Twin Tunnels Could Produce Friant Dry Year Water Woes

Twin Tunnels Could Produce Friant Dry Year Water Woes

September 5, 2014

Source: Friant Waterline 

While “progress” on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan’s ambitious and controversial twin tunnels planning continues to mostly be marked by delay, Friant Division contractors and the Friant Water Authority are looking long and hard at findings in troubling computer modeling.

Friant Water Authority directors were told at their August 28 meeting in Visalia that the twin tunnels proposal to bypass the fragile Delta not only lacks benefits for Friant users, it could actually make Friant’s future dry year water supply problems worse.

‘LOSING PROPOSITION’

“Computer modeling shows it is a losing proposition with less water supply reliability to Friant, particularly in dry years,” said Ronald D. Jacobsma, FWA General Manager.

The FWA and its member districts have been evaluating the state’s twin tunnels plan to determine if Friant users would benefit from the two tunnels’ development. That includes San Joaquin River Exchange Contractor water, Cross Valley Canal water and San Joaquin River Restoration Program recirculation in addition to assumptions as to allocation of costs amongst water contractors.

All of this is crucial in Friant’s BDCP consideration because the tunnels, expected to cost many billions of dollars, are to be financed on a “beneficiary-pays” basis. Jacobsma said project proponents have indicated Friant’s share could be about $3 billion.

“The current process has lots of uncertainty,” Jacobsma said. “The bottom line is they won’t be starting construction any time soon on those twin tunnels.”

MORE DELAY

Delay, in fact, popped up again in late August when the California Department of Water Resources indicated that the BDCP needs more work as a result of the massive volume of public comments received on a draft environmental impact report.

Nancy Vogel, DWR spokeswoman, told the Sacramento Bee, “We’re going through it and we’re going to revise and send it back out for public review. We continue to look for ways to reduce the impacts to Delta residents and landowners.”

With a revised BDCP now scheduled to be released early next year, the newest delay is certain to consume several months. The plan has been seven years in the making.

The entire program’s cost is estimated at $25 billion. The BDCP is not to be funded through the pending state water bonds, should Proposition 1 be approved by voters. The Legislature intentionally kept the bond “Delta neutral” because of controversy surrounding the BDCP and twin tunnels.

The tunnels would be an isolated water conveyance system under the Delta between Courtland and state and federal water export pumping plants near Byron, northwest of Tracy.

EPA CONCERN

Meanwhile, a new wrinkle in the twin-tunnels plan popped up August 28 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggested the project could violate the Clean Water Act and increase harm to endangered species. EPA said the project could increase Delta concentrations of salinity, mercury, bromide, chloride, selenium and pesticides.

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