Arguably there is no place in California with a bigger stake in the $18 billion Twin Tunnels plan to funnel Sacramento River water under the Delta to reach Los Angeles than San Joaquin County.
Altogether more than 70 percent of all water from developed sources such as reservoirs in the Sierra and Siskiyous moves through the Delta that’s been described as “the switching yard” for California’s water. And virtually all of that water flows through San Joaquin County’s portion of the Delta that accounts for nearly half of the county’s farm production.
It is why the county not only is lobbying heavily to stop the Twin Tunnels from moving forward but they are also part of a lawsuit against the massive Metropolitan Water District over their pending deal to buy five Delta islands — Webb Tract, Bacon Island, Bouldin, part of Chipps Island and most of Holland Tract — from the Swiss mega-corporation Zurich Insurance Group for as much as $240 million.
The islands consisting of 20,000 acres are located mostly in San Joaquin County and partially in Contra Costa County.
The Twin Tunnels as well as the state mandate to implement sustainable groundwater management practices, Sacramento’s requirement for 200-year flood protection, the Lower San Joaquin Feasibility Study and other water issues are part of a rare Thursday evening study session by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
It takes place Thursday, May 12, at 5:30 p.m. on the board chambers on the sixth floor of the county administration building at 44 N. San Joaquin Street in downtown Stockton. Presentations will be made on the various water issues facing the county.
The five islands MWD is buying happen to be in the path of the Twin Tunnels proposal to assure uninterrupted and clean water deliveries to the agency’s 19 million customers.
Currently water flowing from the Sacramento River watershed that snakes its way through the Delta to the pumps near Tracy and into the California Aqueduct is part of the fresh water flows that helps sustain Delta ecological systems. Removing the water that flows to Southern California by sending it beneath the Delta will make drought conditions permanent above the surface. That means salinity issues will worsen and strong fresh water flows needed to sustain the endangered Delta smelt and other fish such as the imperiled Chinook salmon will drop off significantly.
The fish protected by state and federal law as well as court order can’t be left to die. That is why the state is now in the process of working to commandeer more water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers from local water districts in a bid to increase unimpaired river flows and help flush the Delta.
While the loss of Delta water flows are expected to imperil Delta farms. The proposal to take water from the Stanislaus will impact Manteca, Ripon, Tracy, and Lathrop as well as South County farmers.
Add the need to have a plan in place to make sure all of San Joaquin County — from the seven incorporated cities to agriculture — doesn’t pump more water from aquifers than is replenished n a given year and the county is facing three major hits when it comes to water.