News Feature | October 30, 2017

California Delta Tunnels Project Hits Snags

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The controversial water infrastructure proposal from California Governor Jerry Brown, billed as a solution to the state’s significant water challenges, has hit some snags in recent weeks.

“In a landmark vote closely watched across California, Silicon Valley’s largest water agency on Tuesday rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17 billion plan to build two giant tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

“By a vote of 7-0, the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board of directors chose instead to adopt a set of principles endorsing a significantly smaller, less costly project — with just one tunnel,” the report said.

Brown had acknowledged the importance of this vote by personally calling board members ahead of the meeting.

“After the vote, he and his staff worked to put the best face on it, saying that the district had endorsed a Delta project, albeit not the one Brown has been proposing,” the report said.

The vote has raised an important question, according to The Sacramento Bee: Are WaterFix advocates willing to scale back the project?

Meanwhile, the Westlands Water District in Fresno rejected the project last month. The Westlands board voted 7-to-1 against the project.

“The move by California’s largest irrigation district threw the future of the tunnel proposal into question and placed enormous pressure on proponents to devise another financing plan to lure Westlands back,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

In a nutshell, here is an explanation of the Delta tunnel proposal: Brown “wants a handful of California water districts to build the twin, 35-mile-long water tunnels to pipe Northern California's water to Central and Southern California,” the Associated Press reported.

Backers of the Delta tunnels proposal say it is a "state-of-the-art" solution to California’s water problems, including out-of-date infrastructure and risks to the water supply. Environmental risks and the sheer cost of the project are among its major criticisms.

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