Brown’s Canal Threatens Delta

A plan pushed by the governor for a peripheral canal around the delta could prove costly. Plus, BART promises to stop pushing fake news and Obama unveils his tax-the-rich plan.

During Jerry Brown’s first stint as governor, Californians soundly rejected the idea of building a peripheral canal around the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Voters at the time viewed it as nothing more than an LA water grab, because the canal would have diverted huge amounts of freshwater to Southern California. Now, thirty years later, Brown is pushing again for a massive canal, aqueduct, or tunnel around the delta. Such a conveyance system would ensure abundant freshwater supplies for San Joaquin Valley agriculture and SoCal residents.

Not surprisingly, environmental groups are lining up against the governor’s new plan. In addition, two recent environmental reports reveal that a giant canal, aqueduct, or tunnel could do serious damage to the already stressed delta — the largest estuary on the West Coast. A peripheral canal, or its equivalent, also threatens the long-term health of Northern California’s most distinctive geographic feature — San Francisco Bay.

According to a report released this week by the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, which is funded largely by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the continued diversion of freshwater from the delta, and thus, the bay, is making both more salty and less hospitable to wildlife. The report noted that the bay is cleaner now than it has been over the past few decades, but it also warned that freshwater flows into the bay have been slashed by 50 percent, making it more brackish. The number of open-water fishes found in Suisun Bay is now 88 percent lower in than in the 1980s, 68 percent lower in San Pablo Bay, and 55 percent lower in South Bay, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The Contra Costa Times, meanwhile, reported on another potential hazardous threat posed by diverting more freshwater to a canal, aqueduct, or tunnel: toxic selenium. It turns out that large amounts of selenium leech into the delta from oil refineries and agricultural runoff. However, much of that selenium is currently diluted by freshwater that flows into the delta from the Sacramento River.

Unfortunately, Brown’s plan calls for starting the canal or its equivalent next to the Sacramento River before it reaches the delta. That means the freshwater that now dilutes selenium will instead be shipped south before it ever reaches the delta. In its place will be water from the San Joaquin River — which is already the delta’s biggest source of selenium. Why? Substantial runoff from agriculture flows directly into the San Joaquin. In short, Brown’s plan would replace freshwater in the delta with polluted water.

“We’re trading clean Sacramento River water and in return we’re getting low-quality San Joaquin River water,” Sam Luoma, a former lead scientist for the state’s bay-delta water and environment programs, told the Times.

BART to Stop Faking News

BART board President Bob Franklin promised that the embattled agency would stop trying to push fake news, after the Bay Citizen reported on a clumsy media manipulation strategy that was hatched by BART spokesman Linton Johnson. The online news site revealed that Johnson had unsuccessfully tried to recruit loyal passengers to attend a press conference and read from a BART-friendly script that he had penned. Johnson even spent public funds on limos to ferry the loyal passengers — although none of the passengers actually showed up to deliver the fake news. Franklin said BART has decided to never do that again. However, Johnson’s direct boss, Jennifer Barton, told the Bay Citizen that it was not the first time that the public agency had given loyal customers “talking points” to use with the news media.

Meanwhile, BART’s new general manager, Grace Crunican, said she’s ready to sit down with protesters who have been demonstrating against the agency for more than a month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Crunican has already reached out to members of the ACLU and other groups who raised concerns about the shooting of a homeless man in July and criticized BART’s decision to kill cellphone service in an attempt to disrupt a protest.

Obama: Tax the Rich!

President Obama unveiled his new plan for requiring wealthy Americans to finally pay their fair share of taxes. The president dubbed the proposal the “Buffett Rule,” after billionaire Warren Buffett, who has noted that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary because of current IRS loopholes. Republicans immediately decried the plan, calling it “class warfare,” to which the president responded: “This is not class warfare; it’s math.”

Obama argued that it’s not mathematically possible to make a substantial dent in the nation’s budget deficit without new revenues. The president’s plan would slash the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade. Obama also vowed to veto any legislation that calls for more cuts without higher taxes on the rich.

Although House Republicans appear unlikely to go along with the president’s proposal, it nonetheless will probably be quite popular with voters. Every national poll taken over the past year shows that Americans overwhelmingly support raising taxes on the rich, coupled with spending cuts, to help balance the federal budget. Last week, a New York Times/CBS poll showed that 74 percent of voters nationwide approve that approach — which the president is also pushing. By contrast, only 21 percent agree with the Republican plan for an all-cuts budget.

Three-Dot Roundup

The state Republican convention turned sharply toward the Tea Party last weekend, as Congressman Ron Paul won the GOP straw poll by a wide margin, the Chronicle reported. … The City of Richmond is grappling over what to do with Point Molate now that the federal government has ruled that the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians can’t build on the site, the CoCo Times reported. … By the end of 2012, the foreclosure crisis will have cost Oakland property owners about $12.2 billion in lost property value, the Oakland Tribune reported, citing a new study. … And the concept of “restorative justice” is being embraced strongly by candidates in the San Francisco District Attorney’s race, the Bay Citizen reported. Restorative justice programs require offenders to confront both their victims and community members to discuss the impacts of what they did.

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