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Twin tunnels: Death knell for Delta farming?

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POSTED June 10, 2013 1:16 a.m.



The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could become saltier if the state builds the two massive diversion tunnels Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed to supply water to the Central Valley and Southern California.

And if that occurs, it could lay waste to $560 million of San Joaquin County’s annual farm production of $2.2 billion.  Water with high salt content ultimately renders soil toxic to Delta farm crops. Once fertile soil laden with salts - either intentionally or due to irrigating with water with high concentrations of salinity -laid run to numerous ancient empires.

That potential impact of saltier water is described in planning documents released by the California Department of Water Resources. A draft environmental impact study is expected to be released by Oct. 1, and a decision is planned by April 2014.

San Joaquin County leaders have been arguing since the first day that the $23.5 billion overall Twin Tunnels plan was unrelieved that it would increase salinity in the Delta.

And their fears go beyond just the loss of Delta farming. Increased salinity is sure to trigger environmental lawsuits to protect fish. The only way to flush salt water out of the Delta would be to commandeer more water from the San Joaquin River watershed that includes the Stanislaus River. That in turn would take water from farming elsewhere in the county as well as compromise water supplies for Manteca, Lathrop, Tracy, Stockton, and Ripon.

The Delta’s increased saltiness is just one of the possible environmental impacts of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the proposal to re-engineer California’s main water delivery system with the two tunnels.

The proposed tunnels would divert fresh water from the Sacramento River and prevent it from reaching the delta, which supplies water to nearby farms and cities. It would take it out of the river near Hood and deliver it to the California Aqueduct just beyond the Tracy Pumps.

Basic Delta facts include:

• Over half of the Delta’s 1,000 miles of levees are in San Joaquin County.

• Of the five counties with Delta land, San Joaquin County has the highest at 43 percent. The other counties with land in the Delta are Sacramento, Solano, Yolo, and Contra Costa.

• San Joaquin County has over 215,000 acres of farmland within the Delta.

• Over a third of the land mass of San Joaquin County is in the Delta.

• Most of the Delta in the primary zone is below sea level with some areas as much as 25 feet below sea level.



To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@manntecabulletin.com

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