Is Restore the Delta “on the Fritz”?

March 10, 2015

To: Interested Parties
From: Steven Maviglio, Restore Delta Truth
Re: Is Restore the Delta “on the Fritz”?

It wasn’t too surprising that “Restore the Delta,” the faux environmental group, is connected to billionaire developer and mega-Republican contributor A.G. Spanos. After all, RTD offices are housed in the building owned by Spanos.

But there’s yet another wealthy developer/GOP supporter that has strong ties to the organization: Fritz Grupe Jr. and his company.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Grupe helped form Restore the Delta and his Grupe Companies was long listed on Restore the Delta’s website as a member.

Restore the Delta claims to be about “restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta so that fisheries and farming can thrive there together again”.

So, you’d think that one of its key funders would be interested in protecting the Delta and its natural settings, right? Wrong.

In 2008, Grupe got approval to build a massive $3 billion, 7,000 home development on a Delta Island. According to the Stockton Record, “The (Stockton) City Council on Tuesday approved The Grupe Co.’s $3 billion plan to build 7,000 homes in a massive subdivision on a Delta island on the city’s northwest side.”

Grupe also is a proponent of shipping water that comes from the Central Valley Project (the very water system Restore the Delta criticizes) – but apparently only when it will benefit one of his developments.

According to the Sacramento Bee, in 1998 Fresno County sued Grupe’s company after it purchased land from a farmer with the intention of diverting its water to a Grupe development near Tracy. According to the Bee, “the canal is filled with shimmering water from the government’s Central Valley Project, and that’s what Grupe wants. The developer purchased this property from farmer Jean Sagouspe about 18 months ago in order to divert the water 80 miles northwest, via a series of canals, to a subdivision Grupe has planned west of the fast-growing city of Tracy.” Fresno County sued to block the arrangement, claiming the plan would cause “unmitigated depletion of groundwater and loss of agricultural land in the county of Fresno.”

As for protecting farmland, which Restore the Delta claims is a priority, Grupe has a checkered track record. According to the Stockton Record, Grupe (and other developers) sued the city of Stockton in 2007 over a law that required those developing more than 40 acres to bank an acre of farmland for every acre lost or pay $9,600. According to the Record: “Developers and Certain landowners are suing the city of Stockton to undo a new law requiring them to preserve farmland in atonement for paving so much over.”

On the political front, Grupe and his company’s PAC have contributed more than $1 million to state and federal candidates, with most of the money going to the California Republican Party, President George W. Bush, and former Congressman Doug Ose. And he gave $250,000 to Governor Schwarzenegger’s “California Recovery Team.”

So why would a Republican developer belong to an organization that claims it is “committed to restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta so that fisheries and farming can thrive there together again”?

It’s simple: to protect its own corporate and financial interests. Which is leaving lots of folks asking: Is Restore the Delta just a front group for the billionaire developers and water users funding it?