The news came to us late Wednesday:
"Gov. Jerry Brown and federal officials today announced plans for a future water delivery system that includes the construction of a $14 billion pair of tunnels that would divert water from the Sacramento River. The side-by-side underground tunnels, 33 feet in diameter, would run beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and carry water 35 miles to pumps near Tracy to be distributed for human consumption and agribusiness outside of the immediate Delta area."
Supporters say the planned facilities would:
- Stop the reversal of water flow caused by existing pumps in the southern Delta which some officials call "fish-killing pumps"
- Provide seismic benefits for a statewide water system that would sustain water supply in an earthquake
- Guarantee a stable water supply
- Improve water quality
Opponents argue it would create immense problems for an already-fragile Delta, pulling 9,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Sacramento River, ruining the surrounding ecosystem. There is also concern in proceeding with the project without a full understanding of what the impact would be on native salmon and smelt.
State officials counter that these questions will have answers, but those answers will come concurrent with scientific studies carried out during construction. The state hopes to begin the project in 2017.
A number of state and federal elected officials - including Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo/San Francisco - along with fishermen and conservationists, have come out against the plan. Said Speier, "I concur with my colleagues to go back to the drawing board. In this case, Northern Californians are the losers."
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield urges the governor to preserve the Delta with a focus on water storage, recycling, conservation, levee repairs and habitat restoration. He said that the plan would essentially suck the Sacramento River dry and that the project amounts to "a plumbing system for the Delta."
Environmentalists, farmers and fisherman working with Restore the Delta, the Sierra Club and other groups have blasted the governor's proposal, labeling it a "scheme" that would benefit the Westlands Water District, which supplies agricultural water to Fresno and Kings counties.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District is in favor of the project. In a release, CEO Beau Goldie states "The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is the best hope to address the challenges of a deteriorating Delta ecosystem and avoiding water shortages from a failure of the water conveyance system."
Members from the Western Growers, which represents local and regional family farmers in Arizona and California, have expressed support for Brown's plan for the Delta, calling it "an important milestone that would have remained elusive without this leadership and focus."
What do you think? Are Governor Brown, state and federal officials, and local water districts on the right path in an effort to repair the Delta? Or is this the wrong way to move forward? Are Northern Californians the "losers" here?
Tell us in the comments. Then vote in our poll.
(Bay City News contributed content to this piece)