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Dueling Proposals Are The Latest In Plan For Sacramento Delta

Evening Edition

Above: Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst with the Water Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, talks to KPBS about the debate over how to fix supply and environmental problems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Aired 2/21/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Barry Nelson, Senior Policy Analyst, with the Water Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council

Dennis Cushman, Assistant General Manager, San Diego County Water Authority


San Joaquin Delta
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Above: San Joaquin Delta

San Diegans heard dueling proposals last night to fix the problems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta. A water forum featured a panel of experts debating the environmental and supply problems facing the delta, which provides as much as 30 percent of Southern California's water.

In his State of the State address last month, Governor Jerry Brown said his solution to the Delta's problems is, "two tunnels 30 miles long and 40 feet wide, designed to improve the ecology of the Delta, with almost 100 square miles of habitat restoration. Yes, that is big, but so is the problem."

Those tunnels would be built under the delta. The price tag comes in at $14 billion.

Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst with the Water Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told KPBS that plan misses the mark. He said one concern is that if we "take too much water with that big facility, we'll fundamentally harm the delta ecosystem."

"We've done too much of that in the past," he said. "We think we need stronger standards that reflect the current state of the science."

Another concern, he said, is how much water that system "will reliably deliver and whether it's worth the investment."

"Whether we should be putting $14 million worth of eggs in one basket or whether we'd be better off with a broader approach, investing in a delta solution," he said.

Nelson's plan involves just one tunnel that he said is smaller than the governor's.

The smaller, less expensive plan is now being proposed as a so-called "Portfolio-based conceptual alternative" to the Governor's proposal.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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