Newly released documents gained through Public Records Actions show that water exporters and the Delta Design Construction Enterprise housed within the California Department of Water Resources have already developed plans to “acquire” family farms and right of way in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through eminent domain.
The “Acquisition Management Plan,” obtained from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, shows that agencies have identified 300 parcels in the Delta they intend to “acquire” or gain right of way through.
Delta farmers, who have been winning a protracted legal battle with the state agencies, are shaken by the documents.
“It is wrong and premature that the Department of Water Resources has a unit creating a secret land acquisition plan to take 150 year-old farms, like ours, through condemnation,” said Richard Elliot whose family has farmed in Courtland for more than 150 years and has never sold any of their land in the Delta. “Now it is going to be condemned for thirsty water agencies working with DWR. It does not make good policy sense to forsake prime Delta farmland with access to water and moderate weather conditions to farm in a dry desert that is filled with salt and selenium in its soils and that is not sustainable. The entire plan doesn’t make for sustainable food policies, smart land use practices, or even common sense.”
The documents also include maps of targeted farm parcels in the Delta.
“While Delta and good-government activists are busy mobilizing comments in a democratic process, we discover state agencies view public oversight as simply a distraction,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “These documents arrogantly envision groundbreaking ceremonies as early as July 2016. Bulldozers and cement trucks are ready to roll! Red ribbons are budgeted! All for a $60 billion boondoggle without even one permit. Clearly, water officials under the Brown Administration view the Delta as a colony.”
Plans to End Outreach to the Delta
The released documents also reveal that DWR and the tunnel promoters will cease all outreach to the Delta as a cost saving measure while issuing multi-million dollar no-bid contracts to oversee the construction of a project that will dewater the estuary.
“The most disturbing aspect of the documents are that The Brown Administration and water exporters don’t trust Californians,” said Conner Everts with the Southern California Watershed Alliance. “Why do they feel the need to “fool” Californians? To advance their deeply flawed multi-billion-dollar tunneling experimental export plan. Plus, Metropolitan Water District this coming Monday is once again moving forward with a continuing parcel tax to burden property tax payers. What will these new taxes be used for–this massive tunneling experiment?”
A letter from the San Diego County Water Authority to the Metropolitan Water District discussing the tax can be found here:
“This Confidential Draft confirms my concerns about the magnitude of the assault on private property interests in the Delta and disruption to Delta life as a result of the proposed project,” said attorney Thomas H. Keeling who has represented landowners in this litigation.
“Like every other aspect of the tunnels scheme, taxpayers, landowners, and Delta communities in general will pay the heavy price for a project that will line the pockets of a few private interests south of the Delta without delivering anything of value to California,” added Keeling.
“State contractors have readied plans to acquire as many as 300 farms in the California delta by eminent domain to make room for a pair of massive, still-unapproved water tunnels proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to documents obtained by opponents of the tunnels.
Farmers whose parcels were listed and mapped in the 160-page property-acquisition plan expressed dismay at the advanced planning for the project, which would build 30-mile-long tunnels in the delta formed by the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers.
“What really shocks is we’re fighting this and we’re hoping to win,” said Richard Elliot, who grows cherries, pears and other crops on delta land farmed by his family since the 1860s. “To find out they’re sitting in a room figuring out this eminent domain makes it sound like they’re going to bully us … and take what they want.” … ”