“There’s only so much water to go around,” said Community Services District President Chris Steele. “I’m concerned about the farmers in the Delta region … I think we need to start with conservation and a long-term storage plan before we think about this.”
Call it the peripheral canal, 2-gates project, tunnel conveyance system or a rose by any other name, but according to opponents of the state’s $14 billion as-yet unfunded water conservation project, the governor’s recent efforts are taking the already fragile Delta ecosystem and sucking it dry.
“If the peripheral canal becomes reality,” wrote the CSD board in a recent letter to Brown protesting the proposal, “the draw on the Sacramento River will substantially upset the already fragile network of levees, rivers and dams throughout the entire Delta region … California’s ongoing water issues will not be resolved by the construction and operation of the peripheral canal. We urge you to reconsider your support of the peripheral canal project.”
The Discovery Bay CSD board is one of a growing group of local community leaders revving up for what could be an epic fight over water rights that has been brewing for generations.
According to the proposal, the two-tunnels project – approximately the length of the Panama Canal – would pump water into the tunnels from the Sacramento River (about 50 miles north of the Delta, where pumps now divert water into the California aqueduct). The project is part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), a fluid planning document that includes a number of proposals for dealing with the Delta’s fragile ecosystem and ongoing water issues throughout the state. The final document will be subject to environmental review in the coming months.
“The proposal we’re unveiling today is a big idea,” Brown said in a press conference July 25. “A healthy Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply are profoundly important to California’s future. This is about California’s future.”
Not so much, according District 15 Assemblymember Joan Buchanan.
“It (tunnels proposal) is a water grab that does nothing to solve our state’s long-term water problems or address the critical need to restore the Delta,” said Buchanan. “The water districts in Southern California want to build the canal and lock up water rights for the next 50 years. I will continue to oppose the conveyance.”
The reality, however, is that the emergence of a peripheral canal or any other water project is still a long way from fruition. Key issues such as size, cost and financing remain unanswered but will be addressed publically during the environmental review process. Therefore, in a perfect world, the tunnels wouldn’t be up and running until at least 2026. Plenty of time, say opponents, to stop the project.
“The Town of Discovery Bay is very concerned,” said Steele. “And we are going to be taking a more active stance as far as our outreach and involvement with local officials on this proposal goes.”
Brown conceded it could be an uphill battle. “Yes, there is going to be some opposition,” he said during the July press conference. “It goes with the territory. It’s going to be difficult, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
To learn more about the Delta tunnels project and the BDCP, log onto www.baydeltaconservationplan.com, www.restorethedelta.org or www.nodeltagates.com.