Gavin Newsom kills California’s twin Delta tunnels water project, makes it one

The Department of Water Resources has withdrawn permits to start the process over

The sun sets over the Sacramento River. The proposed “twin tunnels” could divert more water under than delta than is flowing down the river past Hamilton City right now. – Bill Husa — Enterprise-Record file
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom scrapped a $16 billion plan Thursday to build two giant water tunnels to reroute the state’s water system and instead directed state agencies to restart planning for a single tunnel.

The move is a blow to the vision of his predecessor, fellow Democrat Jerry Brown, who had championed two tunnels to divert water from the north to the state’s agricultural center and drier south.

  • In this Feb. 23, 2016 file photo, people try to catch fish along the Sacramento River in the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, near Courtland, California. Gov. Gavin Newsom officially abandoned the plan of his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, to build giant 35-mile twin tunnels to ship water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California, Thursday. Instead, Newsom is opting to build a single tunnel with a different design and a lower price. (Rich Pedroncelli — Associated Press file)

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to reporters Monday at the Capitol in Sacramento. Newsom officially abandoned the plan of his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, to build giant 35-mile twin tunnels to ship water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California on Thursday. Instead Newsom is opting to build a single tunnel with a different design and a lower price. (Rich Pedroncelli — Associated Press)

  • In this Feb. 23, 2016, file photo, a sign opposing a proposed plan by Gov. Jerry Brown to build two giant tunnels to ship water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California is displayed near Freeport. Gov. Gavin Newsom officially abandoned his predecessor’s plan on Thursday, opting instead for just one, smaller tunnel. (Rich Pedroncelli — Associated Press file)

  • In this July 25, 2012, file photo, California Gov. Jerry Brown waits for the start of a news conference in Sacramento to announce plans to build a giant twin tunnel system to move water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farmland and cities. Gov. Gavin Newsom officially abandoned Brown’s plan on Thursday opting to build a single tunnel with a different design and a lower price. (Rich Pedroncelli — Associated Press file)

of

Expand

Newsom had signaled the move in his February State of the State address but made the change official when he asked state agencies to withdraw existing permits and start over.

“I do not support the twin tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already been done,” he has said.

The state has already spent $240 million developing the project, said Karla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources. Some of that work will inform the new approach, she said.

Brown wanted to build two, 35-mile-long (55-kilometer-long) tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento River, the state’s largest river, to the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. Local water agencies were expected to foot the roughly $16 billion bill.

The smaller tunnel is likely to be just as long and take water from the same places but could be designed differently, Nemeth said. It’s expected to cost less.

The Brown administration had downsized the project to one tunnel in early 2018 as local water agencies balked at picking up the tab.

But the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the state’s largest water agency, agreed to cover nearly $11 billion in costs last April, bringing new life to the twin tunnels.

blog comments powered by Disqus