Jerry Brown’s megatunnel plan unveiled
July 24, 2012
• This UPDATES throughout
• Governor and Interior Secretary announce plans for mammoth water tunnels beneath Delta
• Opponents mustering
If California Gov. Jerry Brown gets his way, two of the world’s largest water tunnels would be built beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to siphon fresh water out of the Sacramento River and send it south to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and to urban users in Los Angeles and parts of the Bay Area.
The water would be taken before it can enter the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The twin tunnels would replace a once-proposed Peripheral Canal, an idea rejected by Californians when Mr. Brown was governor in the 1980s.
“Today, our federal and state water and environmental leadership sent a simple but crystal clear message to all Californians that decisions about the future of the Delta can no longer wait,” says Dan Nelson, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which would benefit from the new plan.
The exact cost of the twin tunnels – each 33-feet in diameter – may not be known initially, but some estimates put it at about $50 billion, including debt service.
The plans announced Wednesday morning call for water intake facilities with a total capacity of 9,000 cubic feet per second -- down from an earlier proposal of 15,000 cfs. Operations would be phased in over several years.
But what will actually be built – if anything – isn’t quite nailed down.
“Many other alternatives, including no conveyance facility, and facilities with capacities ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 cfs, will also be fully considered as part of the upcoming environmental review process,” says the Department of Water Resources.
The tunnels will be paid for by those getting the fresh water, the state says.
But the cost of habitat and other conservation measures in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would be dumped on the taxpayers of the state.
A water bond to do that, which was on the November ballot, was moved to 2014 so it wouldn’t conflict with the governor’s plan to raise sales taxes and income taxes on the wealthiest, one of several tax proposals on the ballot.
Gov. Jerry Bown, who supported the rejected Peripheral Canal when he was governor the first time, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made the announcement Wednesday.
By taking the water from the Sacramento River before it gets into the Delta, it is thought that fewer fish will be killed by irrigation needs, among other benefits.
The governor’s plan is “an enormous mistake, would exterminate salmon runs, destroy sustainable Delta family farms and saddle taxpayers with tens of billions in debt, mainly to benefit a small number of growers on the west side of the Central Valley,” says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, a nonprofit group based in Stockton.
Her group along with others opposed to the plan, including the Sierra Club; Planning and Conservation League; Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations; California Sportfishing Protection Alliance; Food & Water Watch; Environmental Water Caucus; Southern California Watershed Alliance; and the South Delta Water Agency, are expected to proest on the west steps of the Capitol Building at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.