Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | April 14, 2020

Delta tunnel: DCA staff downplay opposition to stakeholder engagement process continuing during pandemic

Under the supervision of the Department of Water Resources, the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority has been conducting outreach to Delta stakeholders on the engineering design for the Delta tunnel.

In November 2019, the DCA appointed 16 Delta stakeholders to a Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee. The members represented a broad range of Delta interests, from Delta businesses to sportfishing, recreation, environmental justice, an aquatic and terrestrial NGOs.  Each committee member was tasked with receiving information on the proposed Delta tunnel project design and conveying the information to their respective stakeholders, and conveying feedback on the proposed design to the DCA. In making the appointments, the DCA reserved the right to remove committee members at any time, and for no reason.

The continuation of the Delta stakeholder engagement process during the COVID-19 pandemic has been strongly opposed by Delta Counties, Delta residents and several Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee members.

On March 16, 2020 Karen Mann, the president of Save the California Delta Alliance, sent a letter to DWR  Director Karla Nemeth and the DCA Executive Director, Kathryn Mallon calling for a pause in the Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings.

Malissa Tayaba, the Tribal representative to the Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee, sent a letter to the DCA calling for the Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings to be put on hold. The letter cited the fact that both the state AB 52 and federal National Historic Preservation Act processes were paused due to the pandemic.

Delta Defenders, a Delta community-based organization, also sent a letter to Karla Nemeth and the DCA calling for a pause in the Delta tunnel stakeholder engagement process.  The letter cited the effects of the pandemic on Delta Counties, Delta cities, Delta legacy communities, Delta businesses, and Delta residents.

On April 7, the Delta Counties Coalition sent a letter to Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot requesting that the Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings be put on hold.

The Delta Counties Coalition (DCC) respectfully requests that you direct the
Department of Water Resources (DWR) to pause all Delta Conveyance Project planning and engineering design processes that require Delta stakeholder engagement during the COVID-19 crisis, until the public can fully participate. We request that you ask the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) to pause its processes that require public participation, including Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings, so that the Delta tunnel engineering design can be informed by meaningful public input. We also ask that you direct DWR and other resource agencies to extend public comment periods by at least 45 days beyond the end of the declared emergency.

At the Delta Protection Commission’s April 9, 2020 teleconference meeting, the DCA’s Executive Director, Kathryn Mallon, attempted to report to the DPC nenbers that the Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee members were “willing and able to continue” with Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings during the pandemic. Mallon’s report failed spectacularly when committee members spoke during public comment and contradicted her.

The Delta Protection Commission  meeting agenda had an update by Kathryn Mallon on the Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee:

  1. Receive update on Delta Conveyance Project environmental review and Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) Stakeholder Engagement Committee – Carrie Buckman (California Department of Water Resources) and Kathryn Mallon (DCA)

Mallon presented a glossy powerpoint about the DCA’s Stakeholder Engagement Committee process.  During her presentation, Mallon said that the DCA staff had talked to the SEC members and they were all willing and able to continue via web and teleconference, with the exception of one SEC member who had a situation with a family member with an illness.

Then the DPC had public comment.  Jesus Tarango (SEC Tribal Representative alternate), and representatives from many other tribes spoke and said they did not want the Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings and other tunnel planning processes to continue.  Malissa Tayaba (SEC Tribal representative) sent a letter asking that the process be paused until 45 days after the public health emergency is declared over.

Cecille Giacoma (SEC Public Safety Representative) said that she told the DCA staff there was no way her constituents could engage, and said that they were having issues with an increase in crime in her area, and public safety officers not being around because of the pandemic.

Anna Swenson (SEC Sacramento County at large Representative) said that she had her 5 kids at home and that she had told the DCA that she couldn’t engage right now.

The Delta Protection Commission members then agreed that the Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee process needed to pause.  The DPC voted to send a letter asking DWR and the DCA to postpone the Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings.

On April 9, Restore the Delta has sent a letter to Governor Newsom calling for a pause in public processes related to the Delta tunnel planning.

The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority has it’s next Board meeting on Thursday, April 16.   The Board meeting packet includes a report by DCA consultant Nazli Parvizi’s on the Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee. Parvizi’s report has no mention of the opposition by Stakeholder Engagement Committee members to the continuation of the meetings during the pandemic.  Stakeholder Engagement Committee members have reported being pressured by Parvizi to participate in the next SEC meeting on April 22.

None of the letters of opposition to the continuation of the DCA’s Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee meetings during the pandemic are included in the April 16 Board meeting packet, and, as of April 14, none have been posted on the DCA’s website.

This post was updated at 11:30 am on April 14 to link to letters from the Delta Protection Commission and Delta Defenders.


Responses

  1. Really excellent post. Pretty outrageous behavior has been documented for all to see.


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