[env-trinity] CALIFORNIA WATER NEWS 12/16/10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Dec 16 11:11:48 PST 2010

December 16, 2010


Underground tunnels proposed for Calif. water woes

L.A. Daily News


California urges tunnel system for delta

L.A. Times


Delta plan gets a nod from federal government

Contra Costa Times


California $13 Billion Water Tunnel Gets Federal, State Support

S.F. Chronicle


Californians Who Rely on Delta at "Severe Risk"



State faces pivotal point in water future

Sacramento Bee






Underground tunnels proposed for Calif. water woes

L.A. Daily News (Associated Press)-12/15/10


Federal and state officials threw their support Wednesday behind the
construction of two underground tunnels as the best option for restoring
California's freshwater delta and meeting the needs of farmers and Southern
California cities. 


The diversion of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to croplands
and urban areas has furthered the decline of the largest estuary in the
West. Officials are trying to find a solution that would reduce the
ecological stress on the delta without harming the state's agricultural


Under the plan, two tunnels that are 33-feet in diameter and 150 feet below
the surface would deliver water from north of the delta to the south. Water
users would pay the tab, an estimated $13 billion. The tunnels would take
about 10 years to construct. 


The plan drew immediate protests from environmental groups, who said it
doesn't include specific goals that would measure success in protecting
salmon and other endangered species. They also said it failed to contain
measures that would lead people to conserve water. 


The delta, where the state's major rivers drain from the northern and
central Sierra Nevada, is the hub of California's water supply. Both the
state and federal government run massive pumps that siphon drinking and
irrigation water to more than 25 million Californians and the Central Valley
farms that grow much of the nation's fruits and vegetables. 


The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a federal and state initiative that would
determine a framework for dealing with the declining health of the delta, as
well as the increasing demand for its water. One of the leading players in
the negotiations, the Westlands Water District, pulled out of negotiations a
few weeks ago. 

The announcement seemed designed to give stakeholders and the public a sense
of progress. 


"The status quo is not acceptable. The status quo will only result in a
continuing and endless cycle of conflict, litigation and paralysis,"
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said during a conference call summarizing
the plan to reporters. 


Salazar and other officials also said they still considered Westlands a part
of the planning process. 


"This is the only game in town, and we're hopeful they'll be full and robust
participants as we move forward," Salazar said. 


Officials said the key elements to the plan were restoring tens of thousands
of acres of marshland and floodplains, and developing a new system of moving
water around the delta. 


In recent years, court decisions aimed at protecting endangered fish have
restricted water deliveries from the delta and have spelled major losses for
growers in the state's farm belt who rely on the delta's water to irrigate
their crops. 


The Kern County Water Agency called the plan an important development in
coming up with a strategy for restoring the delta. 


Agency officials, however, said they were concerned that the proposal leaves
open the amount of water supply that the tunnels could provide. 


State officials only said that modeling suggests that annual water exports
would be more reliable and greater than current exports.#





California urges tunnel system for delta

L.A. Times-12/16/10

By Bettina Boxall


State officials Wednesday recommended construction of a $13-billion tunnel
system that would carry water under the troubled Sacramento-San Joaquin
River Delta to southbound aqueducts, a project that would replumb a
perpetual bottleneck in California's vast water delivery network.


The proposal is far from final. It faces a new administration, lengthy
environmental reviews and controversy over how much water should be exported
from the Northern California estuary system that serves as a conduit for
water shipments to Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. The
earliest completion date would be 2022.


The tunnel plan is a variation of an idea that has been around for decades.
Voters in 1982 killed a proposal to route water around the delta in a canal.
But talk of a bypass has resurfaced as endangered species protections in
recent years have forced cutbacks in pumping from the south delta.


Some water would still be pumped from the south under the new proposal, but
the bulk would be drawn from the Sacramento River as it enters the north
delta. The water would then be carried by two huge tunnels, 150 feet deep,
to the federal and state aqueducts.


Some delta advocates remain staunchly opposed to the concept. But there is
growing agreement that changing diversion points could lessen the
environmental impacts of pumping and that a tunnel would not be as
vulnerable to earthquake damage as a canal bypass or the existing pumping


The project, which would be accompanied by $3.3-billion worth of habitat
restoration over 50 years, is part of an ambitious multi-agency program
intended to resolve the conflict that has enveloped the delta for decades.


