[env-trinity] Times Standard: Supes want changes in water tunnel plan; concern: More Trinity River water could be diverted

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Sep 12 07:32:15 PDT 2012

Supes want changes in water tunnel plan; concern: More Trinity River water could be diverted
Megan Hansen/The Times-Standard Eureka Times Standard
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is calling for changes to a state and federal water tunneling plan that could negatively impact fisheries.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose the new Bay Delta Conservation Plan if certain conditions aren't met, including having state and federal agencies affirm the county's right to Trinity River water. Opponents of the plan are concerned it will cause more water to be diverted from the Trinity River, ultimately harming the Klamath River and local fisheries.

If implemented, the plan -- introduced in July by Gov. Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar -- would construct two parallel tunnels to transport water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California. Each tunnel would be 33 feet in diameter.

Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations President Dave Bitts said the county needs to demand the plan not divert any more water from the area than is already redirected each year.

”This proposal is intended clearly to increase the level of diversions,” Bitts said.

Humboldt County Senior Environmental Analyst Jill Duffy, a former 5th District county supervisor, said the plan could very well divert more water from the Trinity River to Southern California, causing concerns as the Trinity is the Klamath's largest tributary.

”Eighty percent of the demand for California's water is from Santa Barbara and the south,” Duffy said. “Farmers in the Central Valley have come to rely on Trinity River water for their crops.”

She said the plan aims to implement a 50-year Delta restoration program to protect fish and wildlife, but currently doesn't include a comprehensive restoration program. She said critics are concerned because operational criteria have yet to be developed.

Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro representative Tom Weseloh expressed concern about the lack of operational data. He said there needs to be “policy before pumping,” and that the county needs to assert itself.

”You need to continue to pursue protecting your rights,” Weseloh said.

Congressman Mike Thompson representative John Driscoll agreed, saying the state could easily take water once the tunnels are built.

Duffy said the plan is estimated to cost $14 billion, but that environmental mitigations and other issues not yet taken into consideration will vastly raise that figure -- a huge concern for the state's budget.

”The costs are likely to be running more in the $40 billion to $50 billion range,” Duffy said.

After hearing from the public and taking written comments from the Hoopa Valley Tribe into consideration, the board passed a resolution formally opposing the plan if certain conditions aren't met. The initial staff proposal suggested the board flat out oppose the plan.

Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said he prefers placing conditions on the board's opposition -- as proposed by the Hoopa Valley Tribe -- so that the county isn't completely written off by state and federal agencies.

”I think we need to not be so (objectionable) to it that we're not at the table,” Sundberg said.

As a result, the resolution incorporates language from the Hoopa Valley Tribe, asking for full implementation of the Trinity Record of Decision -- a 2000 plan that outlines how to restore the Trinity River and its fish and wildlife populations.

The resolution also asks state and federal agencies to specifically recognize the June 19, 1959 contract signed by the county and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that mandates the government release sufficient water from the Trinity River, so that not less than 50,000 acre-feet is available each year. In addition, it asks the Trinity River Division Act -- passed by Congress on Aug. 12, 1955 -- be recognized, as it also states the county's right to 50,000 acre-feet of Trinity River water.

Duffy said the Trinity River Division Act and 1959 contract are unresolved because the county hasn't always received the water it was promised.

Lastly, the resolution demands the county be given adequate funding to evaluate proposals developed in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process. The resolution will be sent to Brown, Salazar, Thompson, Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, Sen. Noreen Evans, Trinity County, the California State Association of Counties, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Yurok Tribe.

Megan Hansen can be reached at 441-0511 or mhansen at times-standard.com.
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