Brown revises Delta tunnels plan

Gov. Jerry Brown held a news conference in Oakland Thursday to announce a revised plan to build large tunnels to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to other parts in the state while also restoring habitat in the area.

But some conservationists who protested outside of the event said the new plan doesn’t do enough to restore the habitat of the Delta. Brown admitted that fish populations there are at an all-time low, but said the plan he is putting forward is the best option.

He said more than a million hours of work by scientists, analysts and engineers, among others, have gone into the plan and state planners have responded to about 15,000 public comments.

Brown said:

“This is a serious effort.”

Despite the effort, members of conservation groups such as Restore the Delta and Food & Water Watch said the new plan abandons habitat restoration and will be building a system that benefits farmers in the Central Valley.

Conner Everts, executive director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance, said:

“Show me the restoration.”

Everts was part of a contingent of people who protested outside the Elihu M. Harris Building in Oakland where the governor held his news conference.

Conservationists said they were upset because an earlier plan by the state called for 100,000 acres of Delta habitat to be restored. The new plan will restore 30,000 acres.

But Brown said the 100,000 acres was nothing more than an idea:

“It’s been zero for a long time.”

State officials said the cost of restoring the 30,000 acres will be $300 million.

Everts said conservationists are concerned about the populations of salmon and smelt.

A current problem facing the fish population is a water transport system that takes fish toward pumps that could kill them. State officials currently use a system that traps the fish for transport to a safer area in the Delta, according to Nancy Vogel, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Water Resources.

The revised plan announced today would build a system that protects fish from the water transport system with screens that direct fish away from the conveyance system.

Restoration, the governor said, depends on the conveyance system:

“We’re a very engineered state. …¬†We have no choice but to engineer our water works.”