Delta tunnels environmental reports released


deltaSACRAMENTO — California Department of Water Resources released the final environmental documents for WaterFix and says the data shows the state’s controversial plan to use tunnels to divert freshwater from the Delta to Southern California is the best option for increasing water supply reliability.

“WaterFix will secure water supplies for 25 million Californians and prepare for a future marked by rising seas, seismic threats and more extreme weather,” said California Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin.  “After years of scientific study and analysis, we have found the best solution for protecting both the Delta’s ecosystem and a vital water supply for California.”

The plan is vigorously opposed by agricultural interests in the Central Valley and environmental groups who say taking water from the Delta will allow saltwater to infiltrate the ecosystem, which would contaminate the water for agricultural use and hurt fish populations.

The document released by DWR analyzed 18 project alternatives, including the current system, and ultimately concluded that WaterFix, known as Alternative 4A, was the best option for water supply reliability and addressing Delta ecosystem concerns with minimal environmental impact, the department said.

According to the report, WaterFix was chosen because of its ability to provide a reliable source of clean water while minimizing unnatural flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that harm native fish and habitat. More than 100 alternatives were also considered. They were screened out because they weren’t feasible or in the public interest, DWR said.

“This project has been subjected to 10 years of detailed analysis and more environmental review than any other project in the history of the world,” said Gov. Jerry Brown in a released statement. “It is absolutely essential if California is to maintain a reliable water supply.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, who represents one of the leading groups opposing WaterFix, said Brown is ignoring findings from other studies that show fish are hurt by the tunnels and that residents in the Delta would be left with water that will not meet Clean Water Act standards.

“This forgetting on Gov. Brown’s part is reckless and dangerous as he makes his appeal to President-elect Trump to support the project,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Gov. Brown is supporting a project that will leave Stockton, California, a majority-minority city, and other Delta environmental justice communities with degraded water — all for the benefit of rich water exporters in the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California, and Silicon Valley.”

The report will be evaluated by state and federal regulators to determine whether the project meets environmental and water quality standards under the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

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