SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBS13/AP) — California and federal officials announced plans Wednesday for a massive twin tunnel system to carry water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farmland and cities.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled the proposal at a Sacramento news conference.
“A healthy Delta ecosystem and a reliable water supply are profoundly important to California’s future,” said Gov. Brown. “This proposal balances the concerns of those who live and work on the Delta, those who rely on it for water; those appreciate its beauty, its fish, its waterfowl and wildlife. So this plan is all about California’s future.”
Gov. Brown acknowledged that there will be opposition to the plan.
Supporters say the tunnels will guarantee a stable water supply for Californians. But opponents argue the project could destroy the already fragile delta ecosystem.
The tunnel proposal faces stiff opposition from delta residents, some environmental groups and Northern California legislators.
State officials have said they don’t know just how much water would be diverted through the tunnels or how habitat restoration and decreased flows would affect the fish. They say these questions would be answered through scientific studies that accompany construction over the next 10 to 15 years.
Formed by the confluence of California’s two longest rivers — the Sacramento and the San Joaquin — the delta supplies drinking water for two-thirds of Californians and irrigates nearly 4 million acres of farmland.
The ecosystem’s rapid deterioration and the crash of once-abundant fish populations a decade ago has spurred regulations that limit delta pumping, especially during dry years. Farmers in the Central Valley say the restrictions have forced them to fallow productive land.
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