Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Valley reacts to Brown's Bay-Delta tunnel plan

Jul 25, 2012

Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced plans today to make big changes to the state’s water supply system - and the plan is already being met with both support and criticism from up and down the state.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan includes a plan to build a pair of underground tunnels that would move water from north to south, around the fragile ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The tunnels would carry fresh water from the Sacramento river to federal and state pumps at Tracy, after which it would flow into canals run by the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project.

While the tunnels would cost $14 billion to build, Gayle Holman of the Westlands Water District says the expense is necessary, as she says the plan would ensure a stable water supply for Californians south of the Delta.

"We have to do some type of investment into our water infrastructure. We've not had a major investment in it. And so consequently, it could be very detrimental if we continue on the path that we are on, and not have any type of retrofitting or improvements made to that water system."

However, not everyone is excited about the proposal. Environmentalists says the proposal threatens the health of the Delta and could harm fish and wildlife in the area. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of environmental group, Restore The Delta, says the proposal causes too much environmental damage for too much money, to benefit too few growers in the Central Valley.

"It will deal a deathblow to Delta agriculture, which is a five billion dollar economy. And it will also deal a deathblow to California fisheries, recreational and commercial fishing, up and down the coast, particularly salmon fisheries because it will deprive fisheries of water."

State and federal officials plan to issue a draft of the plan and environmental impact report for public review this fall. If approved, construction would start in 2017 for completion in 2026.