Proposed tunnels could make delta water saltier

California Water

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Services, glances at a diagram showing the water flow into and out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, during a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, March 14, 2013. California water officials unveiled the revisions of the first four draft chapters of a $23 billion plan to restore and protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and guarantee a stable water supply for millions of Californians. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan, known as the BDCP for short, is a federal and state initiative financed by California's water contractors, which includes recommendations for a twin tunnel project in the delta to carry water to vast farmlands and cities.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could become saltier if the state builds the two massive diversion tunnels Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed to supply water to the Central Valley and Southern California.

The Sacramento Bee reports the proposed tunnels would divert fresh water from the Sacramento River and prevent it from reaching the delta, which supplies water to nearby farms and cities.

The delta's increased saltiness is among the possible environmental impacts of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the proposal to re-engineer California's main water delivery system with the two tunnels.

Those potential impacts are described in planning documents released by the California Department of Water Resources. A draft environmental impact study is expected to be released by Oct. 1, and a decision is planned by April 2014.

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