(For the current status of events, see our “Events” page.)

    1940s: The Peripheral Canal was a series of proposals starting in the 1940s to divert water from California’s Sacramento River, around the periphery of the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, to uses farther south.

    1982: The proposals culminated during Jerry Brown’s first time as Governor when Proposition 9, also known as the Peripheral Canal Act, was on the June 8, 1982 ballot in California. Voters voted down the act.

    2006: The process started to develop what became known as the Bay and Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

    2009: The Legislature wrote the Delta Reform Act requiring any project in the Delta meet the two co-equal goals: Protecting the Delta as a Place (including the people, fish, and rural quality of the area) while providing excess water for beneficial use. They established the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) with direction to write a Delta Plan to meet the co-equal goals and approve any project to be undertaken in the Delta.

    2010: The stated goal was two-fold: to build habitat for the fish, a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), plus a Peripheral Canal.

    2011: Jerry Brown was back and made the Twin Tunnels one of the key objectives over his 8-years as Governor.

    2013: A draft of the BDCP and associated Draft EIR/EIS were released. The preferred BDCP alternative, a through-Delta canal, received such push-back that it was re-written as two tunnels, the Twin Tunnels, to go under the Delta, supposedly not “through it”. But as the plan was released, it was clear that the construction would be ripping up the Delta. The EPA rejected the HCP portion of the plan (because it would kill the fish, not save them).

    2015: In 2015, BDCP was split into two projects: California EcoRestore (the HCP part) and California WaterFix (the through-Delta tunnel construction). Only WaterFix received attention.

    2018: Various water contractors were chosen to form the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA), to provide engineering and design support for the tunnel project. At the end of 2018, after years of testimonies about the detriment the tunnel project would inflict on Delta communities and the Delta environment, the DSC Staff agreed that the tunnel project was not consistent with the Delta Plan.

    2019: After an eight-year epic battle we defeated the twin tunnels! The California WaterFix project was withdrawn. And Jerry Brown was out as Governor without succeeding in starting his pet project. But the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) continued being funded and design work proceeded. The DCA selected members of the Delta to take part in a Stakeholder Engagement Committee (SEC). Design work was continuing based on the rejected WaterFix project plan.

    2020 One Tunnel: The DCA design effort continued in 2020. The one tunnel plan appears to have Governor Newsom’s support. Our work is not done.


  • The Delta Plan. The Legislature passed the Delta Reform Act of 2009 requiring a Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) be established and write a Delta Plan to support the co-equal goals of:
    1. protecting the Delta as a Place for communities, Delta farming, fish, and boating and recreation and
    2. providing reliable water exports for the farms and cities south of the Delta.

    Any project affecting the Delta (such as the Delta Tunnels) must be approved and incorporated into the Delta Plan.

  • The BDCP was originally a plan to build the Peripheral Canal (it was deceptively called the Bay and Delta Conservation Plan). It was written/funded primarily by the Westlands Water District and Metropolitan Water District water contractors. Westlands represents powerful agriculture corporations in the westside Central Valley (near I-5); Metropolitan is the water provider for LA and other Southern California cities and represents powerful LA Developers.

    The BDCP was supposed to be a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). But when the US EPA panned the plan at the end of 2013, saying it would destroy the Delta fish and needed to be rewritten, instead of following the right process, the State said basically, “You’re right, it won’t save fish. So instead we’ll just move ahead and build the tunnels.”

    In July, 2015, the State separated the BDCP into two projects:

    • California WaterFix (the Delta Tunnel plan).
    • California EcoRestore (the habitat restoration part of the BDCP). Nothing much has been done on this plan.

    Only the Tunnel Part, the California WaterFix is being moved along. The Final EIR/EIS for the BDCP/California Water Fix (aka “Delta Tunnels”) released December 22, 2016.


    The Delta Plan – History

    The Delta Plan was approved by the Delta Steering Committee (DSC) May 17, 2013 even though it does not do what the Legislature mandated. It does not:

    • Start with the Delta Flows
    • Protect the Delta as place
    • Protect Delta boating and recreation
    • Protect Delta agriculture
    • Contain a cost benefit analysis
    • Set standards regarding the X-2 line and salinity for farmers and communities
    • Set standards (quality and water levels) for water-front communities such as Discovery Bay’s bays and waterways
    • Meet the legislative mandate from the 2009 legislation to reduce reliance on the Delta

    The Delta Plan was approved by the State Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on August 12 and went into effect September 1, 2013, even though the Delta Flows weren’t included. The Flow requirements were provided in August 2010 but showed the State was already exporting more water than they should. The State and Water Contractors said that was the wrong answer and ignored the report.

