The Sacramento River
The Sacramento River

LOS ANGELES – California on Monday released a draft of its $25 billion plan to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta over a 50-year period, which would be financed by a mixture of state and federal funding, as well as debt financing.

The plan proposes to change the way the State Water Project and Central Valley Project divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

It includes the construction of new intakes in the north Delta along the Sacramento River, and twin tunnels that would carry water underground to the existing pumping plants, which feed canals that stretch hundreds of miles to the south and west.

Water agencies served by the SWP and CVP would pay most costs under the plan, including the entire $16 billion associated with the new intakes and tunnels.

Other funding would come from state money, and several bond issuances. These include a $1.5 billion from a water bond measure slated to go before voters in 2014, and about $2.2 billion from a second water bond sometime in the future.

About $100 million in general obligation bonds would be issued under Proposition 1E and $63 million of GO bonds under Proposition 84. 

Proposition 1E authorized $4.09 billion in GO bonds to rebuild and repair California’s most vulnerable flood structures and Proposition 84 authorized $5.388 billion in GO bonds to fund safe drinking water, water quality and supply, and flood control efforts.

The remaining funds would come from federal funding sources, including existing and new authorizations and existing grants.

The plan comes as the state faces one of its driest years, with an initial water allocation from the State Water Project at only 5% of requested deliveries.

The water project seeks to protect delivery of the mountain snowmelt that supplies water to two-thirds of the state’s population from San Jose to San Diego, and thousands of Central Valley farms.

“This is a rational, balanced plan to help meet the needs of all Californians for generations to come,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. “By meeting the state’s dual goals for BDCP of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability, we will stabilize and secure against catastrophe the water deliveries that sustain our homes, jobs, and farms, and do so in a way that not only protects but enhances the environment.” 

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, whose district encompasses the Delta, expressed concern over the plan, calling for a more affordable, less divisive “Plan B.”

“The cost for the twin tunnels continues to increase while the amount of water that can be safely diverted from the Delta continues to decrease,” Wolk said.

The release of the plan triggers a 120-day period for gathering public comments that will be considered and discussed before finalizing the plan. Once final documents are complete, officials can begin to seek the many permits necessary to implement the plan.

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