Reaction to the state recommendations, which the Obama administration
generally endorsed, underscored how difficult it may be to achieve a delta
truce. Environmental groups assailed the planning report as "flawed,
incomplete and disappointing." And the largest irrigation district in
California already pulled its support of the plan, suspecting that it would
not restore its water supplies.


Of particular contention to environmentalists are the size of the tunnel
system and the operating rules that would determine the volume of


California Natural Resources Secretary Lester Snow said Wednesday that
annual delta exports under the project could average 5.4 to 5.9 million
acre-feet, more than allowed under current environmental restrictions - and
considerably more than environmentalists and some fish biologists say the
delta ecosystem can withstand if it is to make any sort of recovery.


Critics said there were too many unsettled issues to make such a projection,
and they accused federal and state officials of pandering to the
agricultural and urban water agencies that would pay for the tunnel system.


Officials "know the assertions that they're making aren't true," said Gary
Bobker of the Bay Institute, one of the environmental groups participating
in the delta program. "They know that the amount of water that we're going
to be able to export from the delta in the future is probably not going to
be the kind of numbers the [plan] is talking about."


Last month, the giant Westlands Water District said it was pulling out of
the delta program because it didn't think the project would live up to its
promise of restoring delta exports, which had reached record levels before
the recent drought and endangered species cutbacks of the last two years.


"We cannot justify the expenditure of billions of dollars for a program that
is unlikely to restore our water supply," Westlands General Manager Tom
Birmingham said Wednesday.


He added that the state plans and statements by the U.S. Interior Department
that the project could increase deliveries were a good sign.


"What Interior said today is encouraging. But whether Westlands reverses its
position or decision is going to be determined by what Interior does, as
opposed to what it says."#





Delta plan gets a nod from federal government

Contra Costa Times-12/15/10

By Mike Taugher 


The Obama administration said Wednesday that it supports plans to build a
new aqueduct to deliver Sacramento River water to the south, marking the
first time the federal government has endorsed a proposal that has simmered
in California for decades.


However, federal officials stopped short of endorsing a massive set of
intakes and tunnels that state officials want to build. 


With support fraying for an ambitious Delta water supply and ecosystem
restoration plan, state and federal officials issued a pair of reports
Wednesday intended to shore up support for the beleaguered Bay-Delta
Conservation Plan.


"This is the last best hope to deal with these issues in the San Francisco
Bay-Delta," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. "This is the only game in


The state report, issued by the Resources Agency, calls for five intakes and
two huge tunnels to carry Sacramento River water from the north Delta to
south Delta pumps, a project that is estimated to cost $13 billion. The
tunnels would replace earlier plans to build a peripheral canal around the
Delta, a plan that was rejected by voters in 1982 after it was authorized by
once and future Gov. Jerry Brown.


The federal report, issued by six federal water supply and environmental
regulatory agencies, was less specific and more cautious in assessing what
the plan could deliver. However, it said a new water delivery system would
help stabilize water supplies and restore the failing Delta ecosystem.


The incoming Brown administration, which will inherit the politically tricky
Delta problems, had no comment, spokesman Evan Westrup said.


The fact that two reports were issued instead of one shows that the Obama
and Schwarzenegger administrations are not in full agreement on the plan's


During a joint conference call with media members, state and federal
officials were equally emphatic that the answers to the Delta's problems lie
in the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, which is still an incomplete draft.


"This is the time to build a long-term strategy," Salazar said. "The status
quo is unacceptable."


Four years and $140 million in the making, the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan
would include two 33-foot tunnels to deliver water and a large wetlands
restoration program in the Delta that supporters say would boost fish
populations and eliminate the uncertainty surrounding water supplies that
comes when fish are near extinction.


The plan faces a series of challenges. Last month, the Westlands Water
District, the nation's largest irrigation district, withdrew support because
it said federal regulators were making demands that would decrease the
amount of water they could receive.


Although many observers and participants contend that Westlands is likely to
rejoin, another major water district with an extensive farm sector said
Wednesday that it also would consider withdrawing support if it does not
think enough water will be available.


"We need to know that the yield of the project that is going to be proposed
is at a level that is cost-effective for us," said Jim Beck, general manager
for the Kern County Water Agency.


Environmentalists, meanwhile, say state and federal officials appear to be
bowing to pressure from water agencies and threaten to knock the plan


"For them to step out and take positions on issues that are far from
resolved could be detrimental to the process. They could slow it down and
cause delays," said Ann Hayden, a water policy analyst at the Environmental
Defense Fund and a member of the steering committee that is writing the


The estimates put forward so far likely are too high in part because
planners have not established goals for recovering fish populations, Hayden
said. Dwindling fish populations will likely need more water flowing into
San Francisco Bay to recover, she said.


