The Bay Delta Conservation Plan has the potential to untangle some of the expensive and inefficient knots in California's water supply system while repairing some of the damage done over the decades to the landscape and wildlife of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Gov. Jerry Brown's "preferred alternative" of tunnels around the delta may work — or it may not, and Californians still need to know more before committing the state to a new water diversion project. Analysis and environmental review are ongoing.
But because the plan proposes change, and because change is threatening to those who have a stake in the status quo — or those who are most comfortable with tired arguments and images from 30 years ago — opponents are in high gear. Their alarm has led to some specious, sometimes humorous, but in the end false assertions about the plan.
Critics of the proposed tunnels, which would bring water from near the town of Hood south to a forebay and the California Aqueduct, say that their size — 30 to 40 feet in diameter — shows very clearly that wasteful Southern Californians intend to suck every last drop of the Sacramento River to water their luxuriant lawns. In fact, there is no decision yet on the size of the tunnels. They would be large not to fill them with water but to sufficiently reduce friction to allow the water to flow by gravity. Smaller tunnels would require costly electric pumps that would leave a huge carbon footprint. The goal is, as it should be, to learn from the experience and accumulated knowledge of three decades, to avoid repeating the mistakes and to begin to rectify some of the errors of the past.