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Public Comment on Delta Tunnels Plan Ends Friday

The Sacramento Delta. Credit: ronijava/iStock
The Sacramento Delta. Credit: ronijava/iStock
October 28, 2015

Californians only have two more days to put in their two cents about the state's $15.5 billion plan to build two 30-mile tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento Delta.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of a nonprofit called "Restore the Delta," claimed the tunnels will do more harm than good.

"It will destroy the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary, a tourism industry that's tied to a healthy bay, and crab fisheries and salmon fisheries, a $5.2 billion agricultural economy in the delta, and will ruin the drinking water for close to a million people," she said.

Barrigan-Parrilla argued that the state should scrap the tunnel plan and instead buy up parched land in the San Joaquin Valley, fallow it and get the water rights back so water districts can't just resell the rights to delta water.

Nancy Vogel, deputy secretary for communications at the California Natural Resources Agency, said the twin tunnels are an important upgrade to the water infrastructure that would fix a problem with the current pumping system, which reverses the flow of water in certain channels and harms migratory fish such as salmon and delta smelt.

"The governor's proposal is intended to improve the ecology in the delta for native fish," she said, "and also to improve water supply reliability for much of the state."

On average, Vogel said, about 5 million acre-feet of water a year is diverted from the delta, which supplies two-thirds of California's population and one-third of the irrigated farmland.

Once the public comment period ends, the proposal will be revised and submitted to the multiple agencies for permits, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Water Resources Control Board and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

More information on the plan is online at baydeltaconservationplan.com.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA