Farmers whose parcels were listed and mapped in the 160-page property-acquisition plan expressed dismay at the advanced planning for the project, which would build 30-foot-high tunnels to convey water from Northern California to almond and pistachio growers in arid regions of Southern California.
"To find out they're sitting in a room figuring out this eminent domain makes it sound like they're going to bully us ... and take what they want," said Richard Elliot, who grows cherries, pears and other crops on Delta land farmed by his family since the 1860s. With eminent domain, the state can simply seize private property and pay owners the current market rate – whether they want to sell the family farm or not.
Construction of the massive tunnels (see illustration) will seriously disrupt commercial, cultural, biological and ecological life in the Sacramento Delta, which has been a vital centerpiece of the Northern California landscape since Chinese laborers in the 1880s constructed the levees that created some of the richest farmland in the world. By 1920 the Sacramento Delta was known as “the Asparagus Capital of the World,” with the first yield of every year’s crop whisked by train to New York City and served on expensive porcelain to eager gourmands at Fifth Avenue's Plaza Hotel.
Jerry Brown has pushed for a massive Delta makeover since his first stint as governor in the 1970s and 1980s. Proposition 9 on the ballot in 1982 called for a huge "Peripheral Canal" to carry water from the Delta to Southern California. Voters rejected that measure by a resounding 62.7% to 37.3%.
This time Brown is trying ram the giant water diversion project through state government without input from voters. In May, the Governor publicly told critics of the twin tunnels to "Shut Up!"
Opponents say the tunnels would jeopardize delta farming and destroy vital wildlife habitat. We urge everyone to read this important article from the Associated Press and make up your own mind. For more information about this important campaign go to http://restorethedelta.org/.