[env-trinity] East Bay Times Editorial: How to decide if a single Delta tunnel makes more sense

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Tue Jan 16 10:27:42 PST 2018


EditorialHow to decide if a single Delta tunnel makes more sense One of Jerry Brown’s biggest failures as governor has been his stubborn, foolhardy approach to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that provides a portion of the drinking water for 25 million Californians, including more than 5 million South Bay and East Bay residents.The news Friday that the Brown administration is reportedly scaling back his $17 billion, twin-tunnel plan to a single tunnel at slightly more than half the cost is a relief for Northern Californians fearing a massive Southern California water grab at the expense of the health of the Delta.But support for any single- tunnel deal should be dependent on four basic principles: • The long-term health of the Delta and the quality of its fresh water supply should be paramount.• A full environmental impact report and a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis are necessary.• A binding agreement on who will pay for the tunnel, who will govern it and how they will determine who gets water from the tunnel must be in place.• A comprehensive water plan should accompany any tunnel plan including greater conservation, recycling, groundwater restoration and water storage.Adhering to these principles will push out the timetable for breaking ground on a single-tunnel project until long after Brown has left office. Voters will want to pay close attention when the candidates vying to replace him discuss water policy, which is easy to obfuscate.They also should track which candidates are taking money from Central Valley farmers and Southern California water districts. Both have a long history of wanting as much water as possible from the Delta, regardless of the effect on its fragile ecology and, by extension, its water quality.A single-tunnel project could have been explored as an alternative in the environmental impact report for the governor’s Water-Fix plan. But the Brown administration ignored requests from, among others, the Contra Costa Water District, East Bay Municipal Utility District and the Alameda County Water District — perhaps knowing the two tunnels would look even more ridiculous by comparison.Now there’s talk that the administration hopes to avoid doing another costly and time-consuming EIR by saying the single tunnel isn’t a new proposal, it’s just a phased approach that could expand to a second tunnel later.No way. Any plan that includes even the possibility of a second tunnel should be a non-starter. The state needs a comprehensive environmental study of digging a single tunnel.This delay in arriving at a “WaterFix” is the governor’s own fault. His desire to create a legacy with the massive twin tunnels and break ground before he leaves office has been secondary to establishing the facts and winning broad support for a plan.It’s also secondary, by a long shot, to concerns for the long-term environmental health of the largest estuary west of the Mississippi River.
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