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Gov. Brown: Let’s have ice cream and discuss water

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Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 12:00 am

Dear Jerry: It must be hard being the governor of California. Everyone wants something from you.

I, on the other hand, just want to buy you an ice cream at my "northern office" located inside the Velvet Grill in Galt. I also need to introduce you to a buddy of mine, Dr. Robert Pyke, the civil engineer that created the alternative Western Delta Intakes Concept. If you never read my column "The single most important man in California," you really should.

With multiple special interest groups, overpaid consultants and entrenched bureaucrats running around, no wonder the California water crisis has yet to be solved. Between us, the current Bay Delta Conservation Plan — more infamously known as the "Delta twin underground tunnels" — would be a man-made disaster of epic proportions.

Yet any time any constructive criticism of the BDCP arises, blind supporters often regurgitate "years of study have gone into this plan to achieve a reliable water supply and a restored Delta ecosystem, blah, blah, blah." While the "years of study" part is true, unfortunately your current plan will totally fail to deliver.

Why? Dr. Pyke has identified two simple principles that the BDCP violates:

1. Allow natural flows to pass through the Delta before any surplus is extracted for export.

2. Extract more water during high flows and less or no water during low flows.

Variations of the tunnel plans that fail to adhere to these two principles will result in Northern California suffering environmental and economic damage of unprecedented proportions, without providing Southern California with any additional long-term solutions.

On the other hand, Dr. Pyke's alternative WDIC makes great sense. Here's why:

Self-regulation: I have never met even one farmer who believes the state can regulate anything fairly. Have you, Jerry? The WDIC is purposely engineered to be self-regulating, as opposed to needing complicated agreements that surely will lead to future litigation between various competing interests. Any designs to pump more water than the Delta can safely provide will result in brackish salt water being delivered. AWESOME.

Cost: The WDIC is a whole lot cheaper. Dr. Pyke suggests extracting water though permeable embankments on Sherman Island, as opposed to somewhere farther north on the Sacramento River. Tunnels to the existing South Delta pumps would then be less than half the length of the BDCP tunnels. Obviously, the cost of construction will be significantly less.

Furthermore, Sherman Island is currently mostly owned by the state. Unlike the BDCP, the WDIC does not require billions be spent in acquiring thousands of acres of land through painful eminent domain procedures, nor will thousands of acres of currently productive agricultural land need to be converted into ill-defined habitat.

More fish: The best strategy is not to kill fish in the first place. Embarrassingly, it took a world-renowned civil engineer from Australia to figure this one out.

More water for Southern California: The WDIC creates water storage to be banked during wet years, and drawn from during dry years. On the other hand, the BDCP does not create one single drop of water.

(Wow, I can read your mind, Jerry. Right now you are thinking about whom in your cabinet should be fed to the alligators. I can offer you some gentler alternatives when we meet.)

Earthquake protection: Great news, we are not all about to die!

The only up-to-date and independent study of the present condition of the Delta levee system was developed by the Delta Protection Commission and peer-reviewed by a panel appointed by the Delta Science Program. This study found that today's Delta levee system is in reasonably good shape, although more needs to be done to assure its long-term integrity under the threat of extreme floods, earthquakes and possible sea-level rise.

The cost of these further improvements is estimated to be in the order of $2 to 4 billion, a fraction of the cost of the BDCP. This is a much more cost-effective investment because it provides multiple benefits, including water supply reliability, protection of life and property, and the protection of critical infrastructure.

Relief from Endangered Species Act restrictions: The real reason that exporters support the twin tunnels is that they want to escape from arbitrary restrictions on pumping from the South Delta caused by the take of listed species.

Too bad their plan will fail.

Significant quantities of water would still be sucked across the Delta to the South Delta pumps, and the massive intakes on the Sacramento River are problematic with regard to some species of salmon. The best way to escape from the arbitrary restrictions on pumping is simply to take no fish.

The WDIC would achieve this by drawing water into Sherman Island through 10-mile long permeable embankments, which would constitute the world's largest and finest fish screens that not even juvenile Delta smelt could penetrate.

Jerry, as you know, in 1963 construction began on the Gov. Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct. As the son of a Lodi grape grower, I too have a legacy I want to build upon.

So in 2013, let's have that ice cream in Galt — but let's also have a serious talk about how we can finally solve California's water crisis without drowning us all.

Frank Gayaldo, Jr. can be reached at frank@gayaldointernational.com.

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  • Christina Welch posted at 1:15 pm on Tue, Mar 12, 2013.

    Lodi 1970 Posts: 85

    I saw a little something about that lawsuit--hope it hurt him a lot. Great question about our own people in the North who could be helping us on this issue; we sure could use it. Has Southern California ever looked into other sources for water--maybe desalinization of ocean water or something? This issue is getting ridiculous and their water use is going to continue to be pushed off on us tho the north to solve. I sure hope the voters will be able to make the final decision in all this.

  • les mahler posted at 3:44 pm on Mon, Mar 11, 2013.

