Proposed Delta Conveyance project in California makes a step forward

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A proposal was recently submitted for the Delta Conveyance project in California, which is still in the early stages of environmental review. More recently this year, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the Environment Impact Report(EIR) Draft on the project, formerly known as the California WaterFix.

The EIR Draft marks an important step toward actualizing the Delta Conveyance project. The project is intended to reroute water movement from wetter Northern California regions to the drier South. As a result, the State Water Project (SWP) Infrastructure will be made less vulnerable to natural disasters. The SWP’s vast network of waterways encompasses the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which collects and moves clean, affordable water to homes.

According to DWR’s Director, Karla Nemeth, the Delta Conveyance project would help with modernizing the SWP Infrastructure. He said this was essential for adapting to a future prone to more frequent extremes of drought and flood. Karla further stated that two out of three Californians relied on the SWP for all or part of their water supply.

Revised plan for the Delta Conveyance project

The newly revised proposal for the Delta Conveyance project follows Governor Newsom’s direction in 2019 to downsize previous concepts. As a result, the plan involves building one tunnel, rather than the two-tunnel plan championed by former Gov. Jerry Brown. This will be a single, 45-mile underground tunnel, wrapping around the state’s existing water delivery system (SWP). Through the new tunnel system, water would be transported from the Sacramento River to California’s Aqueduct.

Two intake stations would be built along the preferred route, which will pull water from the Sacramento River. The water will then be transported underground alongside Interstate 5 before breaking off toward Bethany Reservoir on top of the California Aqueduct. This aqueduct which was built in the back 1960s has been the state’s main channel for moving water south.

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The Delta Conveyance project entails removing 71 buildings and 15 homes, as well as overtaking 2,340 acres of farmland. This tunnel would also run through several cultural resources and sites significant to tribal communities. Therefore, it could affect millions of people residing in the Delta region, including critical species like salmon and the Delta smelt. Several advocates in the region have raised concerns that the tunnel would divert the fresh water before it reaches them.

However, the Water officials gave assurances that the chosen path would have the least negative consequences of the various options. They said that the tunnel for the Delta Conveyance project would only be used during periods of heavy downpour. Especially after a major storm.

If it moves forward, the groundbreaking wouldn’t happen until at least 2028 and would take more than a decade to complete.