    However, seven organizations filed law suits against the DSC: Five because it is weak (environmentally) and positioned to streamline acceptance of the BDCP/tunnels; one by Stockton; and one by water contractors who say it does not provide them enough water.

    Delta Plan Lawsuits

    After the Delta Plan was released, the Westlands Water District sued the DSC saying the Delta Plan failed to assure the water contractors enough water. Six other lawsuits were filed for the opposite reason, that the Delta Plan does not meet the Legislature’s mandate to protect the Delta.

    One of the six opposing the Delta Plan was filed by STCDA. To view the STCDA Law Suit Filing click here..

    General reasons for the opposition suits include:

    1. The Delta Reform Act told the State Water Resources Control Board to do a water flow investigation to find out what it would take to protect the estuary. The state board turned in a flow recommendation and the Council didn’t use the flows in the plan.
    2. The Delta Reform Act also instructed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to report to the Council what the biological goals and objectives should be for species in the Delta. The CDFW wrote hundreds of pages in a report and turned it in to the Council. The Council not only did not use it, but didn’t even mention the goals and objectives in the plan.
    3. The Delta Reform Act instructed the Delta Protection Commission to write a report about economic sustainability. The Commission wrote the report and turned it in to the Council – and again, they didn’t use it.

    In 2016 We Won!. The judge invalidated the Delta Plan saying:

    1. The Delta Plan needs to be revised to include quantified or otherwise measurable targets associated with restoring more natural flows as required by the Delta Reform Act. This is big!
    2. The plan also needs to incorporate options for water conveyance and storage systems. The loss of ground water storage and no mechanism for recharging the water table has been a center of our arguments from the start.

    California WaterFix – Issues

    The construction destruction described in Chapter 4 and resulting piles of tunnel “muck” and other destruction described in Chapter 5 clearly identify the damage this project will do to the Delta. The plan is to do the construction straight through the heart of the Delta, ruining farmlands, legacy communities, and favorite boating waterways. Chapter 15 of the EIR provides more details about the ten or more years of disruption the construction will cause farmers and boaters in the Delta. Delta farmers and communities are facing large economic losses both short-term and long-term due to the tunnels.

    Chapter 15 – Recreation fails to identify key recreation areas and instead of protecting boating and recreation will destroy it in the South Delta forever.

    The Final California WaterFix EIR had a 30-day period for review where the DWR stated they had no requirement to respond to comments. The Delta Stewardship Council (DWS) then moved to add an Amendment to the Delta Plan to approve “conveyance” (i.e., the tunnels) into the Delta Plan.

    The California WaterFix then is to be reviewed by the Fish & Game, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), Army Corp of Engineers, and other agencies, and then incorporated into the Delta Plan as the final step required before the tunnel implementation starts.


    Reference Information:

    Where to find the old 2013 documents:

5 Responses to “The Tunnel History”

  1. 1 johnny johnston October 21, 2015 at 10:46 am

    no delta tunnels. too expensive and harmful.

  2. 2 Ernest Thomsen October 26, 2015 at 10:24 am

    I am apposed to the construction of the twin tunnels because of the expense and the negative affect it would have on the farmers in the area. Southern California already has water diverted from the north for their benefit. Why can’t they do something with desaltanation if they want more water?

  3. 3 Lorna Olagaray October 28, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Re: Comment Topic Suggestion #10. “Barges and construction for years through recreational waterways is not the way to protect Delta recreation. The route to save the estuary, would be to route the tunnels far East, by I-5.”

    I object to the above suggestion that the tunnels are an option so long as they are located elsewhere. There is no justifiable location for a boondoggle. The proposition that the tunnels are a viable option, “just not in my backyard” smacks of self-interest and leaves unaddressed the many, many reasons these tunnels should NEVER be realized.

    • 4 Jan October 29, 2015 at 9:47 am

      I totally agree with you Lorna. We don’t want the tunnels at all. But in this project, money is talking and it keeps getting pushed through regardless of sane objections. Plus the billionaires are doing amazing marketing campaigns to convince L.A. and Santa Clara voters they need the tunnels or else they’ll get salt water in their drinking water. I still am optimistic that it will get stopped, but if it DOES get started, I’d rather have them start digging somewhere far from the estuary and give everyone more time to battle it. PLUS that would cost them more and they are getting to the edge of reasonable spending. (Actually, they went over the edge some time ago but again, their inaccurate marketing is going well). Those were my thoughts for adding that in anyway.

  4. 5 Judy Barrientos October 31, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    I would say no to the tunnel. Our environment is the most important think we have and changing it would truly harm us. Think about when they killed all the wolves in the Yellowstone how the environment changed for the worst. Now they have introduced them back a few years ago and now the environment is getting better. Bad decisions come back to harm us in years to come. Please don’t build the tunnels.

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