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Delta twin tunnels revamp: One eyed-monster is still a monster
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Gov. Gavin Newsom got it half right.

Eliminating one of the Twin Tunnels was a step in the right direction. Eliminating the other tunnel would be the best for California.

The premise for the Twin Tunnels — just like the ill-fated Twin Tunnels 1.0 known as the Peripheral Canal that went down in flames at the ballot box in 1982 and ended up triggering a seismic realignment of California politics — is to provide a stable flow of water out of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins and into the Los Angeles Basin.

Proponents of the Twin Tunnels argue until they are blue in the face that the endeavor projected to cost $16 billion would not be taking another single drop of water.

What they don’t say is that it will deny a humongous amount of life-giving water from the Delta ecological system as well as make Southern California’s urban growth machine and large corporate farmers on the southwest side of the San Joaquin Valley much more bullet proof from future droughts and court orders revolving around fish flows than those residing in the basins they are siphoning water from.

They will tell you no harm will come from a 35-mile tunnel filled with water bypassing the Delta from south of Sacramento to dump it directly into the California Aqueduct. That’s like saying if doctors inserted new veins so 60 percent or so of the blood originating from your heart will bypass your torso and upper leg that there will be no harm done.

The water that meanders through the Delta now in a much longer route than the 35-mile tunnel plan supports ecological systems for fish and more, is tapped by farmers without the benefit of cooperate lawyers and lobbyists to wine and dine power brokers in Sacramento, and helps hold back salt water intrusion not just in surface waters but also in the aquifers that cities such as Tracy, Lathrop, Manteca, Stockton, and Ripon tap into for drinking water.

As a double whammy for people in the region water needed to keep fresh water levels at a point critical for protecting the Delta habitat and ecological system has to come from somewhere. The most likely and convenient candidates are the watersheds of the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers that are the lifeblood of the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

In order to keep Los Angeles and the coastal cities from the pain of future droughts and court ordered flows for fish as well as protect the profits of large swaths of farms owned by conglomerates traded on Wall Street they will turn the Northern San Joaquin Valley into Owens Valley 2.0.The Los Angeles Aqueduct and pipe system put in place almost a century ago took water from out of the Owens River Basin that would have flowed down the Owens River, recharged ground water, and feed Owens Lake that at one time was teaming with fish and the skies above it often darkened by large flocks of migrating waterfowl. Los Angeles, after masking their intentions with a public relations campaign not unlike what you are seeing today, put in place the least expensive system that would keep them almost 100 percent whole in dry years. The system relied on gravity instead of a more expensive alternative never considered that would have involved pumping water uphill out of Owens Lake after the runoff from the eastern Sierra had flowed down the river and feed the lake’s ecological system.

Most of Los Angeles’ water needs could have been met with relatively minimal damage to Owens Valley. Instead large swaths of once fertile farmland reverted to desert and its cities and commerce were slammed so hard that the region now relies on jobs provided by Los Angeles Water & Power as well as a tourism industry fueled primarily from much wealthier Southern California visitors who would not have been able to live or secure good paying jobs in the LA Basin without the help of water taken from the Owens Valley basin that was needed to support and sustain Los Angeles growth.

It’s ironic that when Newsom rolled out his plan that drops the idea of stabbing the Delta and the Northern San Joaquin Valley twice in the heart in favor of a more efficient kill with one long and deep stab, supporters of his death sentence for this region now argue the pumping that is so powerful that it can reverse the flow of water needs to be phased out because it consumes expensive energy.

Assuming they don’t think reversing the flow of water is bad thing based on the fact it enables water to be lifted out of its natural basin to go elsewhere where it would never flow such as through nozzles hosing down Los Angeles driveways, why are they so worried about pumping being phased out?

The answer is money. Assuming the $16 billion cost of the Twin Tunnels plan was wildly underestimated just like the high speed rail project — another mammoth venture that also once overs the San Joaquin Valley for the benefit of propping up populations in Los Angeles and San Francisco so they can become wealthier — the single tunnel plan will likely cost $16 billion by itself if not significantly more.

The pumps near Tracy just like the pumps at the base of the Tehachapi Mountains consume an inordinate amount of expensive electricity to move water. In the long run having water move through the Delta and into another basin without the need to pump it when it starts its journey south avoids a lot of cost. Eventually whatever Southern California water agencies and water districts supplying mega corporate farms end up paying for the tunnel will be offset by savings to a point they will be money ahead.

You’ll notice this time out no one is yapping about how all of the levees in the Delta are likely to collapse in the next “Big One” cutting off a large portion of LA’s water for six months to a year. That’s because there have been major quakes over the past 120 years on the San Andreas Fault without a levee break. Proponents of the tunnel project were never able to find evidence of an active fault in the Delta that would do the same thing.

Earthen levees — unlike solid structures — roll with the flow like Jell-O during a quake and don’t snap like twigs.

That said levees just like dams such as Oroville Dam need periodic major revamps to withstand the accumulative forces of wind and water.

Yes, water as in too much of it during severe snow melts and such, and not quakes are a bigger threat to the levees.

Why not upgrade levees in critical locations that the state has thrown roadblocks into every attempt to do so over the years for pennies on the dollar instead? Los Angeles still gets water they’ve being taking for years and the current ecological system of the Delta can remain basically the same except for temporary disturbances required for levee work.

The Twin Tunnels plan had all the subtle impacts on the Delta as did a stroll by Godzilla through Tokyo. Blind Godzilla in one eye and it won’t reduce his wrath and destruction. The same is true going from two tunnels to one.