Northern California Farmers Decry $14 Billion Water Plan

Norimitsu Onishi reports on the major rift caused by a proposed plan for twin 35-mile tunnels to take water from the Sacramento River to large corporate farms and densely populated regions in Central and Southern California.
August 14, 2012, 9am PDT | Emily Williams
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In July, state and federal officials announced plans to build two 35-mile pipelines that would run underneath the Sacramento River delta and deliver water to aqueducts that feed the various farms and regions to the south, at a cost of $14 billion. The project has caused consternation among elected officials and farmers in the delta due to questions about the impact on the region's environment and economy.

Gov. Jerry Brown and project supporters claim that the aqueducts will improve the "supply of water to California's most economically vital areas," but farmers in the delta are arguing that the increase of salt water that would accrue in the area after the fresh water is removed would threaten its fish population and the agricultural output of the neighboring farmlands.

Delta farmers fear that the project may rob them of their way of life. "'That's our rub,' said Chuck Baker, a pear farmer who like others here accused government officials and people in the south of 'stealing our water.' 'They want to take these islands and the way we've existed for 150 years.'"

According to Onishi, "Much of the delta is classified as prime farmland and produced about $800 million in agricultural products in 2009, but the output is dwarfed by counties to the south, whose agricultural production totaled about $25 billion."

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Published on Saturday, August 11, 2012 in The New York Times
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