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Stockton may become Venice but at least LA gets water

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POSTED July 14, 2014 12:24 a.m.

It is nice to know that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan has taken into account potential sea level increases in designing the Twin Tunnels to “avoid water supply disruptions and protect water quality.”

Those are the words of a BDCP representative responding to a letter on this page last Thursday from Manteca resident Stephen Breacain.

Breacain argued it would make more sense to build dikes and sea walls than the Twin Tunnels given the general consensus among government types about climate change and rising seas. Of course, the BDCP response very nicely left off the qualifier that stable water supply and water quality are for Southern California urban interests and large farms in the south San Joaquin Valley and not for anyone in and around the Delta including fish, farms, and people.

Manteca at 38 feet above sea level and Lathrop at 20 feet won’t become California’s version of Venice should sea levels increase 10 feet. That’s not the case for Stockton.

Climate Central scientists contend Stockton will be treading water if sea levels rise in the next 50 years or so.

So how will the Twin Tunnels protect the delivery of water and the quality of water that Stockton receives let alone keep it high and dry? It doesn’t.

The beginning and end of the tunnels plus the depth it is buried at protects Los Angeles water supplies from a rise in the sea level. Breacain’s point was the Twin Tunnels offer nothing to protect the Delta and surrounding communities from a rise in the sea level. Dikes and such would protect both water exports and the greater Delta ecology and urban areas.

The Twin Tunnels are designed first and foremost for securing a steady flow of export water that will require minimum treatment when it reaches Los Angeles.

There is a heavy price for myopic water development that gives little regard for the originating water basin in favor of serving an unconnected water basin hundreds of miles away where growth and/or farming has exceeded available water supplies.

The Owens Valley was a victim of the Los Angeles first and foremost mentality of state water planners. Little thought was given to the long-term water needs of the Owens Valley or sustaining the water basin’s ecology when Los Angeles water interests jammed a straw down the throats of the people of the Eastern Sierra.

Then and now it wasn’t the Los Angeles residents who led the charge but politicians pressured by developers who can’t continue the LA sprawl to generate more profits without more water.

Let’s be clear on one point: No water naturally flows south of the Delta whether it originates in the headwaters of the Sacramento River on in the San Joaquin River Basin.

A sound water plan would provide for the needs of the water basin where water is being exported from first. But in absence of sound plans, the next best thing is making sure the reduction of water during drought or times of short supply is proportionately no more severe in the originating water basin than it is in the basin that is importing the water.

Since the Twin Tunnels don’t create an additional ounce of water, it is clear the tunnels are designed to protect water deliveries and water quality for Los Angeles and not serve first and foremost as a balanced approach to water use.

If the state experts believe the sea level is rising, it is clear the Twin Tunnels were born in a vacuum. A much more encompassing solution to protecting water supplies and the environment would be the establishment of sea walls, locks, and dikes to protect much more environment and protect water supplies for many more people than the Twin Tunnels would.

In short, there is an alternative project to the Twin Tunnels which is designing and building a series of seal walls. Such  a project was given absolutely no realistic consideration in the environmental review vetting process as an alternative to the Twin Tunnels.

That’s because the Twin Tunnels never was a comprehensive water plan. Instead it was crafted as a way to meet the needs of Los Angeles and mega-farmers with environmental concerns tacked on as after thoughts.

The Twin Tunnels do nothing to protect the Delta and surrounding communities from the state’s position that sea levels are rising.

The only thing it protects from a rise in sea level is water heading south to Los Angeles.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.

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