Not a lot of news at Gov. Jerry Brown’s peripheral tunnel announcement today, but lots of cameras and lots of quotable moments.
• Gov. Jerry Brown, asked about Jeff Michael’s analysis suggesting the peripheral tunnel isn’t such a good deal: “We’ll take a look at it… Any plan of this magnitude is going to draw many levels of criticism, concern and question. We’re taking it all. No one can ever say we haven’t studied enough. I find it impressive that despite spending hundreds of millions studying this damn thing, people will say you haven’t studied it enough. We will study, but we will take action. I see this as another test of whether we can govern ourselves.”
• Brown, in what I’ll call his widely reported “expletive quote”: ”At this stage as I see many of my friends dying… I want to get s— done. I want to get this thing done the best I can. You give me your analysis, I’ll read it, but we’re going to make stuff happen and that’s why I’m here. We’re going to take into account the opposition, but we’re not going to sit here and twiddle our thumbs and stare at our navel. We’re going to make decisions and get it done. If we have to fight initiatives or referendums we’ll fight those too. But somehow before I’m ready to turn in my payroll card I expect to get some very important things done and this is one of them.
• Environmental group The Bay Institute, responding to said “expletive quote”: “Wanting to ‘get s—- done,’ in the governor’s words, is a problem if you wind up with s— as the outcome. The governor’s boldness in pushing for a new diversion facility needs to be matched by equal boldness in pushing for more flows and less exports to save the Delta and resolving other key issues.”
• Brown, on progress made since the last Peripheral Canal fight: “We have so much more science now. We didn’t have biological opinions then. Last time around I never heard the word ‘smelt.’”
• Brown, on the state of the science: “Is there absolute certitude? No. We’re not dealing with perfection. When you look at Wall Street, when you look at the Catholic Church, when you look at the Sacramento Bee or the Chronicle, they’re not perfect either. They’re full of flaws (laughter from media). They’ve screwed up in many many respects. We’re flawed human beings. But I will tell you, more intelligent thought has gone into that (Bay Delta Conservation) plan than into most of those other institutions.”
• Brown, asked if he would seek an exemption to the California Environmental Quality Act process: “I don’t think we’re asking for a CEQA exemption. I’ve never seen a CEQA exemption that I don’t like, but I don’t think we have one for this project at this point.”
• Brown, asked if he’s biting off too much with the tunnels, high-speed rail and his November tax initiative: “I’m going forward with what I think is the best interest of the state. At various points along the way there’ll be voter check-ins in the form of ballot measures and also elections. But I don’t think this is too much. We have a $2 trillion economy, 38 million people… We have to do big stuff.
• Brown, asked about the cost: “I don’t want to minimize the cost. $14 billion — it’s real money. If you think of this as a 50-year project, the California economy very conservatively goes to $2 trillion a year. That’s $100 trillion that (will) be generated by the California economy over the next 50 years. $14 billion is 0.0014 percent. Certainly affordable.” Editor’s note: I believe Brown actually left out a zero — I get 0.00014 percent.
• NOAA official Will Stelle, asked if the downsized project has resolved some concerns about how it will affect fish, and, therefore, whether it will even be eligible to receive a permit: “Do we think these changes are going to work? We believe, yes…. Are we at an end point? No.” He said the new version is “significantly” improved, but officials acknowledged that one huge question — how much water might be sent through the tunnels — has yet to be answered.
• Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin, asked about operations: “It’s not as if we’ll just turn on the pumps and turn them off when we feel like it.”
• Department of Fish and Game Director Chuck Bonham, explaining the mysterious “decision tree”: “Let’s say habitat restoration produces a greater benefit (to fish). Perhaps then one of your other goals and objectives can be slightly modified, and outflow (the amount of water allowed to remain in the Delta) can change as a relationship. Or the reverse: Habitat doesn’t produce as much benefit as proposed, perhaps you need to go fiddle with the outflow knob. That’s why we’re pretty clear in saying that exports may go up or they may go down.”
• Bonham, on the superiority of BDCP to the status quo: “The outcomes of the plan will be judged with those 200 goals and objectives, and we will have a system that allows us to adjust and make course corrections to avoid that outcome (species extinction), which is far superior to what we have now. What we have now is single-species litigation about avoiding jeopardy, which usually produces just an incremental change to avoid jeopardy and another round of litigation. What we’re trying to do here is move toward an approach for 54 species, not one, that’s oriented toward recovery and not jeopardy.”
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, director of Restore the Delta: “Building a risky and mostly dry concrete river will expend scarce public dollars without enhancing public safety.”
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, quoting state officials: “‘Oh, don’t worry, we’re going to use science.’ Yes, and we’re thankful that they are moving forward on the science. It’s absolutely necessary. However, that science comes after the plumbing. They have put plumbing before policy.”
State Sen. Lois Wolk: “The governor and interior secretary have asked us to trust them. The plan stakes the future of the delta on a wink and a promise. ‘Trust us,’ they say, to build two gigantic tunnels now, take the water and protect the Delta later… ‘Trust us,’ they say, it’ll cost only $14 billion and they want to saddle ratepayers and taxpayers with more general fund borrowing for most of the impacts and the restoration, let alone the interest. ‘Trust us,’ they say, and 15 years from now they’ll have the science that will recover the fish… Trust them? I’m afraid not. If you want our trust let’s start with the truth and the truth is the Delta needs more water, not less.”
Assemblyman Bill Berryhill: “They’re putting the science on the back burner and doing the plumbing first, and that’s just absolutely bass-ackwards, as my mom would have said.”
Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani: “As policy leaders, our leadership continues to bring us the same take it or leave it menu that we’ve got year after year after year. I don’t like having to tell my farmers in the southern half of my district that I’m opposed to this. I represent a district where half of it is to the north of the Tracy pumps and half is to the south, and so those farmers that are desperate for water, those are farmers that I represent. I object to the fact that policy leaders force us into a position where we have to pit farmers against farmers and we have to pick winners and losers. That’s wrong.”
John Herrick, South Delta Water Agency: “How does an estuary get better by having less water flow through it? It doesn’t.”
Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston: “It’s critical that we come together and tell the governor he’s not a leader. He’s a dictator. At this point in time he is telling us what is best for us, what is best for the state of California, but what it does is it ruins the northern California agricultural economy, the family farms, all of the things that we count on as citizens living in this area.”
Johnston: ”How do you do a project without a cost-benefit analysis? How do you figure out what it’s going to cost in the end? Come to Stockton — we’ve had projects that we didn’t do adequate cost-benefit analyses on, and look where we are.”
Bill Jennings, apparently channeling Winston Churchill: “We will fight this abominable scheme through the administrative halls, through the courtrooms and the ballot box. We will fight on the channels and sloughs and on the levees and through the fields. And if necessary, we’ll fight them to the very gates of hell. We shall never surrender and we will prevail and when this darkness dissipates, future generations will look back upon us and call this our finest hour.”