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Changes Announced for California Bay Delta Conservation Plan

The sun sets on the Suisun Marsh in Suisun City in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
CA Dept of Water Resources

The California Department of Water Resources is changing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. It includes two tunnels to carry water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to central and southern California. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the changes do not satisfy environmentalists or people that live in the Delta.

California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird says the changes prove water managers have listened to Delta-area landowners. Under the changes, the footprint of the project would shrink by 50-percent and shift construction away from private lands to public.

“We are working to meet objections and concerns in the Delta. And it’s important to remember that the construction impacts don’t involve the entire Delta, they don’t last forever, and they can be mitigated,” says Laird.

The department wants to shorten the main tunnels by five miles, decrease the height of the pumping plants by half, and only affect 81 structures with the project rather than 151. A new forebay would shrink from 750 acres to 40 and move away from two Delta communities. But Melinda Terry with the North Delta Water Agency says it’s not enough.

“I’m not denying they’re improvements, but they don’t address the 48 significant adverse unavoidable impacts. Unavoidable means ‘sorry Charlie’ we’re going to damage your area, your home, your livelihood, but we’re not going to repair or remediate it,” says Terry.

Some environmental groups have harsher words about the changes.

“It’s putting lipstick on a pig,” says Kathryn Phillips is Director of Sierra Club California. Under the proposal, dredged materials called “muck” would move to Staten Island, which is protected by conservation easements.

“They’re simply moving it to an even more sensitive area. I don’t think the changes are going to resolve our concerns,” says Phillips.

Several state water contractors called the changes a step in the right direction. The project’s environmental documents will be released in October. 

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