California in a fix over Delta tunnel project

6 November 2020

Environmental protestors in California are contesting the approval of a bond issue to fund the controversial US$17.1bn Water Fix tunnels.

Bloomberg reported that environmental groups have filed a lawsuit on the grounds that the State of California has yet to complete the necessary impact reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The California Water Fix Project (formerly the Bay Delta Water Conveyance Project) will aim to transfer fresh water from the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta – a vast, extensive estuary in the north of the state to the more populous central and southern areas where around two-thirds of the population lives.

The tunnel system includes a total 72mi (115km) of intake and transfer tunnels up to 50m below ground; this includes twin 30-mile-long (48km) tunnels of 12m-diameter, and three northern intakes with 85m3/sec (3,000ft3/sec) capacity

In defence of the scheme, the state contended that it is needed in order to protect the delicate delta watershed; protect endangered fish, and prevent saltwater ingress into the fresh water supply which would occur if an earthquake was ever to collapse the levees.

A critic of the scheme, policy analyst Tim Stroshane of Restore the Delta, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg: “There is no final Delta tunnel plan, no environmental impact report, no permit from the State Water Resources Control Board, and no Federal permits.”

He added: “They don’t even have a Federal partner for the project. They don’t know which route the tunnel will be built through, and they do not have a finalised community mitigation plan. Worse, they don’t know how much water will be available to move through the tunnel.”