Delta Tunnel Troubles
San Francisco ChronicleJanuary 30, 2016 (updated January 31, 2016)
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to spend $3.6 million to incorporate his goal to build 40-foot-wide, twin 35-mile-long delta tunnels into state planning. In the scheme of a proposed $17 billion (and probably more costly) project, the amount tucked into the state budget is tiny. If adopted, however, future spending and permitting would need to be consistent with its purpose — to make a “conveyance” part of the state’s Delta Plan.
The Brown administration would say a conveyance plan is already part of the plan, but we disagree. Time is running out for the ill-advised Water Fix plan.
Proponents — state water contractors, labor and construction interests, the governor — are seeing cracks in their coalition. The contractors association, which has footed the bills for the tunnel environmental studies, has tapped out its members. Without guarantees that the tunnels will mean more water to ship south, it will be difficult to raise more funds.
Opponents — delta agricultural interests and environmental groups concerned about the health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary — are trying to squeeze spending and block legislative action. A bipartisan group of state senators and Assembly members, as well an allied congressional group, each has written the governor to argue against the $3.6 million expenditure. Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, has introduced a bill, AB1713, requiring voters to approve any “conveyance.” A wealthy Stockton farmer has put an initiative on the November ballot also requiring a vote of the people for bond-funded expenditures exceeding $2 billion.
Those of us who live by the bay know its health relies on healthy flows of delta water. Tunnels are no fix for that, governor.