Pace to build Brown’s tunnels steps up Tuesday

July 25, 2016 9:01pm

•  State Water Board members begin hearings

•  Will be televised via the internet

The State Water Resources Control Board’s five members, all of whom owe their $120,000-plus a year jobs to Gov. Edmund Brown Jr., on Tuesday begin the first part of a two-part, multi-month water right change petition hearing for what is marketed as the “WaterFix Project.”

The project would dig two massive tunnels beneath the California Delta to drain fresh water out of the Sacramento River before it could flow naturally into the Delta. The water would be sent in a sort of underground Peripheral Canal to the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project for ultimate sale to water districts in Silicon Valley, the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and to the mammoth Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles.

Mr. Brown’s 1980s effort to dig the Peripheral Canal was thwarted by voters, who rejected it in a statewide vote. The tunnels, however, will not come before voters.

Ostensibly, the hearing beginning Tuesday is about the tunnels’ intakes that will be on a five-mile stretch along the Sacramento River between Clarksburg and Courtland.

The California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation want the State Water Board to change their water right permits for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

The hearing will be held in one of the State Water Board’s hearing rooms on the second floor of the CalEPA Building, 1001 I Street, in Sacramento. On days scheduled, the hearing begins at 9 a.m.

The hearings will be live-streamed on the CalEPA Live Webcasts page. (See link below.)

The hearing is similar to a judicial process, with the Board supposed to function as an independent, adjudicative body. The purpose of the hearing is for the Board to receive information on whether it should approve the change petition, subject to terms and conditions, or whether the petition should be disapproved.

The hearing is divided in two parts. The first part is to address whether the change would initiate a new water right or injure any other legal users of water. The second part will address how fish and wildlife would be affected by the change and whether measures are required to protect them from any unreasonable impacts.

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