California Forum

We can find water solutions together

Crews work to fix a portion of a levee that collapsed and crumbled on sparsely populated Tyler Island, north of Highway 12, on Feb. 15, 2017.
Crews work to fix a portion of a levee that collapsed and crumbled on sparsely populated Tyler Island, north of Highway 12, on Feb. 15, 2017. Special to The Bee

The Bee’s editorial, “A flood policy for both deluge and drought” (March 5), poses an interesting question that has stymied policymakers for more than a decade relative to genuine statewide water solutions:

“Could the state kill two birds with one stone by spending judiciously on flood easements in places such as the undeveloped farmland ... paying landowners to let low-lying farmland flood naturally so that drought-shriveled aquifers can recharge?”

The answer is yes, when judiciously and strategically applied. The Delta Counties Coalition has advocated this message for nearly 10 years, but it’s been lost because of a focus on the twin tunnels.

Fortunately, the editorial examines what we can do, rather than what we cannot do. It says that the current estimate of the tunnels is $15 billion. This number is low. It’s almost four times as much what it would cost to reengineer every mile of levees along the metropolitan areas of Sacramento and Stockton, which is $4 billion.

Here are examples of what could be accomplished with the remaining $11 billion that would protect the Delta and statewide watersheds:

▪  Strengthen levees in the Delta and south of the Delta;

▪  Repair the Oroville spillway;

▪  Pursue underground water banking opportunities;

▪  Fund above and below ground storage;

▪  Dredge existing reservoirs;

▪  Implement conservation measures such as rainwater collection, water recycling and stormwater capture.

Twin tunnels proponents have wasted valuable resources on the project at the expense of many other water solutions, which could have been operational during this year’s extraordinary drought and runoff. The consequences are lost opportunities and a waste of precious resources.

It’s time to quickly enact “no regrets” projects in California. For example, the last state water bond (Proposition 1) was the result of true consensus. It was supported by the Legislature, statewide newspapers, voters and stakeholders in the Delta, Bay Area and Southern California.

The Delta Counties Coalition is committed to work with all water policy stakeholders to develop and implement “no regrets” projects and stands ready to participate in any process to achieve those solutions.

Don Nottoli is chairman of the Delta Counties Coalition and chairman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. He can be contacted at nottolid@saccounty.net. Kathy Miller is a member of the Delta Counties Coalition and a member of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. She can be contacted at kmiller@sjgov.org.

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