Water regulators have begun public hearings on California Governor Jerry Brown's $15 billion twin tunnel project, known as California Waterfix. The project aims to provide a more reliable water supply for millions of Californians.
The public hearings that began Tuesday at the State Water Resources Control Board are supposed to be narrow in focus – the board must determine whether building three new water intakes on the Sacramento River would harm other water users or the environment.
Map shows route of twin tunnels and proposed intake locations. Courtesy / Department of Natural Resources
But the hearing quickly became a debate over the merits of the entire project, which would send water through two 30-mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to southern Californians and Central Valley farmers.
Paige Schlicht of Sacramento says the plan is not a fix for the Delta.
"Its goal is not the conservation of the Delta, legal or not, this is theft," says Schlicht. "Why we need a fix at all is because of projects like this that remove water from where it’s supposed to be, which is in rivers, streams, wetlands and underground.”
California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird says the current antiquated water system in the Delta harms fish and puts the state’s water supply at risk.
“If we could build the project again, we would put the intakes in a different place. The pumps frequently are curtailed to protect fish, as a result we miss opportunities to store water for dry seasons and drought years.”
The board hearings are just one step in an approval process expected to take more than year.
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