DWR Says Delta Tunnels Plans ARE PROGRESSING; DOUBTS REMAIN
Planning is moving forward slowly on the proposed pair of water conveyance tunnels that are the key ingredient in the much-delayed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) but the project remains contentious with crucial details unresolved.
The tunnels would bypass fragile and environmentally problematic Delta channels to convey north state water from south of Sacramento to the federal and state Delta water export pumping plants near Byron (northwest of Tracy). There is much opposition in the Delta and parts of Northern California to the plan favored by Governor Brown.
Friant Water Authority leaders have considerable skepticism over what, if any, benefits the project would have to Friant Division water users but are continuing to stay closely tuned to developments.
Computer modeling indicates the twin tunnels project and revised Delta pumping operations, as conceived, could result in less water supply reliability to Friant, particularly in dry years, rather than offering any improvement or supply stability.
The tunnels would cost many billions of dollars but are to be financed on a “beneficiary-pays” basis. If Friant districts were obligated to pay some of the BDCP costs, their share could be about $3 billion, with potential supply harm rather than any benefits resulting.
Meanwhile, Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said “hard-earned progress” is being made on the twin tunnels plan. Rumors began circulating that the BDCP had run aground, particularly when federal Environmental Protection Agency authorities criticized the plan severely. Cowin said he was “surprised” by the content and tone of the letter from the EPA.