McNerney offers Delta tunnels alternative
Congressman Jerry McNerney is bringing a bill before Congress today to propose an alternative to the California WaterFix tunnels, also known as the Twin Tunnels, proposed in the Delta.
McNerney (D-Stockton) announced the plan during a press conference on Monday at the Weber Point Events Center in Stockton.
Planning for the tunnels began in 2006, when state and federal agencies proposed adding new points of diversion in the Delta. In July 2015, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) selected the tunnel proposal from more than 100 alternatives.
WaterFix will consist of three new diversion points in the Delta, utilizing a modified pipeline and tunnel system. Additionally, proponents of WaterFix claim that the project will better protect endangered fish in the Delta, improve water quality and protect water supplies from rising sea levels, floods and earthquakes, all while supplying water to 25 million California residents.
Groundbreaking is expected for 2018, and the cost is estimated at $15 billion to be paid for by public water agencies, according to a WaterFix report from Feb. 28.
McNerney voiced his opposition to WaterFix, stating that the environmental risks associated with construction of the project outweigh the predicted benefits, stressing the need for an alternative that encourages different regions in California to supply their own water.
“We need to change the narrative, we need to think about how we can solve California’s water problems without exporting too much from the Delta,” said McNerney.
McNerney’s bill, which he estimates will cost around $12 million, will be largely funded by reducing tax breaks for the oil and natural gas industries, specifically for expenses incurred at wells that do not produce oil or gas.
Under the bill, the Secretary of Energy shall establish an Energy-Water Nexus Office within the U.S. Department of Energy that will use information on the links between energy and water to explore and implement desalination research, brine management technology, stormwater and groundwater management as well as programs for water use reduction and conservation.
The groundwater recharge program will authorize improvements to eligible land that includes installing measurement devices on wells and pumps and giving priority to states that already have groundwater management laws.
Although McNerney takes the bill before Congress today to build up support from his fellow legislators, he does not plan to take it to the Senate floor for voting until 2018.
U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) on July 26, 2007.