January 25, 2013

3 Min Read

One tunnel or two?

Forget the tunnels; fix the levees for more water.

We don’t need more water; we can conserve and recycle ourselves into the future.

Water for agriculture is not my problem.

As political leaders once again face the growing California water crisis head-on, the reactions to the latest idea to move water more efficiently through the Sacramento Delta are like an eight-man rowing scull with unsynchronized oarsmen. The boat goes in a circle.

I do not know if the $14 billion twin tunnel proposal is the best solution for moving more water efficiently through the Delta while preserving the fragile Delta ecosystem. However, it makes more sense than doing nothing. Yes, it is the Peripheral Canal all over again that was rejected by voters three decades ago, so get over it. That solution would have cost about $4 billion. Tunnel naysayers proclaim water users and taxpayers cannot afford $14 billion. California cannot afford to pass up another solution.

Terry O'Day, the mayor pro tem of Santa Monica, Calif., recently heralded Southern California’s conservation and water recycling efforts, saying the Brown administration's tunnel proposal should be scaled back or abandoned altogether in favor of improving the Delta levee system and investing in local efforts.

No doubt conservation is paying off and will be more important in the future as California’s water crisis heightens. However, California needs to look beyond the next generation. California will need increasingly more water, regardless of conservation efforts. To ignore that will only increase the cost of water later on.

California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has been studied ad nauseam, yet those who object to most anything that is suggested say more study is needed.

And then there is the parochial attitude with some Delta interests saying that water problems of Central Valley agriculture and Southern California are not my problems. The same attitude is evident in Southern California where agriculture’s water needs are not of concern.

San Joaquin Valley agriculture is the bad guy in this debate. Terms like "big ag" and "corporate agribusiness" are bantered around in the discussion. Never is the word "food" used by the opponents of the tunnels in addressing the future water needs of agriculture.

Maybe it’s time “big ag” adopts a parochial attitude. Let’s stop shipping peaches, almonds, pistachios, etc., to Los Angeles. If Sacramento and Stockton supermarkets want table grapes, let them find them somewhere else other than the Central Valley.

Facetiousness like that does not help, but it does reflect the lack of understanding in California’s future water needs while preserving one of the most abundant and safest food supplies in the world.

At this stage of the game, I trust those who say the tunnels will work. We seem to forget that Gov. Jerry Brown’s father was the governor who built the current water system. Today’s Gov. Brown understands how important that was to California’s future. Many of those who have studied the current situation also have ties to that past success.

Let’s quit rowing in a circle and move in one direction before the boat sinks any deeper.

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