ROCKLIN — About 150 people packed a Rocklin forum Saturday on the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan, as environmentalists, water providers and others questioned a state official advocating for the big twin tunnels to get water to the Central Valley and Southern California.
Despite the picture perfect day, it was standing room only at the Rocklin Community Center at Johnson-Springview Park, as people concerned about future water supplies, politicians, environmental activists and those reliant on the construction industry filled the room.
Paul Helliker, Deputy Director for Delta and Statewide Water Management for the California Department of Water Resources, led the advocacy for the 45-mile tunnels under the Delta, maintaining repeatedly that the tunnels and the changes to management of the Delta would have no impact water supplies in Placer County and the North State.
Ronald Stork, policy director for Friends of the River, was skeptical of Helliker’s presentation, saying the state always portrays the altruistic side of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, rather than the hard reality that the plan would disrupt the environment and take water from Northern California. Stork’s Friends of the River calls the tunnels the worst threat to rivers in Northern California in history.
When asked whether the public would have a vote on the $25 billion plan, Helliker said no, saying it was authorized by a 2009 vote of the California legislature and no public vote was needed — except for $4 billion in habitat restoration funding.
Stork’s questioned how such a large and impactful project wouldn’t be put to a vote — getting one of the only spontaneous reactions from the crowd.
When questioned by attendees and Andy Fecko, Director of Resource Management for Placer County Water Agency, about the impact on the operation of Folsom Lake, Helliker said it would have no impact. He said the amount of water be diverted for the Central Valley and Southern California would be about the same that occurs on average today — plus or minus 5 percent.
Fecko said that Northern California political and water leaders have been shut out of the process and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan has no operating plan — and therein lies the threat to Northern California water supplies.
The Placer County Water Agency and local governments in the Greater Sacramento area and Placer County have urged the Governor to allow the region to have a voice in the plan.
If the tunnels take water to Southern California, attendees questioned whether water now available to Placer County and the greater Sacramento region would be diverted to maintain the fresh water/salt water mix in the Delta remain.
If so, that could mean massive amounts of fresh water being required from Northern California to maintain what is viewed today as the optimal amount of salinity.