California Scaling Back Controversial Delta Tunnels Plans

The planning process has revealed more modest potential benefits for the highly controversial proposal to spend $15 billion on tunnels to ease environmental strain on the Bay Delta.

2 minute read

April 4, 2016, 1:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Bettina Boxhall reports on the evolution of one of the state of California's most controversial infrastructure projects: a $15-billion diversion and tunnel system in the Bay Delta.

The article reveals an under-reported shift has occurred during the planning process for the tunnel project. According to Boxhall, "as the project has gone through a protracted environmental review by skeptical federal fishery agencies, reality has set in. Instead of cranking open the pumps, the tunnels will, at best, do little more than maintain the status quo."

Boxhall then goes on to detail the benefits of the project, as currently proposed, while referencing the authority of the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the project.

Among the tempered potential of the project, as currently proposed:

  • "The tunnels would lessen the damaging reverse flows. But they would not cure the delta's other ecological ailments…"
  • The project would not "escape the regulations concerning endangered species and water quality that will probably grow tougher in response to the delta's cascading environmental woes."
  • "If the tunnels are built, state modeling indicates future delta exports to the valley's thirsty fields and Southern California's faucets would average 4.9 million acre-feet a year — only a small improvement over recent averages."

The article provides lengthy, in-depth coverage of the project's history, the Delta's ongoing ecological crisis, the state of California's ongoing drought, and the politics surrounding the tunnel project.

Monday, April 4, 2016 in Los Angeles Times

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