Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition of farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and business owners dedicated to a fair water policy, today reacted to an attack on RTD by a group “bankrolled by billionaire Stewart Resnick.” The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta has published a newsletter accusing Restore the Delta of being a front group for Delta developers out to pave over the Delta for profit.
In reply, Restore the Delta’s Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said, “It’s really ironic that a coalition being bankrolled by Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick is criticizing us for accepting contributions from people with business interests in the Delta region. We do accept support from all those who want to restore the Delta. We have been transparent about doing so. This includes business owners, developers, along with contributions from thousands of others who care about the health of the Delta region.”
The proponents of unsustainable water exports criticize RTD for accepting support from “local real estate moguls Alex Spanos and Fritz Grupe, and landowner Dino Cortopassi.” Barrigan-Parrilla noted “in the entire six years Restore the Delta has been in existence, the organization has received less than 10% percent of its total funding from these donors. The rest has come from members, including farmers, fishermen, small business people, and all those concerned about the region’s environment, as well as from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. RTD has produced a documentary film, put on pig roasts, Delta food & wine events, and engaged in the hard work of raising funds from the community the way almost all nonprofits must do. I’m not aware of any such events put on by our critics. Where do they get their funding without having to raise it from the community?”
“Our books are open,” says Barrigan-Parrilla. “We’d be interested in knowing exactly who is funding the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta.”
Restore the Delta Policy Analyst Jane Wagner-Tyack, said, “The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta is interested only in sustaining high levels of water exports used to grow permanent crops on arid land or to support housing and commercial development in what is essentially desert. Resnick’s Paramount Farms controls the Kern Water Bank where a lot of Delta water ends up. These people don’t care what happens to the Delta as long as they can keep getting as much water as they want.”
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan given out by the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta calls for habitat restoration in the Delta but has so far been unable to explain how threatened species can be protected if less fresh water is flowing through the Delta. Says Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, “The group criticizing RTD is one that focuses on factors such as urban runoff and striped bass predation as the causes of habitat decline in the Delta, ignoring the impact of excessive water diversions and of fish kills at the export pumps. Delta water quality is important to us all, but we can’t improve water quality by reducing flows of fresh water through the Delta and the estuary.”
Restore the Delta promotes a plan that would strengthen existing Delta levees to benefit both Delta communities and export reliability while continuing to route fresh water through the Delta for users in other parts of the state. The organization advocates a return to a system in which only surplus water is available for export, as required by law. This goal is achievable with increased reliance on local water supplies, water conservation, and retirement of toxic land in the San Joaquin Valley that is not suitable for farming.