FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Bechtel and the Big Dig

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
Jess Franklin
Globalizing the War on Indigenous People: Bolsonaro and Modi
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What the Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
Thomas Knapp
US v. Sineneng-Smith: Does Immigration Law Trump Free Speech?
Winslow Myers
Turning Point: The new documentary “Coup 53”
Jeff Mackler
U.S. vs. Iran: Which Side are You On?
Sam Pizzigati
Braggadocio in the White House, Carcinogens in Our Neighborhoods
Christopher Brauchli
The Company Trump Keeps
Julian Vigo
Why Student Debt is a Human Rights Issue
Ramzy Baroud
These Chains Will Be Broken
Chris Wright
A Modest Proposal for Socialist Revolution
Thomas Barker
The Slow Death of European Social Democracy: How Corbynism Bucked the Trend
Nicky Reid
It’s Time to Bring the War Home Again
Michelle Valadez
Amy Klobuchar isn’t Green
David Swanson
CNN Poll: Sanders Is The Most Electable
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Dire Need for “Creative Extremists”—MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Jill Richardson
‘Little Women’ and the American Attitude Toward Poverty
David Yearsley
Watching Star Wars in Berlin
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail