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SCV residents hear Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed as solution to Delta problems

Posted: July 18, 2014 5:04 p.m.
Updated: July 18, 2014 5:04 p.m.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is not sustainable in its current state, and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is a viable option to ensure the continuing availability of a large portion of the Santa Clarita Valley’s water supply, an expert said Friday.

During a symposium sponsored by Castaic Lake Water Agency, Curt Schmutte — a civil engineer who consults for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and previously worked 21 years for the California Department of Water Resources — said the Delta is threatened by current activity and the ever-present danger of earthquakes.

“If there’s a take-home message for today that I’d like you to walk out the door with, it’s that the Delta in its current form is not sustainable,” he told a crowd of about 120 in the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center at College of the Canyons.

At the heart of the issue is the State Water Project, which carries water from the typically rainy areas of Northern California to wet the whistles of thirsty homes, businesses and residents in Southern California.

As it stands, water has to be routed through the salty water and environmentally sensitive areas in the Delta to make the journey from north to south.

The Santa Clarita Valley gets about 50 percent of its water through the State Water Project, according to water agency General Manager Dan Masnada.

One proposal put forward to try to stabilize the Delta and ensure Southern California’s water flow is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which Schmutte also discussed Friday.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan entails construction of two, 30-mile underground tunnels for water to be transported southward, rather than sent through the Delta.

Schmutte said factors threatening the Delta, and in turn the travel of the state’s water supply, include rising sea levels that could lead to salt water flowing into the Delta.

The area, like many in California, also faces the risk of earthquakes, Schmutte said. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated there is a 66 percent chance that a quake of magnitude 6.5 or greater will occur in the area by 2032, he said.

“It’s just like a rubber band being stretched,” he said. “The rubber band is being stretched and stretched and stretched, and that’s the reason the seismologists say we’re due for some renewed seismic activity in the Bay Delta region.”

Another factor is subsidence — where land in the Delta continues to gradually sink lower and lower, according to Schmutte.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not without controversy or criticism. Some have decried the proposed tunnels — and their multi-billion-dollar price tag — as a waste of money, saying additional funding should go toward reconstructing or rebuilding levees or addressing problems with the existing ones in the Delta — or to invest in new state projects to produce additional water.

The cost of the project would likely be passed on, at least in part, to residents.
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