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Brown Defends Delta Tunnels Project, Agriculture Industry

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the Association of California Water Agencies conference Wednesday in Sacramento.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Updated at 8:20pm to add a statement from the governor's office.

California Gov. Jerry Brown says opponents of his Delta water tunnel proposal should just “shut up.” He spoke to the Association of California Water Agencies in Sacramento Wednesday.

One day after the State Water Resources Control Board set mandatory reduction requirements for every local water agency, Brown thanked the agencies for helping California through the drought.

And then, he turned to what many in the room believe is their future water source: two tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to move water south.

Brown said his administration has already spent a million hours planning the project. So, he told opponents, “Until you put a million hours into it, shut up! Cause you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!”

The governor's office later said he was speaking in jest. “We listen to critics and supporters alike,” Press Secretary Evan Westrup said in a statement. “That’s a big part of the million hours we’ve put into this project and we’ll keep the same open spirit in the coming months.”

One of the project’s leading opposition groups, Restore the Delta, said it will not shut up, adding: “When the governor ignores the voice of the people, the people need to speak louder.”

Brown also defended the agriculture industry, which faces calls to further reduce water use during the drought.

“Okay, let’s control almonds,” Brown said, alluding to a frequent complaint that almonds require too much water. “Who’s gonna control almonds? If we control almonds, how about broccoli? How about steaks? How about our whole life?”

The governor said California must strike a balance to live within existing water resources while preserving individual liberty and decision-making.

 drought

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio