24 Billion Dollar Proposal for California Delta Restoration, Twin Tunnel System

Gov. Jerry Brown, Interior Secty. Ken Salazar and NOAA Asst. Administrator Eric Schwaab announced plans to simultaneously provide for restoration of the fragile California Delta, while also providing water for agriculture and drinking water.

Citing population growth, habitat loss, levee stability and water supply as issues, the proposed solution aims to provide parallel remedies.

“A healthy Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply are profoundly important to California’s future,” said Governor Brown. “This proposal 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.”

“As broken and outdated as California’s water system is, we are also closer than ever to forging a lasting and sustainable solution that strengthens California’s water security and restores the health of the Delta,” said Secretary Salazar. “Through our joint federal-state partnership, and with science as our guide, we are a taking a comprehensive approach to tackling California’s water problems when it comes to increasing efficiency and improving conservation. Today marks an important step forward in transforming a shared vision into a practical, effective solution. With California’s water system at constant risk of failure, nobody can afford the dangers or costs of inaction.”

Ten billion dollars would go to restoration, improving habitats for listed species and species of concern under the Endangered Species Act. The plan also calls for habitat projects within the Suisun Marsh, pending environmental review.

The proposal calls for a 9,000 cubic feet per second water intake and conveyance system, a pair of tunnels that will move water from the Delta to existing aqueducts. Under the plan, the intake would collect water in Freeport, CA, move it to a pumping plant near Tracy, CA, with final delivery to the California Aqueduct. The proposal puts the cost of the conveyance system at about $14B dollars, paid for by water users who would benefit from the system.

A press release from the Department of Interior lists these objectives for the proposal:

  • Science: In order to determine the benefits of additional habitat and Delta outflow to fish, the State and U.S. governments are developing a process, including independent scientific review, to ensure that science is playing a neutral and informative role in determining a way forward for the BDCP. All parties, including water users, conservation groups and public agencies will be invited to fully participate in the process. Science will guide how to best restore the ecosystem and how much water can be exported.
  • Conservation: The BDCP will contain biological goals and objectives to improve the status of a wide variety of listed species and species of concern under the Endangered Species Act, and will quickly implement new habitat projects in the Suisun Marsh and the Delta upon completion of appropriate environmental reviews.
  • Cooperation and Governance: State and U.S. governments will work cooperatively with local water agencies, environmental organizations, and Delta governments and districts under a proposed governance structure to achieve an open, transparent, and inclusive process, allowing affected parties to play an appropriate role in the governance and implementation of the BDCP.
  • Finance: State and U.S. governments are committed to the “user pay” principle, and the state and federal water contractors agree that the costs of the new water conveyance facility and associated mitigation of that facility will be paid through charges to the water users who would benefit from its development and operation. Habitat and other conservation measures in the BDCP would be financed in part by the contractors, but would mostly be paid by the state over a period of 40 years, with likely additional investment by the federal government through existing programs.
  • Adaptive Management: The proposal reflects the shared commitment by state and U.S. governments to incorporate adaptive management to ensure flexibility as factors such as climate change, new invasive species, and unexpected prolonged drought continue to affect the biology and water supplies of the Delta.
  • Sustaining Delta Communities: The State and U.S. governments recognize the need to preserve the unique communities and agricultural productivity of the Delta. State and federal agencies will continue investment in the Delta for flood protection, community development, and biological restoration.
  • Protecting Upstream Water Users: State and U.S. governments will make sure implementation of BDCP will not result in adverse effects on the water rights of those in the watershed of the Delta, nor will it impose any obligations on water users upstream of the Delta to supplement flows in and through the Delta.
  • Improved Water Management State-wide: State and U.S. governments will continue to explore new ways to satisfy competing water demands, including commitments to an Integrated Water Management approach, reducing water demand, increasing water supply, and improving efficiency of operations. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Santa Clara Valley Water District – the two largest urban regional water agencies– have committed to exceed the urban water savings target established in the 2009 Delta Reform Act by saving 700,000 acre-feet a year based on predicted future demands. This includes a commitment by Southern California to annually save more water through conservation and recycling than it receives, on average, from Northern California, as well as a commitment from the Santa Clara County Water District to meet Silicon Valley’s future increases in demand through conservation and recycling. With respect to agricultural water use, the Bureau of Reclamation has worked with local water agencies to invest close to $50 million over the last eight years in efficiency improvements in California. Reclamation is now partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide funding for projects that improve water management and create new supplies for agricultural irrigation. In the last two years, approximately $15 million in federal funding has been invested in this effort. The State of California has invested more than $47 million in similar programs since 2001.
    For more information, http://baydeltaconservationplan.com