    Please be advised I must excuse myself from further commments on this post. I don’t have time to check back on it. Please consider my invitation to you (or anyone else) to contact me for a comprehensive tour of our Delta farming regions. (209.464.8054 or 209.992.8090) Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Rogene Reynolds, South Delta

    Reply this comment

Write a Comment

Leave a Reply

Related Articles

Glazer hopes to lead centrist movement

Correction: Due to a reporter error, an earlier version of this article mistakenly reported that Assemblywoman Catharine Baker supports the

Secure Choice retirement program up against powerful federal law

An unprecedented state law meant to create 401(k)-style retirement accounts for millions of private-sector workers in California now faces a

Effort underway to require legislators wear emblems of top donors

The movement to emblazon state legislators with the logos of their donors has collected tens of thousands of signatures for its