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After resistance from local water districts to Jerry Brown’s two-tunnel Delta project, plan could be pared down to just one

By in Press Enterprise on February 9, 2018

By Steve Scauzillo

The state water board held its first hearing Thursday since Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to move more water efficiently from Northern California to the south was pared down.

After losing financial support from some Central Valley farmers and backers in Silicon Valley last fall, the state Department of Water Resources announced Wednesday it would build one concrete tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta first and construct the second tunnel only if more money becomes available.

The tunnels would be 35 miles long and 40 feet high, stretching from new intakes 15 miles north of Sacramento, skirting the environmentally sensitive delta where water is supplied by court order to ensure the survival of native salmon and the Delta smelt.

The 2010 two-tunnel plan called the California WaterFix would be paid for by water districts according to how much water they take from the improved State Water Project. A single-tunnel waterway would be similar to the Peripheral Canal defeated by voters in 1982.

During hearings last fall, three Los Angeles city representatives to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted against the project, saying it was too big and would place too great a burden on ratepayers. Metropolitan’s board voted “yes,” approving a $4.3 billion share.

Under either plan, MWD rates would have to increase, which would amount to an increase of $2 to $3 a month in residential water bills, MWD said last fall. The full project would take 17 to 20 years to build.

But after the Westlands Water District in Fresno dropped out, followed by Santa Clara Valley Water District in San Jose, the project was in jeopardy, prompting Brown to pivot to a phased project to keep it alive.

The single-tunnel stage would cost about $10.7 billion, $5.6 billion less than the $16.3 billion cost for the entire project. The state, […]    

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