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New Delta Tunnel Project Begins Taking Shape

Opponents of the twin tunnels breathed a collective sigh of relief in April when Gov. Gavin Newsom put a formal end to the California WaterFix project, but that action also called for the assessment of a single-tunnel project in the Delta. The first major step in that direction took place last week when the Department of Water Resources (DWR) initiated a series of negotiations with public water agencies that participate in the State Water Project (SWP), to amend SWP contracts to accommodate the construction and operation of a single Delta tunnel, referred to as the Delta Conveyance Project. Of the 29 state contractors, five agencies that operate north of the Delta are expected to opt out of participation in the project.

The San Diego County Water Authority has a long history of supporting a portfolio approach to address mounting environmental and water supply challenges in the Bay-Delta, the hub of the State Water Project. Photo: California DWR

Water Authority Invites Gov. Newsom to Tour Facilities, Praises Portfolio Approach to Water Security

The San Diego County Water Authority today praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for taking a proactive, far-sighted approach to water supply planning for California, and pledged to help the governor advance his portfolio strategy for water security in the face of a changing climate.

In a letter to Newsom, Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer thanked the governor for the “wisdom and leadership” shown last week with the issuance of Executive Order N-10-19 and invited the governor to tour San Diego County’s cutting-edge water facilities.

Newsom’s order directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.” Newsom then directed state agencies to scrap Brown Administration plans for a $18 billion two-tunnel system for moving water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta in favor of a one-tunnel system.

“We congratulate you on Executive Order N-10-19 and stand ready to support you and work with other stakeholders to ensure its success,” Madaffer wrote to Newsom. “If state and federal dollars are prioritized to support local, integrated planning solutions, we will realize the State’s 2009 promise to reduce demand on the Bay-Delta.”

Portfolio Planning For Water Security

The Water Authority has a long history of both portfolio planning for the region’s water security and supporting a portfolio approach to address mounting environmental and water supply challenges in the Bay-Delta, the hub of the State Water Project.

“Almost two decades ago, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors chose to take affirmative steps to change what had been an ‘end-of-the-pipeline’ mentality, when our agency relied greatly on water imported from the Bay-Delta,” Madaffer said. “In other words, we embraced then the intent of Executive Order N-10-19, and believe our experience is proof that it can be done.”

In 2013, the Water Authority joined several Southern and Northern California water districts, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other conservation groups in proposing a Portfolio Alternative for the Bay-Delta. That proposal included a single tunnel, increasing water storage south of the Bay-Delta, and significant investments in local and regional water supplies.

That approach didn’t gain enough support in the Brown administration, but it aligns closely with Gov. Newsom’s executive order.

Strategic partnerships

The portfolio approach also aligns with what history has shown to be a highly successful strategy in San Diego County, which relied almost entirely on water supplies controlled by external interests in 1991.

“After suffering the devastating impacts of drought and water shortages that year, our community got to work, determined to gain local control over the cost and reliability of our water,” Madaffer said. “Since then, the Water Authority and its member agencies have invested over $2 billion in local projects.”

Those investments include:

  • The nation’s largest agricultural water conservation and transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District
  • The first new dam in the county in more than 50 years at Olivenhain Reservoir
  • The nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, producing up to 56,000 acre-feet of water annually
  • The raising of San Vicente Dam, more than doubling its capacity
  • Water-use efficiency programs that have helped reduce per capita potable water use by more than 40 percent in San Diego County

“Every dollar of investment the Water Authority has made represents a commensurate reduction of take on the Bay-Delta,” said Madaffer’s letter.

He noted that the Water Authority and its member agencies are still at work, with more local projects on the drawing board, including a Pure Water potable reuse program being developed by the City of San Diego and the East County Advanced Water Purification Project.

“We are also continuing to plan for the future, with an upcoming study that will explore water, conveyance, storage, treatment and energy opportunities with strategic partners in Imperial Valley, Mexico and across the Southwest,” Madaffer said. “This initiative is the next generation of the Water Authority’s evolution, and the ‘poster child’ for your Portfolio Alternative.”

