Soapbox

Delta tunnels plan is still flawed

Luke Ellison, research supervisor at the UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Lab, inspects a tank of young Delta smelt last month.
Luke Ellison, research supervisor at the UC Davis Fish Conservation and Culture Lab, inspects a tank of young Delta smelt last month. The Associated Press

Californians are thirsty for answers, but with more than $15 billion on the line and pressure to find a statewide water solution, The Sacramento Bee’s editorial praising the repackaged twin-tunnel plan and implying that “anything is better than nothing” is concerning in light of growing statewide opposition.

The editorial (“Status quo in the Delta is untenable,” July 19) mistakenly focused on diminishing Delta smelt populations and should have instead highlighted why the twin-tunnel plan is still fundamentally flawed.

Costs would likely be much higher than the state’s optimistic estimates. Genuine alternatives have not been considered or thoroughly examined. The main economic argument hinges on preventing water disruptions due to earthquakes, which is highly speculative, misleading and marginalizes the potential losses of life, property and Delta infrastructure. And as long as any project promotes maximum water exports over the Delta’s health, endangered species such as smelt will never recover.

Communities that would theoretically benefit from the project, now called California WaterFix, see it as flawed. While the state claims that the tunnels will protect the loss of water in the event of an earthquake, some experts assert that water losses would be much less than predicted.

Jeffrey Michael, in a recent Viewpoints piece in The Bee, calls the governor’s earthquake protection argument “economically wrong” and “morally outrageous.” The plan ignores the upgrading of levees as an alternative even though it is less costly, would reduce Delta flood damage and secure water.

California WaterFix is not a statewide water solution. It doesn’t meet the legally required co-equal goals of improving water reliability and restoring the Delta ecosystem. Instead, it could cause further harm to the unique and fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It doesn’t provide a single drop of new water and will severely impact Delta communities. The Delta region is home to nearly 4 million people, including 2,500 farmers who contribute $2 billion to California’s economy each year.

The people of California deserve a better solution and a more prudent investment of $15 billion – one that actually addresses the state’s water supply needs.

Katherine Miller is a member of the Delta Counties Coalition and chairwoman of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. Skip Thomson is a member of the Delta Counties Coalition and the Solano County Board of Supervisors.

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