By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
California needs even bigger Twin Tunnels plan
Placeholder Image

Sacramento has issued an edict to roll back greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels within four years.

One of the quickest ways to reach that goal is to not build the Twin Tunnels as proposed by Gov. Brown who wants greenhouse emissions reduced even further.

The reason is simple. Electricity generation accounts for 20 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions according to the state Air Resources Board. The California Energy Commission’s almanac reports 6 percent of all electricity consumed within California is derived from out-of-state power plants that burn coal while 44 percent of all electricity used in the Golden State is generated from natural gas.

So what does this have to do with the Twin Tunnels? Plenty.

The State Water Projects uses 5.1 billion kilowatts a year to pump water south including up and over 10 miles of the Tehachapi Mountains.

That accounts for 1.88 percent of the 268,000 gigawatts of electricity California uses in a single year making the State Water Project the largest power user and therefore the largest consumer of electricity produced from fossil fuels when all power consumed in the state is aggregated. As a side note power used to move water throughout California accounts for 19 percent of all electricity consumption.

Obviously you can’t just turn off the pumps and leave much of Southern California high and dry like proponents of the Twin Tunnels want to do with parts of the Delta.

Then there is the issue of water delivery interruption as feared by Twin Tunnels advocates. They are concerned about the levees collapsing in the Delta in the event of a mega-quake. If they are worried about water delivery disruption they are being very short sighted. What if subsidence from groundwater pumping by farmers denied State Water Project water causes a major failure of the California Aqueduct? What if terrorists blow up the massive pumps at the base of the Tehachapi Mountains? What if an oil train plunges into the Sacramento River? The odds of such catastrophes happening and other smaller but serious water delivery disruptions are likely much greater than a mega-quake given we’ve had three major quakes since 1906 in the region and not a single levee failure.

The Twin Tunnels projects needs to be scrapped and replaced with a project worth the effort.

Instead of sucking water out of the Sacramento River just before it reaches the Delta, the first tunnel could start at the base of Shasta Dam and the second should join it from Oroville Dam.

It would then head and swing around the eastside of the Delta away from those feared — and yet to be located — Delta earthquake faults capable of delivering an 8.0 or greater on the Richter Scale punch. After all “The Big One” is quite capable of destroying buried pipe in the ground where energy is being released as it is shaking apart stuff apart above ground.

This is where the charm of the new and improved Twin Tunnels project comes in.

Once past the Delta and as it nears Merced the Twin Tunnels could go above ground and high speed rail tracks ran between them or on top. That way high speed rail riders returning home to Los Angeles from San Francisco can beat the water they need to flush their toilets and wash down their driveways.

When the Twin Tunnels and high speed rail reaches the Tehachapi Mountains, the state can go to work making Swiss cheese of the mountain range to send pipes and trains into the Los Angeles Basin without having to crest the range that rises 4,000 to 8,000 feet depending upon where you cross.

That way you can unplug the pumps and save almost 5.1 billion kilowatts each year plus reduce the need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity to deliver Twin Tunnel water to Southern California.

Of course, high speed rail needs electricity to run so there wouldn’t be a savings or cleaner air, right?

By having the Twin Tunnels become Twin Pipes in the San Joaquin Valley they could be lined with solar panels to generate electricity.

If that isn’t enough, the Metropolitan Water District would probably be more than happy to place solar panels on the 20,000 acres that account for the five Delta islands they are buying for $17 million to help facilitate the Twin Tunnels.

Of course, there’s the little detail of paying for such a massive project. The MWD seems to have no problem paying $16 billion for the existing Twin Tunnels proposal that they claim won’t provide them with a single additional drop of water.

Spending another $100 billion or so to champion MWD’s new found religion as environmentalists would probably please their ratepayers as many of them carry the banner for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and being more environmentally friendly (when it suits their needs, of course.)

And since such a project would deny an even greater swath of California the environmental benefit of water captured behind Shasta Dam before it reaches LA faucets, it could have a name that reflects both the biggest Twin Tunnel backer and the new reality they will create. The moniker “The Keep California Brown Project” has a nice ring to it.