Governor Jerry Brown’s Administration released documents yesterday detailing plans for the construction of twin water conveyance tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and restoration of more than 100,000 acres of habitat. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan includes over 34,000 pages of information about the project that would divert Sacramento River water from new intake points south of Sacramento and convey it directly to state and federal pumps at the southern end of the delta for delivery to farms in the San Joaquin Valley as well as key urban areas in Southern California and Silicon Valley. Currently, the pumps alter flows within the delta by drawing water from north to south, which federal and state biologists have identified as harmful to protected fish species in the delta. Endangered Species Act restrictions on pumping have greatly exacerbated the effects of the current drought conditions on farmers in the San Joaquin Valley.
The documents include a habitat conservation plan and environmental impact study which launch a 120-day formal public comment period. The release sparked immediate opposition from environmental groups who promised to exhaust all available methods to stop it in state and federal courts and possibly through the use of a statewide voter referendum. As Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee points out, although a decision on the proposal is expected by the end of 2014, it is likely that legal challenges will delay the project.
Financing for the project has yet to be finalized as urban and agricultural water agencies seek greater assurances regarding the amount of water that would be reliably delivered and weigh those assurances against the cost to their ratepayers.
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