FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bechtel and the Big Dig

by DAN BACHER

Guess who’s funding a report pushing for the building of a peripheral canal on the California Delta? The highly controversial report is “funded in part” by none other than Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., who is with his son, Riley, co-owner of the Bechtel Corporation.

The people and foundations who fund “scientific” reports and studies often reveal what is the real agenda behind the publishing of any document – and I believe that this may be the case with a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report recommending the construction of a peripheral canal, “Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.”

The report was released on July 17 with wild acclamation by the Governor’s staff and the state’s water contractors, since it “scientifically” justifies the destruction of the West Coast’s largest estuary by building a canal.

“Today’s report underscores the need for a long-term solution to fixing our water crisis in the Delta,” gushed Lester Snow, Director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). “It is even more clear that we need to resolve the conveyance issue for the betterment of our environment and our economy. The comprehensive water plan offered by Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Feinstein will provide the tools we need not only to invest in Delta sustainability, but also to meet our future water needs with more conservation, new surface and groundwater storage and regional water self sufficiency.”

The PPIC-UC Davis team’s report concludes that “a peripheral canal is not only more promising than the temporary and ultimately unsustainable ‘dual conveyance’ option – which combines the current approach with a canal – but is also the best available strategy to balance two equally important objectives.”

“Coupling a peripheral canal – the least expensive option – with investment in the Delta ecosystem can promote both environmental sustainability and a reliable water supply,” said Ellen Hanak, PPIC associate director and senior fellow.

The report was authored by a “multidisciplinary team” including Hanak, Jay Lund, William Fleenor, William Bennett, Richard Howitt, Jeffrey Mount, and Peter Moyle from the University of California, Davis.

Little noticed in the media reports was where the funding came from. According to the PPIC’s press release: “The new report, Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, builds on the findings of a 2007 PPIC study by the same team, which concluded that the need for a new Delta strategy is urgent. The new report was funded in part by Stephen D. Bechtel Jr. and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.”

Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. is the son of Stephen David Bechtel, Sr. and grandson of Warren A. Bechtel who founded the Bechtel Corporation. His San Francisco-based foundation, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, has as its overall mission, “to support well-managed non-profit organizations that provide quality programs and create significant sustained benefits in areas of special interest to the Founders and Directors.”

Regarding its environmental programs, the foundation’s website proclaims, “The Foundation believes that the earth and its inhabitants require a fine balance between natural order, conservation of resources, and those demands inherent in growth and development. The Directors have a special interest in the restoration and conservation of California wetlands and waterfowl and the conservation of ecologically significant open spaces that enhance the understanding, use, and enjoyment of the outdoors for all sectors of society.” (http://www.sdbjrfoundation.org/primary_program_areas.htm)

Unfortunately, this “environmental” funding appears to be a clear case of green washing, when you consider the dark history of the Bechtel Corporation. Bechtel, one of the world’s largest engineering and construction firms that is instrumental in the “reconstruction” of Iraq, is a leading advocate throughout the world of the privatization of water systems. It was Bechtel that sued the country of Bolivia for canceling a contract there sponsored by the World Bank.

A CorpWatch report, “Profiting from Destruction,” provides case studies from Bechtel’s history of operating in the water, nuclear, energy and public works sectors. These case studies reveal a legacy of unsustainable and destructive practices that have reaped permanent human, environmental and community devastation around the globe. Letters from “Bechtel affected communities” included in the report provide first-hand descriptions of these impacts, from Bolivia to Native American lands in Nevada. The report reveals a 100-year history spent capitalizing on the most brutal technologies, reaping immense profits and ignoring the social and environmental costs. For more information, go to http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=6975

Another CorpWatch report details “Bechtel’s Water Wars” in Bolivia. Fortunately, the people of Cochabama rebelled against Bechtel’s scheme to privatize their water system and won.

The role of Stephen Bechtel, Jr. in funding the PPIC report must be exposed. Are we expected to believe that Bechtel’s funding of the report was simply for “altruistic” reasons? Are the scientists who authored this report aware of the Bechtel Corporation’s record of devastation across the globe? And will Bechtel profit from the destruction of California Delta fish, farms and people if a peripheral canal is built? These are questions that must be asked!

Central Valley chinook salmon and Delta fish populations are in a state of collapse, largely due to massive increases in water exports from the Delta in recent years. A broad coalition of recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Delta farmers, Indian Tribes and environmentalists is opposed to the peripheral canal because it would result in the diversion of more water from the Delta and further exacerbate the current fishery collapses.

Restore the Delta, a coalition including Delta farmers, environmentalists, fishermen, business leaders, the faith community, recreation enthusiasts, and everyday folks, issued a powerful statement calling into question many of the findings in the Public Policy Institute’s report.

“Their analysis assumes that water flowing into and out of the Delta remains unchanged when the point of diversion is changed, said Restore the Delta’s Campaign Director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. “But everyone who lives, works, and recreates in the Delta knows that with less fresh water flowing through the Delta, more salt water will intrude into local waterways.”

In fact, Barrigan-Parrilla said the report makes a highly inaccurate assumption that water quality would improve for farmers near the San Joaquin River, emphasizing that the report’s authors have not engaged in any conversations with local Delta experts, South Delta farmers – some of whom have lived on the land for ninety years.

Barrigan-Parrilla concluded that changes in water quality to the Delta will result in economic chaos for the region. “Neither the PPIC Report authors nor officials with the State have done a full-scale economic analysis of how a change in water quality with the operation of a peripheral canal would impact farming, recreation, or fisheries,” she contended. “It is estimated that Delta farming alone contributes $2 billion per year to our local economy and recreation like boating and fishing another $750 million. If the Delta is made into a salty inland sea, the economic impacts will be devastating to those living in the surrounding five counties of the Delta.”

The PPIC report amounts to being an “elaborate sales brochure” for the peripheral canal, quipped Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. I completely agree, especially when you consider who is funding the report!

DAN BACHER can be reached at: Danielbacher@fishsniffer.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail