California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) unveiled a significantly down- sized plan to restore his state's Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a major water resource for both agricultural and urban users. A revised environmental impact report will be circulated in June.
"Bold action is imperative. We've listened to the public and carefully studied the science. This revised plan is the absolute best path forward," says Brown.
The previous $25-billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) faced difficulty in permitting some 110,000 acres of habitat restoration over 50 years. Under the new plan, redubbed California Water Fix, just 30,000 acres would be restored but on a much faster, five-year time line.
The proposed 40-ft-dia, dual-bore 30-mile-long water-conveyance tunnels and other infrastructure from the original plan remain mostly intact, with some alterations designed to reduce the need for permanent power transmission lines and the number of pumping plants.
Designers also eliminated hundreds of concrete piles by switching proposed concrete sedimentation basins to earthen bays at the project's three water intakes.
Some of the state's largest water users tentatively support the new plan, but environmentalists were quick to denounce the changes. "The governor has now abandoned restoration of the delta as a co-equal goal of building the tunnels," says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. "BDCP is now a naked tunnels-only water grab for the unsustainable megafarms."
Brown says he remains convinced that "water users, both urban and agricultural, will invest the money [for the plan] … they have no choice. If they don't do this, they are absolutely certain to suffer serious losses in the future."