The California WaterFix tunnels are not the solution to California’s water issues.

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Proponents of the San Joaquin Delta restoration plan

Opponents of the plan to build the CaliforniaWaterFix twin tunnel system argue that the levee and canal system of the San Joaquin Delta is sufficient to provide California with fresh water.  That it is unnecessary to build the new water tunnels because the Army Corps of Engineers already maintains the canals and levee barriers, and the overall cost of the Delta’s current infrastructure would amount to much less than the $25 billion to build the new diversion tunnels.  Economist Jeffrey Michael of the University of Pacific makes this point by saying “The levee system is actually improving, thanks to smart investments by the state over the last 25 years. And for only a few billion dollars more, Michael maintains, the state could seismically upgrade the Delta’s levees, securing the water supply and the people who live behind them.”

Additionally, building the twin tunneled diversion of the water from the Sacramento River, which feeds approximately 80% of the water flow into the Delta, local farmers, residents, and environmental argue that the Sacramento River was is crucial for maintaining the Delta’s hydrologic flow.

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Heat map illustrating the importance of the Sacramento River’s water flow on the Delta

Farmers and residents of the many islands and areas adjacent to the Delta argue that the current issues of diminished water flow, which have already reduced habitat for Salmon and the endangered smelt will only be exacerbated if the new tunnels are built.

Additionally, these opponents argue that the levees and canals could deteriorate over time with the reduced water flow from the tunnel diversion, leaving their farming businesses and the safety of their homes in danger of saltwater encroachment and flooding.

Don Nottoli of the Delta Protection Committee says “we are very concerned about not only the impacts to the delta, to the way of life here, to the agricultural pursuits, the recreational pursuits, but also with the coequal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration.”  Consequently, farmers in the Delta are opposed to the potential disruption in fresh water caused by the tunnels.

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Farms along the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

 

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Map showing that the Southern San Joaquin Valley uses the majority of California’s water

Most opponents of the construction of the new water tunnels make the point that the new construction project amounts to a large water grab for the large-scale agribusinesses in the southern San Joaquin Valley.  Critics of the new water tunnels argue that since the cost of the project is to be distributed among the taxpayers most served by the water, predominantly Southern California districts, the taxpayers and municipal water agencies will demand even more water to be diverted by the new tunnels to justify the cost.

 

When opponents of the new tunnels talk of the diminished fisheries they argue that diverting the water into tunnels from the Sacramento River to the state and federal pumps near Tracy, will not change the fact that the large pumps already create a backwards flow of water in the Delta.  This backward flow of Delta water is partially to blame for the diminished Salmon populations and for saltwater encroachment.   Environmentalists also argue that an increase in pumping near Tracy, in the case of a large water grab, will cause more fish to become trapped in the pumps.

 

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The Delta’s Salmon runs and Smelt habitats are in danger of a total collapse

 

With so many unanswered questions regarding how much water will be diverted into the tunnels from the Sacramento River, coupled with the possibility of increased pumping to justify the cost for taxpayers, the opponents of the California WaterFix tunnels are against building the new tunnels.

It is clear to the opponents of the new water diversion tunnels that it would be cheaper to just continue maintaining the existing canals and levees.  In addition to saving billions of dollars of taxpayer money, they are adamant that the twin tunnel project will not alleviate the issues of fresh water flow in the San Joaquin Delta, but only deteriorate the Delta’s infrastructure.  And considering the already shady business of water grabs by privately held agribusiness many opponents to the tunnels say that the ultimate reason why the tunnels are being built is to essentially allow for large corporate agribusinesses steal more water.

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