For those of you who have been following the controversial developments in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta—and even for those of you who’ve never heard of it—the state last week released part of its plan to restore the delta ecosystem and also to provide more water for agriculture and urban areas in California.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan, as detailed in this Associated Press article, calls for constructing two 35-mile-long tunnels to convey water from the north part of the delta to California farmland and cities. The delta is already providing water for about 25 million residents and about 3 million acres of crops. The water is currently pumped from the southern part of the delta; the new tunnels would replace the pumping system.
One goal of the project is to restore fish species within the delta’s ecosystem. Fish, including salmon, get caught in the pumps and killed. The tunnels, on the other hand, would take their water from different area in the north, and there would be other safeguards in place—fish screens, for example—to further protect them. New areas of fish habitat would also be created under the plan. Planners say the combination—the tunnels and the new habitat—will also offer protection from levee failures. (For more on the area’s levees—specifically, a debate over whether they should be vegetated—see this article from Erosion Control.)
Already some environmental groups and water agencies are opposing the plan—some saying it’s too experimental and asking that the tunnels not be built at all, and others arguing a single tunnel would provide enough water more affordably. The cost of the tunnels as currently planned is $14 billion for construction and $5.8 to operate for 50 years; these costs are part of an overall $23 billion planned restoration project.