The Water Authority is looking at new integrated solutions such as a storage account in Lake Mead that would help raise water levels in the drought-stressed reservoir and avoid formal shortage conditions that could hamper water deliveries across the Southwest. The Water Authority also is supporting a Salton Sea action plan that will protect both the environment and public health; binational opportunities with Mexico; and clean energy generation.

Trump Pressure On California Water Plan Excludes Public, Rushes Science, Emails Show

The Trump Administration has ordered federal biologists to speed up critical decisions about whether to send more water from Northern California to farmers in the Central Valley, a move that critics say threatens the integrity of the science and cuts the public out of the process. The decisions will control irrigation for millions of acres of farmland in the country’s biggest agricultural economy, drinking water for two-thirds of Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego, and the fate of endangered salmon and other fish.

Discussing Governor Newsom’s Plan To Downsize The Delta Tunnel Water Project

During his first State of the State Address, Governor Gavin Newsom stated that he wants to downsize the Delta Tunnel Water Project along with the California water fix. Jim Madaffer from the San Diego County Water Authority was here to tell us more.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom Downsizes Delta Water Project: One Tunnel, Not Two

Gov. Gavin Newsom, diving into one of California’s most contentious water issues, said Tuesday he wants to downsize the Delta tunnels project. The Democratic governor also set out to overhaul state water policy by naming a new chair of the state’s water board. Newsom said he wants the twin-tunnel project — designed to re-engineer the troubled estuary that serves as the hub of California’s elaborate water-delivery system — reduced to a single tunnel.

California Lawmakers Push for Oversight of Delta Tunnels Project

A group of Northern California lawmakers seeking more sway over a mammoth $17 billion water project introduced a proposal Friday that would require new construction contracts to be reviewed by the Legislature. The Legislative Delta Caucus says because of the scope of the California WaterFix, the project should require more scrutiny from both the public and lawmakers now that former Gov. Jerry Brown has left office. Brown fiercely advocated for the expensive public works project that he and supporters believe will both update the state’s aging water delivery infrastructure and protect it against sea level rise and other effects of climate change.

Delta Tunnels, Diversity Are Focus Of New California Water Leader

The new person in charge of delivering water to one in 17 Americans has two big goals: seeing through a controversial public works project to build two new California water tunnels and ensuring her agency is represented by a more diverse group of people. Gloria Gray became chairwoman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Jan. 1 and made history, though not for the first time. She will be the first African-American and second woman to head the board of directors in the 90-year history of the state’s southern zone, the nation’s largest treated water supply district. It delivers water to 26 public agencies that supply water for 19 million Californians.

Big Setback for Gov. Brown’s Twin Tunnels Delta Water Project

A crucial certification needed to build two tunnels that officials believe would help solve California’s water delivery problems was withdrawn Friday, ensuring that Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet water project won’t be approved before he leaves office in January. The California Department of Water Resources withdrew its petition seeking approval of Brown’s $17 billion twin tunnels plan, known as California WaterFix, which would take water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and deliver it to users in the south.

Huge Delta Water Deal Backed by Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Brown, Kevin McCarthy

California’s most senior Democrat and most powerful Republican in Washington are teaming up to extend a federal law designed to deliver more Northern California water south, despite the objections of some of the state’s environmentalists. While controversial, the language in their proposal could help settle the contentious negotiations currently underway in Sacramento on Delta water flows — the lifeblood of California agriculture as well as endangered salmon and smelt.

Could this Obscure California Agency Derail Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels?

As Gov. Jerry Brown leaves office, his controversial Delta tunnels plan is on the ropes. Most farmers who would get water from the tunnels still haven’t agreed to pay their share. Rather than support the tunnels, the Trump administration is trying to bend federal environmental laws to simply deliver more water through the existing Delta system to San Joaquin Valley farms and cities — and just rejected the project’s request for a big startup loan. Brown’s successor, Gavin Newsom, says he would like to see the project scaled down. Lawsuits challenging the project abound.