    Les Posts: 2

    If anyone should complain about the lack of water, it should be Northern California farmers; years ago, the state diverted the San Joaquin River to Southern California farmers; today, the San Joaquin River, which is one of only two rivers flowing south to north in the world, is a trickle of what it used to be.
    Yes, a judge did decide that the river's flow needs to be restored but it hasn't happened, at least not to what it should be.
    And now, farmers in the south want to to Delta water as well.
    First, restore the San Joaquin River to its complete flow.
    By the way, southern farmers get water from the Colorado River, which has also been hit by a drought and farmers have seen their water supply cut there as well. Perhaps what southern California farmers should do is complain about that water supply first.
    As for Stewart Resnick and making him hurt financially, he lost a lawsuit not too long ago after falsely claiming that his pomegranate juice had wondrous medicinal properties.
    And we do have millionaires in the north who can also make their voices heard in Washington and Sacramento; where are their voices?

  • Christina Welch posted at 7:15 am on Mon, Mar 11, 2013.

    Lodi 1970 Posts: 85

    Can anyone tell me if the BDCP will be able to be voted on by the people of California? Back in 1982, the idea of a peripheral canal was shot down by the voters. I'd like to see the citizens of California be able to have some say in all this.
    Also, I've got a slogan for my boycott against Resnick: "Steal our water, and lose my business."

  • Christina Welch posted at 6:10 pm on Sun, Mar 10, 2013.

    Lodi 1970 Posts: 85

    I have done a little research into Stewart Resnick and his Paramount Farms in Kern County, and what I have read has truly startled me. Looking at his political contributions to Governor Brown and others and knowing he is a major supporter of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, I see the serious conflict of interest here. Add to that, AB2421 getting shot down in the state legislature, so now we won't have the independent cost-benefit analysis that should be required before any major infrastructure change such as digging two new canals! And, time is ticking, if I understand correctly, June 30th this year is the deadline when the BDCP has to be implemented.

    Shame on Governor Brown and the legislators who are allowing this water (power) grab from us here in the Delta. So many people in this area are against it--left and right, farmer and citizen, sportsman and environmentalist--and I can't believe all our voices are not being heard in Sacramento or Washington DC. I for one am going to write a letter to Governor Brown to voice my concern, and I am also not going to purchase any more almonds or pistachios from Resnick's billion-dollar operation. Paramount Farms sells their nuts under the Wonderful brand and the Everybody's Nuts brands. I realize it is easy for an individual to feel helpless against the political forces controlling our destinies, but my own personal boycott at least makes me feel like I'm doing something. Hope it helps, Frank, and keep on fighting the good fight!

  • les mahler posted at 5:14 pm on Fri, Mar 8, 2013.

    Les Posts: 2


    The issue of water and the Delta is more complicated than just a meeting over ice cream with the governor. You have to start with Stewart Resnick, the billionaire water baron who is part of the problem.
    Somehow, Resnick gained control of a water bank and started selling the Delta free water to Southern California entities; heck, he even sells that free water back to us folks in Northern California when and if we need it. Now you know how he became a billionaire.
    And along with Resnick, you can add Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who joined forces with Resnick when he wanted a review and change of the state's EPA and how salmon and the Delta smelt have a higher priority than water to Southern California.
    But we're getting ahead of ourselves; the first thing you have to realize is that our water "problems" are more about mother nature and three years of drought. This natural occurrence for three years running, cut in half how much water was flowing from North to South; and while we endured the same drought as Southern Californians and even conserved water, our friends down south continued to use water like there was no tomorrow; shame on them.
    So, if you want to discuss the water issue over ice cream, try starting with Mr. Resnick. Oh, good luck.

  • Sam Heller posted at 5:45 pm on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    Sam Heller Posts: 176

    Frank, thank you so much for a great column. Our household loved it. [beam]

  • Frank Gayaldo posted at 2:56 pm on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    Frank Gayaldo Posts: 26

    I have been receiving a lot of feedback on this article, thanks to everyone whom has voiced their opinions on the subject. When I first met Dr. Pyke he told me "I am not a politician, I just fix things." Unfortunately the California water crisis, like almost everything else, has become a political fight as opposed to a reasonable discussion based on science and engineering. I do not think Sacramento, nor the fervent supporters of the BDCP fully understand the damage that would be created to the Delta if the twin tunnels plan was implemented. It is frustrating that Dr. Pyke's plan has received so little attention. Please consider writing letters to your representatives and letters to the editor. Every the largest of problems has a solution, including this one. Dr. Pyke's plan deserves serious consideration...

  • Christina Welch posted at 11:18 am on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    Lodi 1970 Posts: 85

    Agreed, Mr Chaney. What can we citizens in northern California do to help?

  • Doug Chaney posted at 10:09 am on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    advocate Posts: 502

    Mr. Gayaldo, you are a refreshing and interesting columnist and it is so nice to read articles such as this rather than the left/right bickering, especially in the LTE at the Sentinel. I am very interested in what is happening with the Delta and our water and I know that our SJ county supervisors have already written to DC stating their objection to the tunnels to merely supply (sell) water to our southern area. What can we, as itizens, do to play our part in this not so good dilemna?

  • Raymond Crow posted at 9:26 am on Thu, Mar 7, 2013.

    Raymond Crow Posts: 7

    Great article Frank. You should send a copy of this letter to the Governor and all of our elected officials.


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