FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Feds to Probe Misuse of State Funds for Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels

by

The Department of Interior’s Inspector General has opened an investigation into the possible illegal use of millions of dollars by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in preparing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Governor Jerry Brown’s controversial Delta Tunnels Plan.

The investigation resulted from a complaint the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed on the behalf of a Bureau of Reclamation employee on February 19, 2016.

The complaint, made public in a statement from PEER on Monday, April 11, details how a funding agreement with DWR is “illegally siphoning off funds that are supposed to benefit fish and wildlife to a project that will principally benefit irrigators” under the California Water Fix, the newest name for the Delta Tunnels Plan.

The California Water Fix proposes to divert water from the Sacramento River, through two massive tunnels under the Delta, to be exported to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods.

“California is improperly diverting federal grants to a giant slush fund for the California Water Fix,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who drafted the complaint. “In this case, the Bureau of Reclamation is abetting the State of California in breaking laws designed to ensure that federal investments to benefit wildlife are not used to their detriment.”

The PEER complaint charges that:

* Those funds, over $60 million, are earmarked for fish habitat improvements under the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. However, they are instead being expended on work that “will harm critical habitat for at least five endangered and threatened fish species. Out of millions spent not a dime went to habitat improvements;”

* The state double-billed for work it supposedly already did with an earlier $50 million grant;

* And the state collected all of the federal funds when the agreement was executed, in violation of a 50/50 matching requirement.

The complaint also notes, “The Bureau of Reclamation also ignored its own rule barring all the federal money from being expended before receiving the non-federal share. Nor has Water Resources indicated when and from what source it will supply its overdue match.”

In a letter dated April 8, 2016, Mary Kendall, Deputy Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Interior responded to the complaint, stating:

“We have carefully reviewed the information you provided to us and gathered additional information about the agreement. Based on this information we have decided to conduct a review into the issues raised in your letter and we expect to commence our work on this matter this month.”

Nancy Vogel, spokesperson for the California Department of Water Resources, said, ”DWR will cooperate fully with the IG (Inspector General) and has no comment beyond that.”

Delta Tunnels opponents welcomed the DOI Inspector General’s investigation of the alleged misuse of funds by DWR.

“We long suspected that federal funds were being illegally diverted into support for the tunnels and finally we’ve got a formal investigation of the matter,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), responding to news of the federal investigation. “The California Water Fix with its financing schemes, Enron accounting and the diversion of funds is a tottering house of cards swaying in the wind.”

The Delta Tunnels would not create one single drop of new water. Yet the project would hasten the extinction of Sacramento winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon, as well as imperiling the steelhead and salmon populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

The announcement of the federal investigation of misuse of state funds takes place as the Delta Tunnels Plan is in total chaos. The State Water Resources Control Board announced on March 29 the suspension of upcoming deadlines for the California Water Fix water rights change petition in response to a request by the state and federal water agencies to extend dates and deadlines for the scheduled hearing, along with a number of other requests either to dismiss or delay the petition. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/29/1507865/-Breaking-News-State-Water-Board-Suspends-Delta-Tunnels-Deadlines)

Read the PEER letter: http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/doi/4_11_16_PEER_request.pdf

See the Inspector General response: http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/doi/4_11_16_IG_ltr.pdf

Look at ongoing IG probe of diversion of Klamath drought relief moneys: http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/federal-probe-into-klamath-irrigator-contracts-ordered.html

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

May 29, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
No Laughing Matter: The Manchester Bomber is the Spawn of Hillary and Barack’s Excellent Libyan Adventure
Vijay Prashad
The Afghan Toll
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post’s Renewed Attack on Whistlblowers
Robert Fisk
We Must Look to the Past, Not ISIS, for the True Nature of Islam
Dean Baker
A Tax on Wall Street Trading is the Best Solution to Income Inequality
Lawrence Davidson
Reality and Its Enemies
Harry Hobbs
Australia’s Time to Recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Sovereignty
Ray McGovern
Will Europe Finally Rethink NATO’s Costs?
Cesar Chelala
Poetry to the Rescue of America’s Soul
Andrew Stewart
Xi, Trump and Geopolitics
Binoy Kampmark
The Merry Life of Dragnet Surveillance
Stephen Martin
The Silent Apartheid: Militarizing Architecture & Infrastructure
Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail