Environment & Science

Groups concerned as SoCal water agency eyes buying Delta land

The Sacramento-San Joaquin delta from above.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin delta from above.
Photo by Daniel Parks via Flickr Creative Commons

The board for the Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District is scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider buying land in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Specifically, MWD is looking at four islands smack in the middle of the water hub of Northern California.

Officials with the district won't say what the land would be used for, but it's in the same area as a proposed pair of tunnels that would feed water from the Sacramento River to thirsty farms and cities to the south.

“It’s basically confidential information that is subject to negotiation,” said MWD  spokesman Bob Muir.

Both Governor Brown and MWD back the tunnel plan.

Conservation groups are up in arms over what they feel is a potential land grab in the making.

"It definitely feels like Owens Valley to us,"  said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla with the environmental group Restore the Delta.

She’s referring to the famous story of how William Mulholland and others bought water rich land north of LA and sent that water south to the city, fueling decades of growth.

"It’s a way to acquire water rights and it’s a way to break apart Delta communities," Barrigan-Parrilla added.

The official name for the proposed project is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and it involves building two 30-mile long underground pipes that would span the environmentally sensitive region.

Backers of the $15 billion plan say it would allow for more consistent delivery of water to the south while preserving the ecosystems in the Delta.

Opponents like Barrigan-Parrilla beg to differ. She says the project would "kill the regions during the construction process."

She also is worried that local water supplies would be tainted after the massive undertaking.

Even with the land in hand, the tunnels are far from ready to break ground. More land would need to be secured, and backers have yet to receive the necessary approval from state and federal agencies.