Modesto area legislators comment on delta proposals

June 21, 2013 

The Bee invited all of the state legislators who represent our region to give their opinions on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Gov. Jerry Brown's delta tunnel plan is not the answer to our water crisis. We need to pursue less expensive alternatives that supply southern communities with quality water without devastating delta farmers and families.

Until we build more water storage capacity both upstream and downstream of the delta, diverting more water out of the delta would be irresponsible and harmful to farmers, fishermen and delta-area residents and businesses.

It makes no sense to spend $24 billion to build conveyance tunnels without adding a single drop of water to our water supply system. The delta flows at 18,000 cubic feet per second and the proposed tunnels would drain 8,000 cfs of that. Draining nearly half of the delta would devastate the region. Without increasing the amount of water in the delta, conveying water out of the delta would eventually have a negative impact on all communities that rely on it throughout the state.

Brown should instead pursue strategies that increase storage, conserve, desalinate and recycle water for communities south and west of the delta, while strengthening levees and improving the reliability of our water system for all Californians.

Restoring the delta and providing a reliable water source for Californians north, south, east and west of the delta are important actions that will take a lot of collaborative work. I encourage the governor and the stakeholders developing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to come up with a solution that will benefit all regions of the state, at less cost to taxpayers.

Olsen, R-Modesto, represents the 12th Assembly District.

California's water wars have gone on for decades, with no appreciable progress. We face a water supply crisis with no consensus on solutions. Our decades-old water infrastructure is strained to meet the demands of agriculture, increased populations and environmental regulations. Some areas without sufficient water supply have resorted to pumping groundwater at unsustainable levels, causing groundwater overdraft, subsidence and water quality impacts.

We need a 21st-century solution to meet our state's growing needs that also protect us from drought conditions and climate change impacts.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan and "tunnel project" is a significant piece of the solution; however, it is not the complete answer to California's water needs. The growing demands to increase flows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds to help restore the delta and meet our state's needs will require a more comprehensive solution.

California must invest in new or enhanced storage projects, like Sites Reservoir or Temperance Flat to capture water during wet years. Storage, coupled with improved conveyance, will give us the tools we need to move the water where we need it, when we need it — whether for fish, water quality, groundwater recharge, a healthy delta, growing urban populations or farms.

Gray represents the 21st Assembly District, which includes all of Merced County and portions of Stanislaus County.

The proposal for the delta tunnels is still in the very early stages of development. There are a number of questions that remain unanswered, given that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is still in draft form and is not expected to be completed until the fall. After the conservation plan is complete, I look forward to an in-depth analysis of the costs and benefits of the tunnels to the people of my district and the state.

Bigelow, R-Madera, represents the 5th Assembly District.

California has no control over the amount of water received but lots of control over how it is stored and distributed. Additional above-ground storage is key to the health of the delta and our ability to get water to dry communities as well as create jobs in our region. One can't even talk about tunnels without considering storage. After all, what is the point of conveyance if there is nothing to convey?

The bipartisan 2009 water package mandated that reliable water supply and delta restoration are to be treated as equally important. Every dollar spent on one will be spent on the other. This mutually beneficial agreement was decades in the making and as fragile as the delta itself, so while California may ultimately need tunnels or a canal to protect the delta and convey water to Southern California, I don't like to see this used as a distraction from the key to it all — additional water storage. The governor can go ahead and build the tunnels without legislative approval, but to consider it in a vacuum without storage and delta health is contrary to the will of the legislature and the citizens of California. Storage is the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, represents the 14th Senate District (and the new 8th District).

California's water system is in desperate need of repair. We have just come out of one of the most devastating droughts in the history of our agricultural industry. We face a catastrophic failure of the system if the delta levees fail. Our infrastructure was built to sustain a population that is just a fraction of our current population. If we continue to mire ourselves down in debate about the best solution to update our water infrastructure, we can lose it all.

It is easy to believe that since we have water supplied by our irrigation districts, we are protected. That is a naïve way of thinking. For one, as state bureaucrats look to restore the delta habitat, their proposal increases the unimpeded flows of the Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers. This is a direct result of water from the delta being needed by users south of us. Not only that, if Southern California's water supply were to be compromised, our water would fall right into their crosshairs.

This is why I support the idea currently being proposed to build tunnels under the delta. They will vastly improve our water infrastructure and provide us extra protection. Plus, they will create jobs in the short term, which we all know are so desperately needed in our area.

My primary concern is the way the state pays for the construction. Right now, the costs will be shouldered by the end users, and it is important to ensure that the lion's share does not fall on agriculture. I am working hard so that the costs are shared evenly and that special interests in the more populated regions do not receive favorable treatment over the agriculture industry. I never like to sit idly by while the details of major projects like these are hammered out. I vow to be part of the discussion and protect the rights of our region.

Cannella, R-Ceres, represents the 12th Senate District.

The proposal to build two tunnels to divert water from north of the San Joaquin River Delta to below the existing water pumps, which transport water south, is a new version of a plan the state has debated for 30 years.

For the sake of agriculture and the delta, I believe we need more storage and money to repair delta levees — not tunnels. The health of the San Joaquin Delta is dependent on the flow of freshwater through its waterways and channels. A tunnel separating water from the interior of the delta would be detrimental. That is why I have always supported water storage projects.

I was proud to join former state Sen. Dave Cogdill as a co-author of legislation to fund dams at Temperance Flat and Sites Reservoir. At a cost of $1.6 billion to $2.4 billion, construction of Temperance Flat, would nearly quadruple reservoir storage in the San Joaquin Basin by capturing spring runoff that would otherwise be spilled downstream and lost to sea.

Water stored at Shasta and Oroville dams flows south through the delta, providing water for agriculture and 23 million Californians. It's in the state's interest to provide funding to repair delta levees for the good of farming, wildlife and the environment.

Galgiani, D-Stockton, represents the 5th Senate District.

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