Delta Water tunnels would be huge project -- if they clear huge obstacles
Even in a state known for building some of the world's largest waterworks, the plan is audacious. Twin 33-foot-diameter tunnels would carry a portion of the Sacramento River's flow deep under the Delta on a 37-mile path underground to the present head of the California Aqueduct, near Tracy.
Pumps that now serve that aqueduct and its nearby federal counterpart kill millions of fish every year and are blamed for altering the habitat of the estuary itself, once among the world's most productive fisheries.
The tunnel project is intended to move the intakes upstream, to locations presumed to be less harmful to fish and their habitat. It would also secure the freshwater diversions from threats such as earthquakes, floods and sea level rise, ensuring that the 25 million Californians who depend upon that water do not go without.
Those risks are considered inevitable, so the DWR and its partner water agencies view the project as vital to the state's economy and well- being.
To make it happen, all of those water ratepayers, from the Silicon Valley to San Diego, likely will have to pay higher bills. The project must also survive a maze of potential construction troubles.
Digging a couple of tunnels sounds simple on its face. In reality, the project would turn much of the Delta into a vast construction zone for at least a decade, and permanently industrialize numerous scenic locations that have always been quietly rural. ,,,