Still, the state report suggested that water districts in the Bay Area, San
Joaquin Valley and Southern California could receive 5.4 million to 5.9
million acre-feet a year on average under the plan. The federal report said
it appeared that the plan could result in more than 5.2 million acre-feet a


That's an improvement over the 4.7 million acre-feet that can be delivered
on average with new restrictions in the Delta but less than the 6 million
acre-feet a year delivered from 2000 to 2007.


"If it's under 5.9 "... it will require our water users to re-evaluate
whether BDCP meets their water supply objectives," Beck said.


The next several months could determine the plan's fate.


"Certainly there's a risk of failure," said Tim Quinn, the executive
director of the Association of California Water Agencies and strong
supporter of the plan. "What I'm hoping is everybody on both sides is asking
themselves the hard question: What happens if we don't find a way?"#





California $13 Billion Water Tunnel Gets Federal, State Support

S.F. Chronicle (Bloomberg)-12/16/10


California is one step closer to getting a $13 billion "conveyance system"
that would carry water from the northern part of the state to a region that
grows half the nation's fresh produce, Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar


Salazar's office today released a status report that he said was designed to
end years of "conflict, litigation and paralysis" and bring consensus to a
project debated for four decades.


The state of California today also issued a report, outlining how a tunnel
or canal would bring water from the northern end of San Francisco Bay and
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south where it would provide irrigation
for farmers and drinking water to residents.


"After years of drought, growing stress on water supplies, and with the
Bay-Delta in full environmental collapse, it has become clear to everyone
that the status quo for California's water infrastructure is no longer an
option," Salazar said in a statement.


The Delta is a 738,000-acre (298,700-hectare) maze of islands and canals
south of Sacramento created by the confluence of two large rivers, according
to the state Department of Water Resources. Runoff from the Sierra Nevada
Mountains provides water to 25 million Californians, according to the
state's report.


Maximizing the water flow for consumers while protecting wildlife habitats
has been an issue unresolved for four decades, according to California
Secretary of Natural Resources Lester Snow. The state's report summarizes
3,000 pages of research, identifies key issues and makes them easier for
citizens to understand, Snow said in a press conference today.


"This is a significant milestone," he said. "We are for the first time
within striking distance of a balanced approach."


A tunnel would provide a direct route to Southern California consumers while
minimizing interference with the wildlife on the ground, said Pete Lucero, a
spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.


Completion of a tunnel, estimated in the state report to cost $13 billion,
may take 10 to 15 years, Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of
Water Resources, said at the press conference.


U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno ruled on Dec. 14 that the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would have to rewrite its plans to protect
the Delta smelt, an endangered fish, according to the Fresno Bee.


"This is one court decision," Salazar said in the press conference in
response to a question about the case. "If everyone gets wrapped up in
litigation there will never be a decision."#







Californians Who Rely on Delta at "Severe Risk"


by Gretchen Weber 


Here's a shocker: Yes, action is necessary on the San Francisco Bay Delta


State and federal authorities provided an update Wednesday on the Bay Delta
Conservation Plan (BDCP), which is tasked with restoring the damaged
ecosystems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and safeguarding California's
water supply.


"The 25 million Californians who rely on the Delta for clean drinking water
are at severe risk," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, on a call
with reporters.


It's well established that the current system of water delivery that
shuttles water from north to south through the Delta causes damage to
wetlands and threatens native species, as well as leaving the water supply
vulnerable to earthquakes and pollution.


"There is now a clear consensus that the status quo is unsustainable," said
Senator Dianne Feinstein, in a written statement.


The report released Wednesday focuses on three key elements, which Deputy
Secretary David Hayes outlined on the call:


1. Improve water quality and restore the ecosystems

2. Rather than just pumping water through the Delta, water should also be
moved around the Delta through an underground tunnel

3. Create a monitoring and adaptive management plan for the Delta, that
would allow for flexibility


The 92-page "highlights" report is not a final plan, nor even a draft plan,
which is not expected until next year.  Instead it is a "status report on
the condition of the BDCP" and a "transition document" from the
Schwarzenegger-to-Brown administrations, said Lester Snow, head of the
California Natural Resources Agency.


