California Takes Step Toward Single-Tunnel Delta Conveyance Project

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The Sacramento River Delta plays a key role in the state of California’s drinking water system.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) on Jan. 15 released a Notice of Preparation (NOP) for a proposal to modernize water infrastructure in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, initiating environmental review in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The NOP, announcing the preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR) for the proposed Delta Conveyance Project, marks the first step under the CEQA process.

The proposed project described in the NOP is a single underground tunnel with two intakes that together have a total diversion capacity of 6,000 cubic feet-per-second (cfs). The NOP notes that there will likely be alternatives identified that evaluate a range of capacities from 3,000 cfs to 7,500 cfs. The NOP signals the start of the scoping process for the EIR and provides an opportunity for members of the public and agencies to provide input on the scope and content of the EIR, including information needs, potential project effects and mitigation measures, and possible alternatives to the proposed project.

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The purpose in proposing this project is to develop diversion and conveyance facilities in the Delta necessary to restore and protect the reliability of California’s water deliveries south of the Delta in a cost-effective manner, and consistent with the recently released draft Water Resilience Portfolio.

“Governor Newsom directed state agencies to pursue a single tunnel solution to modernize our water infrastructure, and when combined with the broader, statewide Portfolio approach, this project would help safeguard a vital source of affordable water for millions of Californians,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “This water supply is critical to the health of local communities, the future of the Delta ecosystem and the success of our state’s economy.”

California’s main system of water conveyance, which moves a large portion of the state’s surface water supply, continues to be under threat from flood, subsidence, earthquake, and climate change. The state-led water system that captures precipitation from the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers to provide drinking water to 27 million Californians faces major vulnerabilities as it travels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

In his 2019 State of the State, Governor Newsom reiterated his support of a single tunnel solution stating “the status quo is not an option. We need to protect our water supply from earthquakes and rising sea levels, preserve delta fisheries, and meet the needs of cities and farms.”

Public comments on the NOP are due on March 20, 2020 by 5 p.m. and may be submitted via email at DeltaConveyanceScoping@water.ca.gov or mail at Delta Conveyance Scoping Comments, Attn: Renee Rodriguez, Department of Water Resources, P.O. Box 942836, Sacramento, CA 94236. Seven public scoping meetings are scheduled to receive written and verbal comments. A listing of the public scoping meetings may be found here.

Independent from the CEQA process, DWR also intends to seek a court ruling this spring to affirm its authority to issue revenue bonds for a future conveyance facility.

As part of the state’s continued commitment to public engagement, the Natural Resources Agency has launched a new Secretary’s Delta Roundtable to provide a forum for direct conversation with Delta leaders on conveyance as well as major issues facing the Delta including but not limited to levees, flood protection, water quality, farmland preservation and aquatic invasive species.

RELATED: California Abandons Twin Tunnels, Eyes Scaled Down Delta Tunnel

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