Capitol Alert

Will California’s twin-tunnels Delta water project become reality?

The Sacramento Bee

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Gov. Jerry Brown’s $17.1 billion plan to build two massive tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta relies on key changes to the water rights permit held by the Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which are seeking to add new water diversion points.

Brown’s administration has said construction of the twin Delta tunnels could begin as soon as 2018, clearing the way for a massive alteration in the way water is diverted from the Delta to the Central Valley and Southern California. The State Water Resources Control Board, which oversees water rights and water quality in the Delta, is expected to hear testimony on whether to approve the petition.

Changes to the water permit are needed before construction can begin.

The powerful Water Board is assessing potential impacts of the project, called the California WaterFix, on water users and potential environmental damage to sensitive fish and wildlife habitat.

State water officials, in requesting the permit change, said “it takes the sophisticated use of water to make California the most populous state in the nation, with the most productive farm economy and a rich abundance of wildlife and natural beauty...DWR pursues the California WaterFix to better protect native fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and to safeguard water supplies for future generations.”

The project has drawn fierce opposition from environmental groups, who argue the state should take less water out of the Delta.

Hearings on the proposed new diversion and re-diversion points start at 9 a.m. at the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Sacramento headquarters, 1001 I St. It’s the latest in a series of public hearings state water officials are holding in the coming months on the project.

Before former President Barack Obama left office, officials with his administration took steps to advance the tunnels, calling the project essential for the state’s water supply and environment.

The tunnels would cost $14.9 billion for design and construction, $1.4 billion for operations and maintenance and $796 million to offset impacts of construction and other needs, according to an analysis by the California Natural Resources Agency. The bulk of the costs would be paid for by public water agencies and likely passed on to consumers.

OROVILLE DAM HEARING: Today’s most promising legislative hearing is also about water – the kind that cascaded over the fractured spillway at Oroville Dam this winter. Resources Secretary John Laird and Acting Department of Water Resources Director Bill Croyle face the music at 9 a.m. in Room 4203.

WORTH REPEATING: “They could torture me, and they did ... but they could never, ever break my spirit.”

Dr. Edith Eger, a Holocaust survivor, who spoke to the Assembly for Holocaust Memorial Day

DRIVERLESS VEHICLES: A DMV hearing on proposed regulations for driverless vehicles is set for 10 a.m. at the California Department of Water Resources auditorium, at 1416 9th St., Sacramento.

As ride-sharing companies such as Uber move to test driverless vehicle technology, state transportation officials are eying new rules. The rules, primarily aimed at road safety, require a driver to be behind the wheel while testing and permits are required.

DMV officials will discuss public input for the proposed regulations. The public comment period ended April 24, but people can weigh in at the 10 a.m. hearing. It will also be livestreamed.

FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION: The University of California Center in Sacramento is holding a discussion on the future of transportation and mobility, which event organizers say is “on the cusp of not just one transformation, but several” – with the increase of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, bikesharing, vehicle automation and electric vehicles.

Susie Pike, a researcher with the Future Mobility Initiative at UC Davis and Joan Walker from UC Berkeley’s civil and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering department will lead the discussion and analyze changes in how we get around, and the impact of new technologies on the economy and environment. The lunchtime event is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1130 K St., Room LL3, Sacramento.

LATINA DAY OF ACTION: State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is set to speak at the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality conference at 11:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento. The annual public policy conference will features 400 Latina leaders from across the state. Jones is expected to talk about efforts to increase diversity within the state’s $288 billion insurance industry, including among insurance governing boards.

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CELEBRATE: Happy birthday to state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills, who turns 59 today.

Angela Hart: 916-326-5528, @ahartreports