Archive for the 'Desalination' Category

Are we finally rid of the Through-Delta Tunnel Route?

I love the Delta and our scenic waterways.

We’ve never thought it made any sense to put a major construction project through the heart of the Delta, on Delta islands and in small waterways beloved by boaters and for recreation.

Now we’re finding out that the Independent Technical Review (ITR) Committee, a group of engineers advising the DCA (that’s the Delta Conveyance and Design Construction Authority) January 31 report says:
“The consensus among the ITR was that the Central Corridor [aka the “Through-Delta” route] is logistically impractical and the ITR does not recommend this corridor be further studied.” (Page 6 of the linked report gives the details). Just as we’ve been saying.They elaborated:

The shaft locations are located a significant distance from Interstate 5, accessible by only farm roads with hindrances such as narrow weight-restricted bridges and single lanes. This makes supporting large operations, which requires a constant transfer of materials and people in and out, impractical and expensive as well as difficult to price. In addition, addressing safety, including hospital access and tunnel safety duplication, creates a costly layer or redundancy without definitive costs. While it was recognized that extensive roadway, levee, and likely barge improvements could be constructed as part of the project for the Central Corridor, the ITR offered:

  • The cost of improvements to provide reliable and safe access and egress at each site would exceed the cost of additional length of tunnel required for the East alignment.
  • Levee re-build, barge, and site preparation & stabilization is temporary work, and much of it (e.g. barge facilities) will require removal;
  • Labor and construction safety costs, regardless of improvements, are too uncertain to price due to the location and distance from any shaft on the Central Alignment to developed land/communities.

The ITR Committee is actually pushing for a different route even further East than the Single Tunnel’s Eastern Corridor, closer to I-5 for construction transportation and onto more solid ground than Delta Islands. That would be a huge win for the Delta communities and makes sense, but could have cause new, unanalyzed impacts along that route.

Regardless, that doesn’t correct the other issues with the WaterFix that have been carried through into the Single Tunnel plan. We know that the intake locations in the north will destroy legacy communities there. The location has nothing to do with the “best” location for intakes but instead because DWR has an existing water right at these locations and will not have to go through the process of initiating a new water right if it selects these locations. This is not a lawful reason to exclude consideration of other locations. We know that location of the intakes next to legacy communities is not acceptable.

STCDA believes newer, modern technologies like desalination, recycling, and conservation for L.A. Replacing turf landscaping (green lawns) in southern California with drought tolerant landscaping would save more water than is annually diverted from the Delta. That plus investing in ground water table recharge for the Central Valley, not a tunnel, are the right solutions to help those areas of the state reduced reliance on the Delta through improved regional self-reliance which is a top priority for the Newsom administration. Newsom needs to drop the tunnel plan in favor of modern alternatives.

Last Night’s “No Tunnel” meeting in Brentwood

First – a big thank you for everyone who showed up. We overfilled the room, standing room only. At least 100 people. We will post the pictures of the gathering before the meeting with our “No Tunnel” signs and banners.

Second, a big thank you to everyone who got up and made comments. The comments were awesome.

And last but not least, a huge thank you to our champion, Michael Brodsky, STCDA’s Legal Council, who drove up from the Santa Cruz area to attend the meeting.

Here is a video clip (thanks to Bill Wells) from last night’s meeting with Michael Brodsky, STCDA Legal Council, making his comments. Brodsky stated that he wants to propose alternatives that fully achieve the project objectives where a tunnel doesn’t and with much less environmental impact than the tunnel.

Here is the entire video, thanks to Gene Beley.

The stated [Single Tunnel] project objectives are:
First, to mitigate the effect of levee failure in case of earthquake which would cause salt water to rush in and endanger water supplies. The alternative to a tunnel is the common sense answer of strengthening the levees including with setback levees and channel margin habitat that have an environmental benefit and a dual benefit of protecting water supplies.

The second objective of the project is to mitigate sea level rise caused by climate change. That can be mitigated in several ways, the most obvious of which is to allow more water to flow through the Delta and out to the sea to push back salt water. And where does that water come from? It comes from stopping exporting water over the Tehachapi Mountains which also achieves the project objective of making the SWP deliveries more reliable. They’re not reliable because you’ve promised too much water in too many places.

Why do we stop it over the Tehachapis? Because the State Water Project consumes all of the electricity generated by all of California’s hydroelectric dams plus 4 or 5 billion kilowatts of gas fired carbon-emitting power each year. The State Water Project is a climate atrocity. Gavin Newsom has to face up to that. You are required by the Public Trust Doctrine to exercise a continuing duty of supervision in the public interest. And it’s obvious that the place of use in your water rights permits south of the Tehachapi Mountains must be amended so that that place of use is eliminated.

So one of the portfolio elements will contain a planned retreat from exports south of the Tehachapi Mountains, phased out over ten years.

Other elements that are included that do not include a tunnel, as I mentioned before, would be flooding some of the islands, some of the islands the levees can be strengthen, others can be sacrificed and those islands can be flooded for habitat and also as a barrier to salt water intrusion.

And you weren’t telling the truth when you said decisions weren’t made. The Notice of Preparation defines the range of alternatives. It has been written to exclude everything except Delta conveyance. So the major decisions have been made before you go to these scoping meetings.

But we are going to insist that you study non-tunnel alternatives.

What will L.A. do without the Delta water?

Many comments addressed this, and stressed that with California bordering the ocean, an obvious solution is desalination and other more modern technologies than a tunnel.

Jan McCleery’s comments included this:
In 2009 (prior to the WaterFix/Twin Tunnels) the BDCP rejected the desalination alternative saying it was too expensive. In 2013, Dr. Jeffrey Michaels at the University of the Pacific wrote about advancements in desalination technology making it cheaper and more effective. It’s now 2020. The EIR should study as an alternative to a tunnel, a retreat from exporting Delta water over the Tehachapis, replacing that water with new sources from desalination, recycling, conservation, and replacing lawns with desert landscaping. In other words, LA should reduce reliance on the Delta through improved regional self-reliance. Replacing lawns with desert landscaping would save more water than is annually diverted from the Delta. This is common sense conservation.

(Note: The 2009 Delta Plan requires “reduced reliance on the Delta through improved regional self-reliance.)

Side-Note about Reservoir and Habitat Islands

Mr. Brodsky referred to islands in the Delta that can be flooded or used for habitat. Four Delta Islands were purchased in 2016 by Metropolitan Water District were initially purchased as part of a project where two would be flooded as in-Delta reservoirs (Bacon Island and Webb Tract) and two would be modified as habitat islands (Holland Tract and Bouldin Island). See map below:

Metropolitan Water District put out a glossy describing what they planned to do with these islands to improve the Delta:

Of course, none of that has happened.


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