Circumnavigational conveyance alternatives

Could I ask that Dan Bacher and those he quotes use the term “canal” when referring to a canal to take water around the Delta, the term “tunnel” for the other option under discussion, and “canal/tunnel” when referring to both?

I ask because there are important differences in the potential effects of a canal or a tunnel on the Delta’s environmental and social health (to keep it tight), and elisions that blur these distinctions make everyone that much less informed.

Mr Bacher, we assume that you are writing for people out there who are not yet decided (and not just for those who already have), and it would therefore be good to provide them with as much information as possible. Even if that is to know that both canal and tunnel are on the table and both are to be opposed. Others can get into finer points distinguishing between the two.

Otherwise, if it is the canal alternative being referred to when really the reference intended is to both canal and tunnel, one could give the reader the mistaken impression that one alternative is preferable to the other, or that there is no other alternative. There are several others.

It may be that one is preferable to the other, when push comes to shove. But upon a survey of all the evidence, it does seem that Mr Bacher and those for whom he advocates despise both with equal fierceness.

Fine, but it does seem useful to explain objections to both, different objections, one assumes, since the canal and tunnel will produce different effects.

In a lesser-of-two-evils thought experiment, I pondered some of the differences between a canal and a tunnel a while ago. A few snippets:

Conclusions? The eastern isolated conveyance (the Peripheral Canal), the preferable of the two surface alternatives, is less expensive and less of a technological risk. But the tunnel is more viable politically because building a structure no one will ever see makes it ostensibly less environmentally impactful and greatly reduces necessary land takings, something that will no doubt be bitterly contested.


But would the tunnel really be a better alternative from a strictly environmental perspective? Yes, it would certainly bring far less change to the surface of the Delta. But of course, as a development, damaged land would have to be mitigated by “restoration” of an equal amount of habitat, so one might argue that a canal would do no damage to the Delta’s habitats. So does the argument against the canal hold up as an environmental argument? A private property, or a preservation one, yes - but not an environmental argument.


The ability to imagine canals, tunnels, dams, levees, and the rest is controlled by the narrow views of technocrats and politicians. To them, imagination is a risk, an unknown best avoided. This is why the tunnel is likely to be the solution. Even the Delta’s tenacious preservationists will have a hard time justifying their opposition to such a perfectly banal, functional, solution.

Since that stuff was written, the anti-water export Planning and Conservation League has tipped its hat in the direction of a tunnel.

As I wrote yesterday, the fortress levee solution is looking better and better in a fiscal environment as bad is Calfornia’s. But as you might infer from the above snippets I would still bet that if Gov Brown does find money for the circumnavigational conveyance infrastructure, it will be for a tunnel.

Anyway, please hear this - I am not writing this as a proponent of one or the other alternative. I am writing this because it is important to understand that each brings different consequences and possibilities for the Delta’s landscape and community. Indeed, there are different motivations for preferring one to the other.

Being unclear about what the thing is by just referring to it as a peripheral canal doesn’t help tease out these important distinctions.

Posted by John Bass on 19 Aug 2011 | Comments (12)


My efforts to call the generic canal/tunnel the “Peripheral Thingie” have sadly not caught on. :-)

“Peripheral Thingie” was in there til the damn editors, concerned with my recent chastened state, got ahold of it. I argued that it was a perfectly reasonable generic description of the beast.

My understanding is that Shakespeare, in Henry VI, originally wrote “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the editors.” But then his editor changed it.

