Twin tunnels plan gains momentum

May 7, 2013 9:00pm
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•  Final Delta plan to go before Delta Stewardship Council May 16-17

•  “This could lead to wide-spread usury”

The Delta Stewardship Council has posted online the “proposed final Delta plan” that will mandate California water distribution for the foreseeable future.

The council is expected to adopt the massive plan at its meeting May 16-17. And the plan won’t be just another set of suggestions – it will become state law.

But what has been posted won’t give Californians much of an idea of what’s in store if all that is wanted is a quick read. The six-page executive summary has been completely redacted with the note, “The Executive Summary is being rewritten and a draft was presented to the Council in April 2013. It will be included in the final Delta Plan.”

However, the plan itself is laid out in great detail. (See link at the end of this story to access all of the available parts of the plan.)

At the heart of years of heated discussions about the plan -- and the closely related Bay Delta Conservation Plan that is still be written -- is what could be Gov. Jerry Brown’s largest public works project, other than the bullet train: twin tunnels, each 40 feet in diameter, buried 150 feet beneath the Delta and stretching some 35 miles starting just south of Sacramento at Courtland and continuing southward through the heart of the Delta.

The tunnels will siphon fresh water out of the Sacramento River before it can flow naturally into the Delta as it has for millennia.

The water will be sent to the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, to be shipped to San Joaquin Valley growers, the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles and to Silicon Valley.

“These documents don't show any real control over the financing of the twin tunnels project by the BDCP. If the Association of State and Federal Water Agencies … finances the $24.5 billion tunnels -- as the BDCP has indicated -- they will have to borrow money,” says Burt Wilson, an opponent of the twin tunnels plan and publisher of the Public Water News Service.

“There is no oversight as to what they can charge once they start billing their customers,” Mr. Wilson says. “This could lead to wide-spread usury through charging atrociously high rates in order to reclaim their funding costs.”

Also opposing the tunnels is the Stockton-based group Restore the Delta, which says bolstering existing levies would be less expensive and a better investment.

The tunnels “would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries,” the group says.

"Restore the Delta is encouraged that independent experts are coming to see the Peripheral Tunnels as a project that ignores science to fit the BDCP's outcomes into a pre-existing decision to build the tunnels," says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta’s executive director.

But while attention has been focused on the governor’s twin tunnels idea, the Delta plan, which talks about improve "conveyance" without specifying twin tunnels, also calls for less flashy ideas to provide more water for a growing state.

These include urban water conservation, such as restricting lawn watering; using recycled water in greater quantities; capturing as much storm water runoff as practical; improved management of ground water resources; and building more reservoirs, either above or below ground both north and south of the Delta.


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Comments on this story

Mike Wade 5/8/13 10:26 AM
BDCP is part of a larger effort to improve California water management including the bay delta plan, and when completed will work in conjunction with other local and regional efforts. BDCP does not replace water management practices such as conservation, recycling and other water-saving techniques throughout the state. These efforts should continue but most individuals involved in the water industry recognize that these practices will not fulfill the need for a reliable water supply or restore the Delta ecosystem. The suggestion of building more reservoirs is a good but fruitless idea if improved conveyance through the Delta is not achieved. The proposed BDCP tunnels will provide the conveyance that is needed for successful storage projects in the future. Mike Wade California Farm Water Coalition

Burt Wilson 5/8/13 5:38 PM
Mr. Wade's job is to reply to every news article that may be critical of the twin tunnels. Notice he does not say anything about "saving the Delta." It seems that ever since Dr. Meral said the Delta can't be saved, all the water advocates have found other things to talk about. The BDCP is a water grab, that's all. It's a little more sophisticated than previous tries at Sacramento River water, nevertheless it's sill a water grap.

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