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Brown Offers $14 Billion Tunnels Plan… Get’rrr Done

tunnels would bypass Delta to move water south

In a joint news conference this week Gov Edmund Brown and Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar outlined their ”path forward” on fixing the Delta, managing wildlife and providing for more water for the state under a revised Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

Bringing back a variant of the 1980’s Peripheral Canal idea, Brown unveiled a pair of 37 mile tunnels that could cost $14 billion to be financed by water users including farmers. Habitat and other conservation measures in the BDCP would be financed in part by the water contractors, but would mostly be paid by the state over a period of 40 years, with likely additional investment by the federal government through existing programs, said a news release. A reported $9 billion for environmental protections would be added to $14 billion.

The proposal “will undergo a rigorous public environmental review in the coming months” Brown and Salazar announced. Critics include northern California interest who fear a water grab by southern California cites and Valley farmers.

Ready to charge forward on the idea as he recently was with high speed rail ,Brown startled the news conference audience with the statement ”I want to get shit done.”

The tunnels construction could start in 2017 and be complete by 2026.

There are “dual goals” in the BDCP said Brown – a reliable water supply for California and a healthy California Bay Delta ecosystem that supports the State’s economy.”

The dual tunnels,side-by-side would be 33 ft wide and connect the Sacramento River to the pumps around Tracy without impacting the sensitive Delta lands in between, say supporters.

Farmer Reaction

While some Central Valley farmers oppose Brown on high speed rail, they are supportive of this water project.

“Westlands greatly appreciates the leadership demonstrated by Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar in reaching this point. They had to know that today’s announcement would not be well received by many interested parties, including some public water agencies that had hoped for more certainty with regard to future water supplies. But leadership involves making difficult decisions with the best information available, and Governor Brown and Secretary Salazar have met that responsibility.” said Westlands Water District president Tom Birmingham.

More guarded is Friant Water Authority general manager Ron Jacobsma who notes details need to be sorted out on how much water would be conveyed and who would pay.”We want a fair shake and expect to pay for benefits received but we are supportive of the current process.”Jacobsma says Friant wants more certainty over how the Exchange Contractors would be dealt with.

Balanced Approach?

“A healthy Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply are profoundly important to California’s future,” said Governor Brown. “This proposal balances the concerns of those who live and work  in the Delta, those who rely on it for water and those who appreciate its beauty, fish, waterfowl and wildlife.”

“As broken and outdated as California’s water system is, we are also closer than ever to forging a lasting and sustainable solution that strengthens California’s water security and restores the health of the Delta,” said Secretary Salazar. “Through our joint federal-state partnership, and with science as our guide, we are a taking a comprehensive approach to tackling California’s water problems when it comes to increasing efficiency and improving conservation. Today marks an important step forward in transforming a shared vision into a practical, effective solution. With California’s water system at constant risk of failure, nobody can afford the dangers or costs of inaction.”

“The status quo isn’t working for fish, communities around or dependent upon the Bay Delta, economic development, or water resources management,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “Our proposed changes to the BDCP reflect important improvements in shaping a comprehensive strategy to fix a broken system. Because this is a complicated issue and we do not have all the answers today, we will continue to evaluate and refine the proposal. We call upon the many participants throughout California to join us in staying focused on science-based solutions.”

Improved Water Management Statewide

The news release offers water management savings.”State and U.S. governments will continue to explore new ways to satisfy competing water demands, including commitments to an Integrated Water Management approach, reducing water demand, increasing water supply, and improving efficiency of operations. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Santa Clara Valley Water District – the two largest urban regional water agencies– have committed to exceed the urban water savings target established in the 2009 Delta Reform Act by saving 700,000 acre-feet a year based on predicted future demands. This includes a commitment by Southern California to annually save more water through conservation and recycling than it receives, on average, from Northern California, as well as a commitment from the Santa Clara County Water District to meet Silicon Valley’s future increases in demand through conservation and recycling. With respect to agricultural water use, the Bureau of Reclamation has worked with local water agencies to invest close to $50 million over the last eight years in efficiency improvements in California. Reclamation is now partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide funding for projects that improve water management and create new supplies for agricultural irrigation. In the last two years, approximately $15 million in federal funding has been invested in this effort. The State of California has invested more than $47 million in similar programs since 2001.”

Conservation: “The BDCP will contain biological goals and objectives to improve the status of a wide variety of listed species and species of concern under the Endangered Species Act, and will quickly implement new habitat projects in the Suisun Marsh and the Delta upon completion of appropriate environmental reviews. “

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