Small Delta Tunnel A Looming Valley Ag Disaster?

A recently-floated Natural Resources Defense Council trial balloon seeking to drastically downsize a proposed Delta water conveyance tunnel would have enormous long-term negative consequences to San Joaquin Valley agriculture, the California Farm Water Coalition contends.

NRDC and a coalition of environmental groups is continuing to tout a reduction from two tunnels that could trans-port 9,000 cubic feet per second of water around and through the Delta to a single tunnel of 3,000 c.f.s. The new conveyance system would extend from south of Sacramento some 35 miles to federal and state pumping plants near Tracy.

An information sheet being widely distributed by the Farm Water Coalition said that six out of every 10 irrigated agricultural acres would be in danger of going out of production because of a lack of water if the NRDC plan were ever to become reality. The organization asserts the reduction would be 33% from traditional deliveries to Central Valley Project and State Water Project agricultural contractors south of the Delta.


A western San Joaquin Valley grower, Shawn Coburn, recently told Delta Stewardship Council members that farm-ers within the CVP service area, where he farms, would receive about 485,000 acre-feet of water instead of the 1.8 mil-lion acre-feet needed to grow their crops.

“We are looking at the potential of 750,000 acres going unplanted,” Coburn said. He said the current twin-tunnel plan advocated by Governor Brown and being considered in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would provide a reliable water supply needed by farmers, families and businesses.


The Farm Water Coalition adds, “Individuals who suggest that California is going to steal land and water from Northern Californians are not focusing on the facts about land and water rights. The twin tunnels under consideration as part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan are designed to move water to which users in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern Califor-nia already have rights.

“Water rights holders in Northern California are protected by language in the California Water Code that prevents any project from negatively impacting an existing water right. Furthermore, the amount of water that will be allowed through the tunnels is limited by the available supplies in the Sacramento River. During a wet year more water can be moved because more is available in the system. When it is dry, smaller amounts would be moved.”

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