Bay Delta Conservation Plan Conserves Nothing

 California Proposition 43 Water BondWhen you read of a project called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, you think this is a project we need.

Southern California is experiencing a drought. According to a recent story in the L.A Times, Los Angeles lost more than 20 million gallons in a single incident owing to old pipes. They are going to fine us $500 for for watering our grass on the wrong day, so we should definitely vote yes for this plan. But on closer inspection you will see it has absolutely nothing to do with conserving anything or fixing pipes and everything to do with you paying money.

“Originally this plan was proposed in the [19]80s when Governor Brown was originally the governor. It was called the peripheral canal. It was going to divert the Sacramento River around the Delta to the pumping stations in Tracy in order to supply water to the big corporate agriculture in the Central Valley. That wasn’t passed by the legislature in 1982,” said Alex Nagy of Food and Water Watch.

For some strange reason, Governor Brown has the sole authority to approve this project. I truly think he has made a deal with Satan because he is definitely not the Governor Brown of the 1970s and 1980s. He’s the Dirty Brown of big oil and big agriculture.

“Democracy is being taken out of the picture completely,” said Nagy.

That original plan has been repackaged. Instead of going around the Delta, they are going to tunnel underneath it and drill two tunnels.

“The price tag is unclear. Originally when it was proposed they said it was going to be $12 billion; now they say the number is $25 billion” she added.

The majority of the cost is going to be through bonds, so over time and with interest rates it may cost upwards of $70 billion.

One such bond will be on the November ballot and is called California Proposition 43, the Water Bond (Assembly Bill 1422). Upon voter approval, the measure would enact the Safe, Clean and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012. It’s all very Nineteen-Eighty-Fourish. This has absolutely nothing to do with keeping California water clean and safe in Los Angeles–but you’re going to pay for it.

The Sierra Club is against this bond. Anyone who has taken the time to read this bond will understand that it has nothing to do with conserving or cleaning anything.

“Proposition 43 is riddled with pork. Of the $11 billion in the bond, $3 billion is designated, through a tricky list of criteria, to go to dam projects that would harm the environment, be extremely expensive, and not provide any real relief from drought. Then there are pots of money within various parts of the bond that would help advance construction of giant tunnels that will ultimately destroy the San Francisco Bay Delta, the largest estuary system on the west coast and a key element in California’s salmon fishery. Fundamentally, Proposition 43 is the wrong water bond for California,” said Kathryn Phillips, director Sierra Club California.

Twin Tunnel PlanHas the State of California performed a cost analysis on this to see how much money this twin tunnel plan will actually save? Of course not.

“They have not done a cost benefit analysis on it because if people know how much it would cost, the project would be killed,” said Nagy.

People who live in cities like Los Angeles heavily subsidize big agriculture, so urban city dwellers like Los Angeles will be paying the bulk of this “conservation” project that will do nothing in getting us more water or more water security.

“L.A. residents will pay up to $6 billion for this project,” said Nagy.

Shouldn’t we be investing in local water, shouldn’t be investing in our pipes? Would that not be a more reasonable long-term investment?

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan–aka Twin Tunnel project–will not do anything to help with our water security nor fix our pipes. We need to put money in projects we know will work.

“We should be investing in groundwater clean-up, water capture and activities that are proven to work,” said Nagy

DWP wants this, but as we see from the disaster by UCLA their judgement might possibly be off. We just lost more than 20 million gallons of water in the middle of a mega-drought because no one thought that investing in our 100-year old water pipes could be a good idea.

Why does L.A. have to pay for big agriculture, big oil and whatever else will benefit from the Twin Tunnels?

teka-lark flemingOn Saturday, August 9, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., join Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club Angeles Chapter and The River Project for a discussion on where Los Angeles will get its water in the future and how we plan to pay for it. They will ask the question, “Where should LADWP invest ratepayer money and how can we hold them accountable?”

You’ll find them at Kaiser Permanente, Building North 2, 13652 Cantara St, Panorama City.

Teka-Lark Fleming


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    Important topic. But how come, after giving prominence to Sierra Club, there is no mention, let alone details, of the alternative bond plan which many folks in Sierra support? This latter plan would not only be far cheaper but would also target the state’s real and big (yet oft-forgotten) problems of conservation for residents and agriculture and wildlife. For just one example of these problems: the Delta’s productive agriculture is at risk from weakened levees – especially now from climate-change-driven sea-level rise.

  2. Donna Perkins says

    GREAT explanation of what’s really going on with the water bond proposition. Come learn more about the connection between excessive corporate power and our historic chance to do something about it with Prop. 49 – Mon., Aug. 18, 7pm, UU Church of Studio City, 12355 Moorpark St. FREE admission, child care (with a reservation) and TABLING for your relevant organization (also with approval and reservation). Contact us at

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