Call it a “snarfblatt” (The Little Mermaid) or a you-know-what

According to both definitions for the word given by the Urban Dictionary, “snarfblatt” is very appropriate

One would think that after the disasterous week you’ve had the last thing you would want to do
is throw stones at someone else’s journalistic abilities.
According to you Dan Bacher is now nothing more than a
mouthpiece for Restore the delta ?
Two of your three links attempt to support this position albeit poorly.
The first link to his opinions pertaining to a Fresno bee article doesn’t just quote Restore the Delta.
He also quotes:
Calleen Sisk-Franco, the Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe
Patrick Porgans and Lloyd G. Carter and Bonds.pdf
Why not list them also or instead of RTD ?
What is with you and this irrational dislike of Restore the Delta ? I don’t get it.
So you don’t like the word “restore” OK I get that.
Get over it.
I don’t like the name Coalition for a Sustainable Delta whoopty Doo.
Shall we talk astroturf ?
Do you know what the analogical difference between a canal and a tunnel is for those of us who actually live here John ?
A canal is like having your leg cut off without anasthesia, wide awake watching your own destruction.
A tunnel is like being heavily medicated and blissfully asleep.
The problem is , when you wake up your leg is still gone, the medication wears off and you are still minus your leg.
Whatever you or Dan Bacher choose to call a conveyance is semantics.
We in the delta just think of it as the beginning of the end.
“and Nero fiddled while Rome burned”

I like your analogies, Chris. They seem to capture what I was getting at as well, about why it is useful to clearly distinguish between canal and tunnel.

“Semantics,” after all, is about the meaning of words. So I don’t think it is “just” semantics. Your analogies seem to me to support this.

Being clear and having good information about the differences between canal and tunnel should be an objective of everyone concerned, don’t you think?

I have no objection to the Winnemem Wintu’s goals. They are broadly about water and the physical and spiritual health of people and the environment.

I frequently reference Lloyd Carter’s good work as it is broad in its subjects. He has a link to RTD on his website. So do I.

Yes, I do associate Mr Bacher’s work on CA water with Restore the Delta, and have since the beginning of the blog. I called Mr Bacher an advocate for, not merely a mouthpiece for, them.

As I said in response to Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla’s comment on the post from earlier this week, I have some sympathy for what they do.

I have spent a good amount of time being critical of all sorts of groups, individuals, policies, and decisions. You are welcome to criticize me where you object to my views.

As for my week, thank you for helping me correct my errors.

John, just like every other blog or editorial I choose to comment on I give praise where appropriate and criticism where neccessary.
You have received both from me. As my wife (who is much more internet savvy than I )has pointed out more than once, Blogs are by their very nature merely opinions not edicts from god and not required to be particularly logical. We can choose to disagree on logic while debating facts amicably.

I don’t associate Dan Bacher’s body of work with nimbyisn or RTD rather I associate him with fishing, fish and the environment that supports them.

I continue to have difficulty with your position about RTD.
How can you have “some sympathy for what they do” while at the same time proclaiming disdain for “the disingenuous, head-in-the-sand position of Restore the Delta.”
Head in the sand,I suppose that’s worthy of debate.
Disingenuous, on the other hand, is a word that has a specific meaning.
Most commonly :
“Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does”
It’s hard to doubt their sincerity and I don’t think they are feigning ignorance so that leaves us with “candid”.
In order to be candid one must be free of bias.
John,I have yet to meet anyone who has an opinion on this subjct who qualifies as candid and free of bias. I include you and I in this statement.
Absent a better argument your bias against RTD seems at best groundless and at worst petty.
Perhaps it was just a poor choice of words ?

You’re right, Chris - “disingenuous” was not the best word to describe RTD’s vigorous efforts on the behalf on the interests of many in the Delta.

You know better than I do that the Delta is not a monolithic set of interests, and I predict that as this co-equal goals process plays out, choices and realignments of interests within the Delta vis-a-vis the canal and tunnel options will be proof positive of this. That’s all I was getting at in the post this comment exchange relates to.

If this is what you mean, I would agree with you that the issue of water as it relates to the Delta seems to produce lots of biases. I don’t think being candid requires a lack of bias, though.

There’s no getting around that I have a position, and I suppose that means I have lots of biases.

I favor the term “canunnel”, but I’m told it might confuse people.

Hi Jane,
I agree with those you’ve talked with. Canunnel would confuse people. It definitely wouldn’t help anyone distinguish between a canal and a tunnel. But that may be a good tactic.

The majority of the essential things on the globe have been accomplished by people who have maintained trying when there was no hope in any respect.
An economist is skilled which will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.

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