Gov. Brown's Delta water diversion project gets bashed in Washington

Chuck Bonham, of California's Department of Fish and Wildlife Services, glances at a diagram showing the water flow into and out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Chuck Bonham, of California's Department of Fish and Wildlife Services, glances at a diagram showing the water flow into and out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California Governor Jerry Brown’s $25 billion twin tunnel water diversion project is getting no love from Washington these days. First, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would violate the Clean Water Act.  Now, California lawmakers are trying to pull the plug on federal funding to help launch the project.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a joint federal and state initiative financed by California's water contractors. Its stated purpose is to help restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and guarantee a stable water supply for millions of Californians. The plan includes construction of twin tunnels to carry water south to farms and cities.

The Metropolitan Water District says the tunnels are necessary to guarantee drinking water to thirsty Southern California; but most of the diverted water would go to Central Valley farmers.

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield) has called the twin tunnels project a "boondoggle." He says it doesn’t create one gallon of new water and warns that it would put San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento Delta at risk. Garamendi insists there are better ways to spend federal dollars on water projects, such as "conservation, recycling, underground storage systems so that we can move waters to the aquifers and restore the aquifers." 

Governor Brown has requested $4 billion dollars from Washington to help build the Delta Tunnels project. He faces significant opposition from environmental groups and Delta region politicians. The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to oppose the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Now Garamendi, along with fellow Democrats Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton, Mike Thompson of St. Helena, and Ami Bera of Elk Grove, have introduced a bill to block federal funding for the plan. But even Garamendi acknowledges the measure has little chance of moving forward, since the twin tunnels project is supported by California Republicans in agricultural areas and the GOP controls the House. 

HR 5425 To prohibit the use of Federal funds for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

 

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