Despite its preliminary nature, however, the report has sparked criticism
from environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, The Bay
Institute, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which cite its lack of
endangered species protections and a water conservation strategy, among
other concerns.


"This plan is not ready for prime time," said Gary Bobker, Program Director
at the Bay Institute.  "Whether it's the quality of the analysis, or paying
attention to the best available scientific information, or facing up to some
hard policy choices about the future, the plan simply does not pass the
laugh test."#





State faces pivotal point in water future

Sacramento Bee-12/16/10

By Ken Salazar and David J. Hayes



California's water hub - the San Francisco Bay-Delta - can no longer do it
all. Years of drought, worsening water pollution, rising water demands and
the disappearance of wildlife and habitat have left the Bay-Delta in a state
of environmental collapse. As a result, a multibillion-dollar agricultural
economy, coastal fishing fleets and the 25 million Californians who rely on
the Delta for clean drinking water are at severe risk. 


This is the deciding moment for California's water future. We can either
complete the much-needed long-term California Bay-Delta Conservation Plan on
which the Obama administration, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, water users and
other partners have made significant progress, or fall back into an endless
cycle of conflict, litigation and paralysis. 


While the conservation plan is still a work in progress, its essential
elements are simple. 


First, scientists and policymakers alike have concluded that California's
economic and environmental health can no longer tolerate exclusive reliance
on a 50-year-old system of pumping water directly through the Delta - a
system that reverses river flows, causes direct harm to fisheries, leads to
unreliable water supplies and leaves many Californians at risk of losing
clean water supplies if there were an earthquake.


Therefore, rather than simply pumping water from north to south through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, there is an emerging consensus that we should
reduce pressure on the system by also moving water around the Delta through
a water conveyance system, such as a canal or a tunnel. 


Second, to help improve water quality and restore the ecosystem to health,
the conservation plan calls for the restoration of tens of thousands of
acres of marshes, floodplains and riparian habitats in the Delta. 


Third, the conservation plan would establish a detailed monitoring and
adaptive management plan for the Delta that would allow us to use the most
up-to-date science to guide the management of water and environmental
resources. We need to be able to adjust the implementation of the plan over
time to make the most efficient and effective use of water resources and
management tools. 


These three essential elements of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan are the
foundation for a long-term water strategy that meets the dual goals of
restoring the Bay-Delta ecosystem and securing more reliable water supplies.


Early scientific analysis of the conservation plan offers cause to be
optimistic. Preliminary modeling suggests that a new north-south water
conveyance facility - as contemplated by the conservation plan - could be
operated in a manner that would generate annual water exports over the long
term that are more reliable, and greater, than the average annual exports
achievable under current conditions. 


This is good news for California's economy and environment because it means
that with science-based operating criteria and other measures to address
fish and habitat needs, a north-south water conveyance facility could be a
major step forward in meeting the dual goals of ecosystem restoration and
water supply reliability. 


Of course, there is much more work to do. Our experts are working in
partnership with the state and stakeholders to develop a plan proposal that
will meet California's objectives. 


Also, at our request, the scientists at the National Academy of Sciences are
providing input on what additional scientific analysis needs to occur to
ensure the success of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan. 


As we move forward with the next steps, it is vital that we carry forward
the momentum that Schwarzenegger, the California Legislature, Sen. Dianne
Feinstein and the California congressional delegation and many stakeholders
have built for the conservation plan over the past two years. 


We can't afford to lose sight of long-term or near-term solutions that
benefit all Californians. 


To that end, the Obama administration will continue to work closely with all
parties to advance the conservation plan, and we will also aggressively
pursue immediate actions to make water supplies more secure. 


In 2011, for example, we will continue the innovative water augmentation
strategies we initiated in 2010 as an additional assurance that adequate
supplies will be available from the Central Valley Project. These
activities, developed cooperatively with the state and other stakeholders,
include more integrated operations with the State Water Project, source
shifting with SWP contractors, and additional types of water transfers
within the CVP and SWP service areas. 


Federal agencies are also working together with state authorities in an
unprecedented way to conserve water, improve water quality, address invasive
species issues and improve levee integrity. 


Taken together, the progress we have made in the last year and the
opportunities that lie ahead present an opportunity for California's water
future we can't afford to miss. This is the moment - decades in the making -
to transform a crisis into a lasting legacy of water security and
conservation for the state of California.# 


Ken Salazar is the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. David
J. Hayes is the deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior.















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