The Western View: Governor Brown’s Tunnels

Taylor Hillman Features, Water, Western View

Water in agriculture
The pros and cons of the Delta water tunnel plan

Governor Brown’s Tunnels
The proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan is Gov. Jerry Brown’s strategy to modernize and improve the state’s water distribution system while avoiding further environmental damage to the Delta. In fact, if it works as planned it will reduce the environmental damage that has been done in the years that the Delta has been a central component of the system. It’s an ambitious plan that would build huge water tunnels to carry Sacramento river water under the San Joaquin River Delta, instead of through it as what happens now.

The project would take 10 years to build and cost somewhere between $7 and 15 billion – and opponents say the real cost is much higher, perhaps $50 billion. Water customers – the southern cities and westside growers – would pay for the tunnels through higher monthly bills.

The two tunnels would be huge, each 40 feet wide, almost 40 miles long, and capable of carrying 9000 cubic feet of water per second. Proponents say the tunnels would carry the Sacramento river water efficiently and better protect the state’s water supply system during an earthquake.

Since the water would be bypassing the San Joaquin River Delta, the problem of smelt and salmon being killed by the pumps in the southern delta goes away. This should result in more water coming south, especially during low runoff years.

The plan includes restoring about 150,000 acres of wetlands and other wildlife habitat and to rebuild and modernize hundreds of miles of levees.

Opponents say the plan would destroy the Delta, not save it. The communities and farms in the Delta fear losing the flow-through of the Sacramento river water, as it helps with preventing salt water intrusion. They also deny that the tunnels would completely halt the damage done by the existing water pumping system.

However, Governor Brown seems convinced the tunnels are necessary, and it is likely they will be built. Construction could begin in 2017.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.