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Harder pushes bill that would stop tunnel

Congress could kill the Delta tunnel.

Under legislation introduced by Congressman Josh Harder and co-sponsored by Congressman John Garamendi, the Army Corps of Engineering would be banned from issuing a required permit the state needs to build the $16 billion Delta Conveyance project known simply as the Delta Tunnel.

The Corps has a pivotal role in the project given the water that would be diverted is stored behind Shasta Dam.

Shasta Dam is part of the federally built and operated Central Valley Project whose water is sold to the Metropolitan  Water District in the Los Angeles Basin as well as large corporate farms in the western part of Kern County and several Bay Area cities.

“By the state’s own draft environmental impact report, this project would lead to “unavoidable” impacts to delta farms – that’s a danger to our community,” Harder said Monday.

The Delta is within San Joaquin County that Harder is seeking to represent in Congress in the 9th District race on Nov. 8. The next county with the most area impacted is Sacramento which Garamendi represents. The other counties are Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Yolo.

Almost all of the farms expected to be severely impacted — as well as hundreds of miles of river ecological systems — are within Sacramento and San Joaquin counties.

Los Angeles and big farm interests want the tunnel to improve the security and quality of water deliveries.

By diverting the water south of Sacramento into a tunnel and dumping it into the Clifton Court Forebay that feeds the California Aqueduct pumps northwest of Tracy, it means the water won’t be used for fish flows or ecological purposes before it is taken out of the local water basin and pumped to the south.

By reducing water flows it will also cut into riparian water rights of Delta farmers.

A delta conveyance was first proposed 60 years ago. It was soundly rejected by voters statewide in 1982 when it surfaced as the Peripheral Canal.

Harder has been on record against the tunnel since 2018.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, while he eliminated one of the two tunnels proposed by his predecessor Jerry Brown, backs the single tunnel approach that essentially inflicts the same damages on the Delta.

“The Delta Tunnel is a zombie project,” Harder said. “Every time we kill it, the Governor brings it back. My bill will put an end to this $16 billion boondoggle once and for all and make sure every drop of Valley water stays right here where it belongs.”

This is a choice between watering a family farm right here in the Valley, and watering someone’s manicured green lawn down south. I’ll do what’s right for the Valley every single time.”

Irrigation districts on the Stanislaus, Merced, and Tuolumne watersheds that serve the Northern San Joaquim Valley have concerns if the tunnel is built, the state’s plans to increase water flow into the Delta for increased fish flows will put an even heavier burden on the three rivers.

The state Department of Water Resources concluded in 2018 that increasing the unimpaired water flows on the three rivers by 300,000 acre feet of water a year might yield 1,103 more Chinook salmon on an annual basis. The same research said those 1,103 additional fish would force 130,000 acres of croplands and orchards to go fallow. It would cost 4,000 jobs in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties with and overall regional economic loss of $12.9 billion.

To give you an idea of how much water 300,000 acre feet represents, take a drive to New Melones Reservoir. There was 619,316 acre feet of water as of Monday in the reservoir designed to hold 2.4 million acre feet.

“My concern with this project is that it’s premised on unsustainable water diversions,” Harder added. “California is privy to earthquakes, droughts, wildfires, putting the viability of the tunnel’s infrastructure into question. One bad earthquake and this multi-billion dollar project is done. That’s not factoring in the reality of climate change and how much water one part of the of the state will need to sustain other populations, including people, farms, and species that help maintain our water quality.”


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email