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Task Force Unveils New Vision For California Delta

October 17, 2008

Sacramento, CA - The California Delta may be one of the state's crown jewels, but with the current drought and growing population, it's also headed for disaster. A task force has been studying the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for nearly two years, and has some grim predictions. Governor Schwarzenegger formed the panel to come up with a long-term, strategic plan to restore the Delta, which is the water source for 25 million Californians and two million acres of farmland.

John Kirlin, the executive director of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, says they've created two equally critical goals: to repair the ecosystem and improve the water supply.

"If they don't fix the Delta, California won't have the water for the future and this tremendously valuable estuary andecosystem will be lost. That's the bottom line - changes must be made or California will have a very different future."

One of the more controversial decisions will be how water is delivered through the Delta. The panel is suggesting a "dual conveyance" approach, transporting water both through and around the Delta in a newly-constructed canal. Opponents argue a canal would destroy the estuary and distress water supplies in Contra Costa County and elsewhere. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a peripheral canal in 1982, but Kirlin believes a canal is only part of the problem.

"You also need a large investment in habitat restoration in the Delta, management of flood plains to reduce flood risks, and strategic investments in levees. It is a complex set of activities that are being discussed."

Other recommendations include building new water storage capacity, both above and below ground; designating the Delta as a state recreation area; and enacting mandatory water conservation programs. The panel's conclusions will be reviewed by a committee that will make recommendations to the governor by the end of the year.

More information about the task force is available online at www.deltavision.ca.gov.

Lori Abbott/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - CA