California moves toward single water tunnel under delta

San Francisco Chronicle –

California is moving forward with its biggest water project in decades, a single tunnel beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that will help move Northern California water south to cities and farms, state water officials said Wednesday.

The proposal piggybacks on plans by former Gov. Jerry Brown, who wanted to build a pair of 30-mile-long tunnels through the delta but was stymied by funding shortfalls and controversy.

The project shares the same vision as Brown’s: to halt deterioration of the delta’s fragile ecosystem — the pinch point of the state’s water delivery network — while ensuring adequate water shipments to the rest of the state. But the single, 30-mile tunnel presents an alternative designed to avoid a similar fate as the initial proposal. It has been estimated to cost about $11 billion, about $6 billion less expensive than its parent.

In the world of California water resources, however, nothing comes easy. Any re-engineering of the state’s coveted flows is certain to face hurdles, and big water suppliers that will have to pay for the project have worried about cost. Even before the announcement, opponents of the proposal had been criticizing it as another water grab by Southern California and vowing to fight it.