EPA: Brown's $25 Billion Delta Water Tunnels Violate Federal Law

EPA: Brown's $25 Billion Delta Water Tunnels Violate Federal Law

The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan could violate the federal Clean Water Act and increase harm to endangered fish species.

Brown’s plan calls for the construction of two tunnels in order to redirect water located around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to areas like Los Angeles and the Central Valley in order to save the freshwater supply from being contaminated with seawater if and when “the big one” strikes. 

However, the EPA says that based on research, diverting the freshwater supply could directly violate both federal laws by increasing concentrations of salinity, mercury, bromide, chloride, selenium and pesticides in the estuary, according to the Sacramento Bee

The Delta water plan has reportedly been in the works for over seven years.

The EPA sent a 43-page letter on Tuesday to the National Marine Fisheries Service as part of its formal comment process on the controversial plan. On Wednesday, the California Department of Water Resources announced that it would be delaying studies for the project so that certain portions of the Delta water plan could be written. It also made certain to note that the delay–which is likely to push the project to mid-2015– was not triggered by the EPA’s letter alone, notes the Bee

In a radio interview on Tuesday, Brown pushed the controversial Delta water tunnel plan. Part of his argument has been his claims that the tunnel will result in the creation of 19,600 jobs over the next 50 years. Critics of the plan have said that Brown’s job creation numbers are highly exaggerated.

In its letter, the EPA stated its “concern” and addedd that the Delta Conservation Plan failed to analyze both the upstream and downstream environmental effects of the Delta plan, particularly on the San Francisco Bay, notes the Bee. Its also warned that an increase in overall harm to native fish species such as California’s endangered Delta smelt and longfin smelt could be exacerbated and noted it might even result in the shrinking of their aquatic habitats. 

The EPA also noted that despite the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s proposal to offset these damaging effects with the intended restoration of 150,000 acres of habitat for fish and other species, there is no evidence that that amount of land is actually available for restoration or that such a restoration would prove effective.