California Forum

Another View: Extensive planning and detailed analysis have gone into Delta tunnel project

Yes, Peter Gleick is confused. But in an op-ed, with the online headline “Why I’m still confused about the proposed tunnels in the Delta” (Viewpoints, Nov. 6), whether he meant to or not, he misled readers about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan – the state’s proposed solution to the ongoing water system/ecosystem crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Gleick’s Pacific Institute has conducted numerous studies on the worrisome impacts of climate change on the California coast and has offered solutions to these problems. However, when it comes to the Delta – which faces the very same threats – Gleick seems decidedly undecided about what to do. He finds numerous faults with a process that is only in draft form. And he derides the Brown and Obama administrations as having no better answers to his Delta questions than, in his words, “Uh, we don’t know.”

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan has been in development for seven years as a possible solution to the Delta problem. As part of the plan, state and federal agencies are proposing new intakes in the northern Delta that would protect the freshwater supply for 25 million Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego in the event of sea level rise. The intakes, combined with twin tunnels to transport the water to the existing aqueducts, would protect the supply in the event of an earthquake that could collapse key Delta levees. And these intakes would reduce the conflicts with migrating fish species by creating multiple diversion choices, in contrast to today’s system with pumps solely in the southern Delta.

Yes, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan offers a range of how much water can be delivered through the tunnels, because it’s impossible – under any system – to immediately resolve scientific uncertainties about appropriate flow levels. Gleick says that a final project is about to be released. Not true. Next month, the draft – not final – plan will be released, followed by a lengthy public comment period.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan to date has held more than 300 public meetings and produced a more detailed analysis of the Delta – about 25,000 pages – than any planning effort in history. Every draft document is online. Gleick says that “good water policy in California will only come about if it is guided by sound science, eyes-open analysis and public transparency.” That is exactly what the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is doing.

Progress is made only when we use the information we have to make the best decisions possible, and then act.

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