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$24B plus & no more water

Vogel fears SJ County will suffer severely from Twin Tunnels

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$24B plus & no more water

A couple sits on a dock along the San Joaquin River near Lathrop.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED June 20, 2014 1:22 a.m.

Supervisor Ken Vogel is convinced San Joaquin County will end up paying a disproportionately large price for the proposed $24 billion Twin Tunnel project that won’t increase the available water for Californians by a single drop.

The price tag San Joaquin County would be saddled with to provide cleaner water quality for Los Angeles and large farm operations in the southern San Joaquin Valley under the pretense of assuring uninterrupted water flows in the event of an earthquake of epic proportions include:

• The loss of 160,000 acres of productive farmland as an environmental solution to the ecological damage the Twin Tunnels would bring to the Delta. The projected crop production loss of $800 million would be just under a third of the $2.8 billion in annual county farm production. Farming is the biggest employer in the county providing some 10,000 plus direct jobs. 

• The diversion of water now used by cities and farms alike from the Stanislaus, Calaveras, and Mokelumne watersheds for the purpose of protecting the Delta ecological system by replacing Sacramento River water bypassing the Delta.

• Damaging the recreational uses of the Delta as well as hammering ecological systems.

“The price of the Twin Tunnels has been put at $24 billion, $28 billion and even $65 billion,” the county supervisor told members of the Manteca Rotary meeting Thursday at Isadore’s Restaurant. “No one knows exactly what it will cost. But one thing is for sure: It does not create a single drop of additional water for California.”

Vogel noted in the early design talks for the Twin  Tunnels the plan was to divert Sacramento River water into two 40-foot wide tunnels buried between 150 and 160 feet below the Delta from south of Sacramento near Tracy at a rate of 12,000 cubic feet per second.

When those concerned about the sustainability of the Delta and water needs elsewhere in California besides for large southern valley farms and Los Angeles pointed out the highest normal flow is 12,000 cubic feet per second at the point of diversion, the amount of water proposed for diversion was revised downward to 9,000 cubic feet per second.

And since the tunnel is being designed for gravity flow, Vogel said it would have plenty of capacity to bump up to 12,000 cubic feet per second.

“We’ve talked with engineers and they said all they have to do is add pumps and they can easily move 12,000 cubic feet of water per second to the tunnels as they are designed,” Vogel said.

Vogel added that he — as well as others — have a hard time trusting the state will keep its word that it wouldn’t add pumps at some point.

That’s especially true in light of Los Angeles facing the strong possibility in the coming years that its share of Colorado River water will be sharply reduced.

Vogel noted that even the original premise for the Twin Tunnels — the need to prevent critical water supplies from being interrupted during a major quake — is suspect.

He noted that in major quakes in 1906, 1959 and 1989 there was no reported damage to Delta levees. And while liquefaction is a concern, the faults that the original study contended cross-cross the Delta have yet to be located.

Vogel said many experts believe the levees would move more like jelly in a quake. That said, he noted the massive concrete pipes that pumps send water from the California Aqueduct at the base of the Tehachapi Mountains up and over into the Los Angeles Basin are more prone to being damaged in a major quake. At the same time, rapidly dropping ground water tables caused in part from water being diverted to the Delta to meet court mandates for flows and quality are responsible for sections of the aqueduct sinking. Neither concern is being addressed even though both could be more of a serious issue to interrupting flow south than a quake in the Delta.

Vogel believes it would be wiser for the state to invest in off-stream storage such as raising the height of San Luis Reservoir and building similar facilities as well as raising the height of Shasta Dam.

That’s because of the fact the Central Valley Project committed all of its projected water capacity without finishing dams that were part of the plan.

Vogel noted that California is continuing to grow. The state now has 38.5 million residents. He noted San Joaquin County currently has 680,000 residents. That figure is expected to top a million by 2035.

Vogel represents the eastern part of the county or 54 percent of its land mass. That includes Lodi, Escalon, and Ripon.

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