[env-trinity] Contra Costa Times 6 2 2010

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Jun 2 15:15:49 PDT 2010

Canal critics say small one might work ;

More modest option could cost half as much 

and deliver 70 percent of the water of a major canal, critics argue

Contra Costa Times - 6/2/10


By Mike Taugher

Decades of trench warfare over Delta water might be resolved relatively
cheaply and quickly if water agencies give up their dreams of a massive
canal and instead opt for a small tunnel, a key environmental group says. 

The Planning and Conservation League, a leading opponent of plans for a
peripheral canal, picked up on the idea floated by the Contra Costa Water

"A couple of years ago Contra Costa talked about this as a good idea," said
Jonas Minton, the league's water policy analyst. "As we thought about it, we
saw there could be benefits for a smaller-sized tunnel versus a major

Building a tunnel one-fifth the size of the largest peripheral canal under
consideration would cost about half as much while still delivering about 70
percent of the water, according to Minton's group, which used figures from
engineering reports by the group studying the canal and the Contra Costa

For environmentalists, Delta farmers and others, the biggest attraction of a
smaller aqueduct is that it would not have the capacity for the
environmental damage of a large one. 

Supporters of a big canal say it would be operated according to rules meant
to protect the Delta. 

But Minton and others say one need only look at ongoing court battles and
attempts in Congress to waive endangered species laws to see that any
guarantee put in writing could be changed.

"What makes it most appealing for many is its sizing would provide a
physical assurance that water would remain in the Delta," Minton said. 

Water agencies are not convinced. They are evaluating options and expect to
release the results of those kinds of analyses in the next month or so.

The largest option, a 15,000-cubic-foot-per-second canal, "is still the
presumed leading candidate. But all of the options are being looked at,"
said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager for the State Water
Contractors, an association of mostly urban and suburban water agencies from
the Bay Area to Southern California.

Minton's group is suggesting a 3,000-cubic-foot-per-second tunnel as a size
that "might be the basis of a real discussion."

But King Moon dismissed that as too small.

"We don't believe a facility of that size would be cost-effective," she

It also would not satisfy the demand, according to Dan Nelson, executive
director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which represents
western San Joaquin Valley farm districts.

"Three thousand doesn't meet our water supply needs," he said. "It (15,000
cubic feet per second) meets our water supply needs."

Nelson added, however, "I'm encouraged they're seeing there are benefits to
a canal."

Estimates for a 15,000-cubic-foot-per-second canal run about $9 billion to
$10 billion and a large tunnel is slightly more expensive, about $10 billion
to $12 billion, King Moon said.

By contrast, Minton said a 3,000-cubic-foot-per-second tunnel could be built
for between $3.8 billion and $5 billion.

As the Delta ecosystem collapsed and it became obvious that government plans
for managing water resources were failing, water agencies returned to a
decades-old idea to untangle the state's water needs from the Delta's
ecosystem needs: build a canal to move Sacramento River water from the north
around, instead of through, the Delta.

For more than three years, a committee of water agencies, state officials,
biologists, regulators and environmentalists have been trying to craft a way
to make such a canal, or tunnel, work for water users and the Delta

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants a draft plan from the group, called the Bay
Delta Conservation Plan, by this fall.

More than three years ago, engineers at the Contra Costa Water District
began exploring whether a smaller option might work, and what they found
buried in the studies being done by the conservation planning group appeared

A smaller canal would reduce the environmental threat, cost less and be
easier and quicker to build. 

And, depending on the requirements to maintain water in the Delta and
upstream rivers, they found that the assumption that a large canal would
definitely deliver far more water might be wrong. 

"We suggested they look very closely at a small facility because it's going
to take a long time," said Greg Gartrell, an assistant general manager at
the district. "We recognized a canal was a 19th century facility.
Three-and-a-half years later, they're getting there. Unfortunately, they
haven't gotten very far on that."

"Adding more (size)," Gartrell said, "adds lots of cost but not a lot of
bang for the buck."



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax

415 519 4810 mobile

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

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