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UPDATE: $24.7B water plan would impact SCV, local official says

Posted: December 10, 2013 11:22 a.m.
Updated: December 10, 2013 11:57 a.m.
 

California water officials have released a draft of a $24.7 billion plan to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, in part by building two 30-mile underground tunnels to ensure stable water delivery to millions of Californians.

The joint federal and state Bay Delta Conservation Plan, along with its accompanying environmental impact analysis, comes after seven years of study and includes plans for building the tunnels and completing significant habitat restoration work to improve the delivery of mountain snowmelt to Central Valley farms and cities throughout the state, including Santa Clarita.

“The Santa Clarita Valley will be impacted by the outcome of this process,” said Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, nothing the current system that carries water south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is aging and subject to failure in an earthquake.

“California needs to modernize its water delivery system to protect its economy and environment,” Masnada said.

About 50 percent of the water used in the Santa Clarita Valley is delivered by the Castaic Lake agency after flowing through the Delta’s current transportation system, called the State Water Project.

At the heart of the 50-year Bay Delta Conservation Plan, first unveiled last summer by Gov. Jerry Brown, are the twin tunnels with a 9,000-cubic-feet-per-second capacity that would replace the delta’s current pumping system that endangers fish and other wildlife.

Currently, the State Water Project and Central Valley Project pump water from the Delta to 25 million people and three million acres of farmland.

But that supply has been interrupted in recent years as salmon and smelt numbers declined in Delta rivers, and federal regulators limited the amount of water that could be pumped from the Delta.

Water officials believe creating an alternative delivery method from the pumps — and restoring more than 100,000 acres of new habitat above ground — will help the fish rebound and keep the water flowing to customers.

The plan also outlines how officials would conduct research and implement monitoring during and after construction of the tunnels to study the project’s effect on dozens of plant and animal species.

Santa Clarita Valley officials also believe the new system would reduce chloride content in the water delivered from Northern California. The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District recently proposed a chloride-reduction system to state water quality officials who say local chloride levels are too high in wastewater dumped into the Santa Clara River.

Monday’s release of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its environmental impact report kicks off 120 days of public comment on the plan and environmental analysis.

Funding for the roughly $16 billion tunnel part of the project will come from the water agencies that would benefit most from it, according to the state Department of Water Resources. Those same agencies would pay for maintenance and operation of the tunnel.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan can be viewed at: http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/

 

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