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Letter to Sec. Sally Jewell, Dept of Interior - Northern California Members of Congress Ask About Federal Funding for the Sacramento Delta Tunnels

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

As both chambers of Congress discuss federal spending for the next fiscal year, Congressman John Garamendi (CA-3) led a group of Northern California Members of Congress in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior requesting specific information on past and future federal funding for the proposed Peripheral Tunnel project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The letter's signatories also expressed strong concerns about the plan's impact on Northern California's economy. A copy of the letter is linked here and included below.

The group has met with Interior Secretary Jewell previously. In this letter, they requested another meeting with the Secretary to discuss federal funding "to get an update from the agencies on their current work relating to" the Delta Tunnels project and to discuss how to find a more sustainable future for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

"By raising questions on the proposed $5 billion cost to the American taxpayer of the Delta Tunnels project, this letter is part of a productive dialogue on meeting California's water needs. I have made clear the major flaws of the current plan. I look forward to continued discussion with Secretary Jewell about approaches that would meet the needs of all state residents, especially water conservation, recycling, and storage, respect for water rights, and strengthened flood protection," said Congressman John Garamendi (CA-3), a former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior.

"At a time when budgets are tight, we need to closely examine every dollar we spend. We've seen reports that show the proposed BDCP is not a workable solution to California's water challenges. It's rushed, not based on sound science, and hurts wildlife, sportsmen, farmers, fishers and small business owners. Until we have a transparent plan that is developed with all the stakeholders at the table, it would be reckless and wasteful to spend a single cent on a project that puts thousands of jobs at risk and could devastate the Delta and north-of-Delta communities," said Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-5).

"As the BDCP moves forward, serious questions need to be answered about where the federal government would find the billions needed to pay for the BDCP plan. Due to our nation's fiscal and political climate, the federal budget has seen deep cuts over the past few years, and we continue to see devastating cuts with sequestration. Critical infrastructure projects across the country are going unfunded because of the federal budget problems. Spending billions on the BDCP, which is headed in the wrong direction for California and especially those of us north of the Delta, just doesn't make sense," said Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06).

"We already know that Governor Brown's proposed plan for the Delta will devastate the region and is not based on sound science. It will cost California residents billions of dollars, and does not ensure a reliable water supply for all of California. Until we have a solution that is based on an effective cost-benefit analysis and sound science, and that will not harm our most precious water resource, the Governor should not be rushing forward with his plan. The people of California deserve no less, and the people in the Delta region who stand to have their livelihoods decimated must be heard. With the potential investment of federal funding, the taxpayers of this country also deserve to know how much of their money will be dedicated to this project," said Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-9).

"The Governor's BDCP financing plan makes too many assumptions about an enormously expensive project. It's not reasonable for them to assume that other federal priorities will be pushed aside to finance a plan that does not create new water from local resources, does not include sufficient input from all stakeholders, and has been roundly criticized by federal and state agencies for being based on unsound science. Taxpayers deserve honest answers about where the money to finance this project will come from and what programs and regions will suffer as a result. I look forward to having that discussion with Secretary Jewell," said Congressman George Miller (CA-11).

"I've consistently been concerned about the rush to implement the Bay Delta Conservation Plan before we look at all of our alternatives. Water is critical to California, and we must find a comprehensive, long-term solution that is based on sound science and doesn't put south-of-delta interests ahead of everyone in or north-of-delta. In addition to those concerns, we must also understand how we'll pay for any plan before committing to it. I'm very concerned about the availability of the substantial federal funds it could require to complete BDCP, and hope to discuss those costs with Secretary Jewell," said Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7).

Text of the letter follows:

September 20, 2013

The Honorable Sally Jewell

Secretary

Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20003

Dear Secretary Jewell:

We write today to ask for information regarding federal funding for the ongoing Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) as proposed by California's Governor Jerry Brown. Together with the California Department of Water Resources and Natural Resources Agency and a variety of other state and local agencies and organizations, the Governor has been working on this plan for over 6 years in an attempt to bring stability to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. However, we have strong concerns with not only the plan itself, but also with the availability of the necessary funding to complete the plan in its current form, which would require close to $4 billion from the federal government.

We have several questions regarding past and potentially future funding for the project:

1) How much federal money has your department spent thus far on the development of BDCP since the Memorandum of Agreement was signed in 2006? It is our understanding that some of the funding has come through CALFED's Interim Federal Action Plan for the Bay-Delta, but we would like to know the specific accounts and amounts spent including and beyond CALFED. Has any additional money been spent to pay contractors to assist in the development of the BDCP, if yes, who are the contractors and how much were they paid?

2) The BDCP recently released financing documents for the plan and projected the amount of federal funding needed to complete the project. We are concerned that the substantial increases in federal spending that would be required under BDCP's financing plan may not be realistic given the ongoing funding constraints at DOI. As you know, the House Appropriations Committee's draft FY 2014 Interior/Environment funding bill would provide $2.9 billion less than the fiscal 2013 enacted level, and $4.3 billion less than competing legislation in the Senate. Given these financial realities, have you discussed the proposed funding with the California state government to determine the feasibility of meeting the needs they have listed in Chapter 8? How is the funding expected to be spread out over the 50-year period and how much is likely to be required up front or in the early years?

3) We are also extremely concerned that providing the level of funding requested for the BDCP could result in inadequate funding for critical water supply and fish and wildlife habitat programs. As such, do you anticipate a significant drop in funding needs for other activities in coming years? If so, what specific needs do you believe will diminish? Do you anticipate being able to achieve the fish doubling goal under the 20+-year old Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which has not yet been achieved, while dedicating significant funds to the BDCP? If you do not expect such a drop in funding needs, do you expect to have adequate budgetary flexibility in the years ahead to maintain adequate funding for other activities while providing for a substantial increase in funding for BDCP-related programs? Also, will the proposed level of funding affect environmental restoration projects outside the BDCP project area? Please be specific.

4) Finally, we would like to request a meeting to discuss your responses to these questions and to get an update from the agencies on their current work relating to BDCP.

We look forward to hearing from you and to our continued work as California tries to find a solution for a more sustainable future for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Please contact Elizabeth Crow, Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Garamendi, at (202) 225-1880 to arrange the meeting or if you need additional information.

Sincerely,

JOHN GARAMENDI
Member of Congress

GEORGE MILLER
Member of Congress

DORIS MATSUI
Member of Congress

MIKE THOMPSON
Member of Congress

JERRY MCNERNEY
Member of Congress

JARED HUFFMAN
Member of Congress

AMI BERA
Member of Congress


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