Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and former Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary under President Clinton, today hosted a press conference urging more federal support for levees in rural parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Joined by a bipartisan coalition of local leaders who represent diverse Delta communities, Garamendi also called for a statewide cost-benefit analysis of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to ensure the plan does not cause harm to Northern California farming, fishing, and tourism.
Congressman Garamendi is the author of H.R. 6484, the SAFE Levee Act, which provides a funding stream for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region's flood infrastructure and calls for a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of the BDCP.
"We're here today to let policymakers in Sacramento and Washington know that the Delta needs robust flood protection, and it needs it now," Congressman Garamendi said. "The Delta sustains life for thousands of family farmers and fisherman. It supplies vital water for much of the state. It's in every Californian's interest to make sure that that the Delta is protected."
"Plans for the Delta need to change and focus on practical, realistic solutions," said Senator Lois Wolk. "It is irresponsible to continue to ignore the countless Delta improvements that could be cheaply and quickly implemented while the BDCP process stubbornly drags on with tunnel vision. Congressman Garamendi's bill moves us closer to that approach."
"The Delta is California's epicenter for a reliable water supply, so it is absolutely critical that it be protected and its levees strengthened," said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, a member of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. "But this should be done only after a careful cost-benefit analysis has been conducted and Delta communities and all stakeholders have had a voice in the planning process; it's what Delta legislators have asked for and it's the right thing to do."
"I appreciate and support Congressman Garamendi's hard work in Washington to make sure that our area has a voice in what happens to our local water supplies, farms and communities," said Steve Heringer, North Delta Farmer & President, Reclamation District 999. "H.R. 6484, the SAFE Levee Act, is an important step in making sure this District and the entire state choose wisely when it comes to spending taxpayer money on new water projects and that California's economy will prosper in the long run."
"Since the BDCP process started, the cost estimates of Delta conveyance have increased from $4 billion to $14 billion, the water supply and environmental benefits have declined, and seismic levee improvements have been shown to provide a broader range of economic benefits than the tunnels for a fraction of the cost," said Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. "An initial benefit-cost analysis finds that BDCP is a bad deal for all Californians, and the repeated refusal of state and federal agencies to follow their own economic analysis guidelines is troubling."
"The SAFE Levee Act seeks to address two vitally important concerns of our region: the need for additional federal assistance to help maintain and strengthen levees for both water quality purposes and the protection of the Delta agricultural economy, and the need for a full and thorough benefit-cost analysis of all alternatives under consideration through the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) process, including at least one option that does not require the construction of one or more water conveyance tunnels," the Delta Counties Coalition said. "Such a comprehensive analysis is vitally important to enable a fair comparison between non-structural and structural alternatives for achieving the co-equal goals of improving water supply reliability and protecting and restoring the health of the Delta estuary and wetland ecosystem."
"The Bay Delta Conservation Plan as presently envisioned is a classic case of plumbing before policy. We need a complete, objective, science-based cost-benefit analysis of the BDCP plan, including a no-peripheral conveyance option" Garamendi added. "We need to make sure that the plan adequately examines the need for levee maintenance, water recycling, conservation, storage, and habitat restoration. Only then can we craft a truly balanced plan that serves the needs of all Californians."
For 60 years, the Bureau of Reclamation has used the Delta levees and plumbing system to ship water from the Sacramento River through the Delta to the pumps without providing the necessary maintenance. This neglect has left the levees in disrepair and threatens public safety. The Peripheral Tunnel project, proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) framework, continues to ignore this problem. For that reason, H.R. 6484 would authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to provide financial assistance to strengthen the stability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levees which are necessary for water conveyance and the protection of human life and property in the region.