Gov. Jerry Brown and federal officials have announced plans for a future water delivery system that includes the construction of a $14 billion pair of tunnels that would divert water from the Sacramento River.
The side-by-side underground tunnels, 33 feet in diameter, would run beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and carry water 35 miles to pumps near Tracy to be distributed for human consumption and agribusiness outside of the immediate Delta area.
The joint state and federal project has set 2017 as the start of construction. Agribusiness and other interests have agreed to help pay for construction.
The project doesn't need voter approval. However, operating the system may hinge on a water bond measure that could be on the ballot as early as 2014, according to the Contra Costa Times.
On Wednesday, Brown and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken
Salazar announced a "proposed path forward" for the Bay Delta Conservation
Plan, which has been in the works since 2006.
The tunnels, which have been compared to the Peripheral Canal proposal shot down by voters in 1982, are the centerpiece of that plan.
The project announcement outlined plans for conveyance facilities on the Sacramento River, south of Sacramento in the North Delta. The facilities would be able to intake up to 9,000 cubic feet of water per second.
The project also would stop the reversal of water flow caused by the existing large pumps in the southern Delta, which Salazar called "fish-killing pumps."
The governor also recognized the seismic benefits of a new system that would sustain water supply in an earthquake.
A number of state and federal elected officials, along with fishermen and conservationists, have come out against the plan.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, rallied at the state Capitol on Wednesday to urge the governor to preserve the Delta with a focus on water storage, recycling, conservation, levee repairs and habitat restoration.
Congressional representatives who have expressed concern about the plan include Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo
Alto; and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo/San Francisco.
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