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County At ‘Ground Zero’ For Disastrous Delta Tunnel Project

San Joaquin County is dealing with a third water disaster with permanent consequences.

And it has the potential to make the current drought that appears to be winding down plus the threat of spring flooding from a massive spring snowmelt seem like inconsequential irritants in comparison.

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, April 11 heard an update on efforts by county staff to defeat the Delta tunnel project.

San Joaquin County, with the largest land mass in the Delta, has the most to lose should the tunnel be built and water from the Sacramento River bypasses the Delta to reach the forebay of the California Aqueduct northwest of Tracy.

Public Works Director Fritz Buchman during the meeting gave a presentation regarding the county’s water-related activities related to Delta advocacy and the Delta Counties Coalition.

Buchman noted that San Joaquin County is unquestionably tied to the long-term economic, social, and environmental viability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta with roughly two-thirds of the legally defined Delta being located within San Joaquin County.

Buchman said the county “is ground zero for the disastrous, multi-billion-dollar Delta tunnel conveyance project” and the battle over Delta water.

The county, in partnership with the Delta Counties Coalition, has been working for nearly 15 years to defeat any tunnel proposal and instead advocate for a statewide water solution.

Such a solution would include water system operational and conveyance improvements, regional water supply self-reliance, Delta levee improvements, water storage, and Delta restoration.

Among the points countered by San Joaquin County and others fighting the push for the tunnel make include the following:

The single tunnel is better than the previous twin tunnel: While the one tunnel version would take somewhat less water than the two tunnels would, it is still depriving the Delta of critical fresh water flows. It could create permanent drought conditions in the Delta by hastening the export of fresh water supplies at the expense of water quality for Delta area residents.

In the event of a major earthquake, the tunnel would minimize water flow disruptions to massive corporate farms at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles area: No earthquake, including those in 1906, 1989 or 2014 has damaged Delta levees. Also the levees at greatest risk in a quake are in the southern Delta where they are not maintained as well and therefore would not impact water flowing to Southern California should they fail.

Delta water exports won’t increase: According to the Delta tunnel EIR, water exports are estimated to increase by 25 percent, average Sacramento River flows near Hood would decrease by 7 percent, and Delta outflow would be reduced by 4 percent.