A statement from the office of Gov. Jerry Brown said he hopes two tunnels carrying up to 9,000 cubic feet of water per second would siphon fresh water from the Sacramento River at a location south of Sacramento and north of Lodi.
The water would be shipped through and under the lower reaches of the Delta and delivered to pumps northwest of Tracy that send water to the Central Valley’s west side and Southern California.
Frances Mizuno, assistant executive director of the San Luis-Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which supplies the Del Puerto Water District, said the project should ensure more water for local customers.
“(The tunnel) is really the only way we can have some sort of sustainable and viable water supply for our future,” she said. “Our water supply is very restricted.”
The plan also considers “habitat restoration” a priority, which would include flooding some Delta islands.
The estimated price tag attached to the proposal is $13 billion.
Brown hailed the concept as one that “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."
The proposal echoes a plan from Brown’s second term as governor. In 1982, voters defeated his idea to build a canal that would ship water around the Delta and send it south.
Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior appointed by President Barack Obama, said the tunnels were an important step toward fixing the state’s “broken” water system.
"Through our joint federal-state partnership, and with science as our guide, we are taking a comprehensive approach to tackling California's water problems when it comes to increasing efficiency and improving conservation,” Salazar said.
Officials say the tunnels would provide a more reliable supply to those who depend on water pumped from the Delta, especially farmers on the west side of the arid southern San Joaquin Valley and cities including Los Angeles and San Diego. Supporters contend that the levees lining the Delta are vulnerable to an earthquake, which could threaten that supply without the tunnels.
Many, however, are lining up against the governor’s proposal, especially those who call the Delta region home.
Many Delta-area politicians are calling it a water grab, and have stepped up to criticize the idea as one that would drown Delta farms and threaten the quality of the area’s rivers by reducing freshwater supplies and drawing in salt water in from Suisun Bay.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, rallied opposition July 25 at the state capitol.
“The 9,000-cubic-feet-per-second conveyance facility being proposed could wreak havoc on the Delta and the jobs it sustains and put existing water rights in the Delta and Northern California at risk," Garamendi said in a statement.