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
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail