Making Democracy Work

Water - Twin Tunnels

The Twin Tunnel water project would create two side-by-side underground tunnels to carry fresh water from the Sacramento River to Tracy. Water would travel south to farms in the Central Valley and urban areas in the East and South Bay and in Southern California.

Where Does Our Water Come From?

Watch this 2.5 minute video on where our water comes from in Placer County:
Click to watch video

Delta Tunnel Project Funders

Building twin tunnels around the Delta depends on water districts in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, customers of the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP), agreeing to shoulder the $15.5 billion cost.
Santa Clara Valley Water District: SWP and CVP contractor serving 1.9 million residents of Silicon Valley. Relies on Delta deliveries for 40% of its total supply.
San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority: Just 240,00 acres of land but special legal rights. Receiving 50% allotment from CVP in 2015.
San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority: Wholesaler that delivers federal CVP water, primarily to farmers covering 2.1 million acres in 29 separate districts. Zero CVP water deliveries in 2014 and 2015.
Westlands Water District: Largest member of San Luis authority. Powerful, well-connected voice in California water, wary of costs but eager to improve reliability of water deliveries.
Kern County Water Agency: SWP contractors covering 674,000 acres. Getting 20% of normal SWP allotment in 2015, but other sources available.
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California: one of the major players in California water, serving 19 million urban residents. SWP contractor and one of the tunnels' strongest supports.

Placer County - The State of Water

Reported by Auburn Journal, May 21, 2014: Placer County supervisors are sending a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown outlining the direction they would like to see a state water bond move toward.

Board members voted to approve a letter to be sent out over Chairman Jack Duran's signature to Brown that reinforces the county's stance on 2014 water-bond legislation. Supervisors were told Tuesday by management analyst Joel Joyce that a dozen options are being considered on a bond. A bond measure asking voters to approve $11 billion in borrowing is due to be tested in the November election. "A water bond must expand water storage capacity and improve groundwater management," Duran's letter will state. "(It must also) provide funding for regional water infrastructure that will diversify water supply and enhance reliability."

The letter will also weigh in on the county's stance against twin tunnels proposed in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery received support from fellow supervisors to add language to a rough draft of the letter that reinforces the county's backing of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Tahoe Conservancy. Both are in line to have a portion of bond funding dedicated to programs within their boundaries.

"I do think it would be appropriate to include information on watershed and forest management, particularly within the Sierra Nevada and Tahoe conservancy boundaries," Montgomery said.

Supervisor Robert Weygandt said that additional information could help the two conservancies gain more bond funding in competition with other others around the state.

LWVPC Water Forum Held February 2014

Sacramento San Juaquin Delta and islands seperated by the Franks Tract in the foreground. The San Juaquin river is in the middle and the Sacramento River is in the background.
By generous arrangement between Wave Broadband and LWVPC, in addition to providing free videotaping services of our Water Forum in February 2014, Wave made available ten video clips below edited to be no more than 5 minutes each. In return, LWVPC freely released content of the forum, enabling WAVE Cable to offer videotaped coverage of the event to Wave Cable TV subscribers to view for free under the WAVE Video On Demand Selection Tab: LOCAL PROGRAMS. Broadband

Click below to view the video of your choice - each less than 5 minutes long...

Overview by California Department of Water Resources panelist

Overview by Placer County Water Agency panelist

The dynamic water system and many users in California by Dr. Sandoval-Solis, UC Davis

How diversion of Delta water will affect users by Friends of the River panelist

Water Rights explanation

Why we should conserve water, according to PCWA panelist

Why we should conserve, according to Friends of the River panelist

Who should pay for Twin Tunnels according to Friends of the River panelist

BCDP does not add water to our system - explanation

What happens if the Twin Tunnels project is not undertaken

BDCP Questions

An aerial view of the region that is the proposed site of the middle intake for Delta waters tunnels, in the Courtland area.
LWV California formulated questions about the construction, operation, deliveries, water use, species and habitat restoration, financing, supply and watershed issues, water quality and governance of the Bay Delta Tunnel Conservation Plan (BDCP). These questions were submitted to the State Department managing the project and Answers from California officials are in the section that follows.


What is the total amount of agricultural land in the Delta that will be impacted by construction, including disposal of dirt and material, irrespective of any comparison to the 1982 Peripheral Canal plan?

How long will construction take, and how will construction activities impact residents, farming, fisheries, recreation, and other economic activities? What provisions are being made for negative impacts?

How many seismic faults will the proposed tunnels cross? At what depth?


Please explain how gravity will function to move water through the tunnels without intermediate pumps. What amount of drop (per foot, and total over the 30 miles) will be needed for the gravity feed, and what energy will be required to retrieve water from the lower depth at the south end of the tunnels and lift it into the canals? What is the altitude above sea level for tunnel entrances and for canals?

An aerial view of waterways between Staten Island, left, and Tyler Island, right, on Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

What provisions are proposed for maintaining these tunnels over the life of the project?

Explain south-of-Delta storage: Where will the project store the extra water that comes in wet years? That is, to what extent is optimum use of this new conveyance dependent on storage projects that have not yet been approved or funded?

If adaptive management is unsuccessful and species are not recovering, at what point will the fisheries agencies suspend the "take" permits, and what is the plan for export water deliveries if that occurs?


What are the anticipated deliveries to State and Federal project contractors in wet, average, and dry years? How many acre-feet are expected to be pumped through the South Delta pumps during those same wet, average, and dry years? How do those amounts compare to average deliveries during the 1990s and 2000s? Please provide spreadsheets.

In addition to "anticipated" water deliveries, what will be the maximum delivery possible if the tunnels are built to the maximum size (15,000 cfs capacity)?

Water Use

BDCP is not promising additional water to project supporters, but only reliability of supply. Please explain what percentages of this finite supply of export water are currently being used for the following purposes, and whether those relative percentages are anticipated to change: agriculture, urban uses, steam extraction of oil, and fracking.

What do you expect the final cost of water to the contractors will be? What are the current ranges of prices south of the Delta for agricultural water, urban water, and water for oil extraction and/or fracking? Species and Habitat Restoration

What is the timetable for restoration? How will you know that the BDCP's habitat conservation plan is moving forward successfully?

In regard to the statement that the tunnels are necessary to protect fish runs, how will the fish screens on the North Delta tunnel intakes differ from the ones on the South Delta pumps? Are these new screens in use anywhere else? What is their success rate? Who is engineering and testing them?

Should the South Delta pumps, which will continue to be operated 51% of the time, including during dry years, have new screens? If not, why not?

Why is no nonstructural alternative for achieving habitat and species restoration being considered?

In the October 1 presentation, we were told that the current approach will be getting away from the single species approach to system recovery. Which species may be detrimentally affected by this approach? Will one or more single species be allowed to fail? Which ones? How will that decision be made? Explain how this is allowable under a permitted habitat conservation plan.


According to BDCP literature, two water bonds are anticipated, one in 2014 to pay for restoration and at least one more within 50 years for additional work. What is the back-up plan if voters do not approve these bonds? Under what circumstances would conveyance construction begin before restoration funding is secured?

Please distinguish clearly between mitigation and restoration. Exactly what does each involve? Please be specific about what features of the restoration necessary for this project to be permitted are considered by BDCP to be public benefits rather than measures required by the permits being sought. Please explain exactly what the BDCP expects to identify as public benefits that will be paid under the 2014 water bond.

Please provide evidence that irrigators in the southern San Joaquin Valley are willing and able to pay for the water they will receive. Please explain whether and how the situation changes if farmers grow annual crops of lower dollar value that are resilient to annual changes in water supply rather than high value permanent crops that depend on inflexible water supplies.

Supply/Watershed Issues

To what extent does the success of this habitat conservation plan depend on reoperation of upstream dams, especially on the Sacramento River?

Given that the greatest loss of the snowpack resulting from climate change occurs in the watershed of the Feather River, how will Oroville Dam be operated differently to keep water in the river?

Water Quality

What is the timetable for the State Water Resources Control board to place and enforce limits on water that can be exported from the Delta so that outflows and water quality will be preserved? Please describe the future condition of the Bay Delta Estuary in the event that limits are not placed on the amount of water that can be exported from the Delta.


Chapter 7 of the draft includes a number of 'groups' which must be consulted and reach concurrence. This process does not appear to be nimble enough to deal with any emergency situation. Who has the ultimate authority to 'pull the plug' in response to 'changed circumstances'?


Click to see answers to all of the above questions that have been researched and provided by LWV California.


Unbiased Report on Bay Delta Conservancy Project (Twin Tunnels)

PCWA Comments on Twin Tunnels

On July 28 Placer County Water Agency submitted comments on the potential impacts of the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) expressing concern about future water supply reliability. PCWA states that the current analysis of the plan is significantly incomplete and fails to address key issues for communities that rely on the American River for water supply.

"The BDCP acknowledges that sea levels will rise by 16 inches or more in the coming decades," said said Einar Maisch, Director of Strategic Affairs at PCWA. "Yet, the plan and the analysis do not address how California will adapt to rising sea levels and the increased salinity in the Delta that will result. If we don't acknowledge the need to adapt our environmental objectives to these rising sea levels, Folsom and Shasta reservoirs will be drained to literally push back the rising sea, leaving Northern California economies in peril."

PCWA noted that the tunnels themselves are positioned to keep them away from the growing salinity -- but the standards for salinity are sidestepped.

"We must develop a plan to provide water supply reliability for the entire state, not just the exporters, and this plan is far from it," said Joshua Alpine, Chairman of the PCWA Board of Directors.

The BDCP plan projects Folsom Reservoir will be at "dead pool" every 10 years + with no water available to be pumped from the reservoir during those years.

"California's climate is changing and the state must recognize this fact and create an operational and environmental plan that addresses this issue," said Alpine. "Draining Northern California reservoirs to export water to other parts of the state and maintain a freshwater Delta is a partial solution that creates more problems than it solves."

Alpine added: "We have directed Placer County Water Agency staff to vigorously defend the water rights we have under long-standing and established federal and state law. Reliable water supply is critical to our County's economic future and we will take all necessary steps to protect that water reliability."

For more information on PCWA's comments, please contact Einar Maisch at 530-823-4882. To view PCWA's comments, visit

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's View

In the July 20th Sacramento Bee, Jeffrey Kightlinger offered these answers to questions from the Editorial Board of the Bee:

How do you persuade Delta people that the tunnel project is good for them?
I don't know that it necessarily is good for someone, but it's certainly not bad.

I get that some people have a philosophy that no water should be taken. We've been taking water out of the Delta for 60 some years now. We've built around that concept. Is there a better way to do that than taking it from the south end of of the Delta?

If you care about fish, if you care about ecosystem, if you care about water quality, if you care about reliability, every metric says pulling it from north of the Delta is smarter than pulling it from the south.

Now, half our stat population is below the Tehachapis, and 60 percent of the state's economy. What we're trying to do is make the existing system work.

If the tunnels don't get built, what would happen?
I don't know that it necessarily is good for someone, but What you'll see is degradation, continued downward spiral in the Delta, continued battles in the courts, lots of litigation and presumably less water supply for export.

Could Metropolitan Water District serve its customers without Delta water?
Southern California has options. What you probably could not do is serve the Central Valley.
We're going to be saying that 4 million acres of farmland, that we're going to mine the groundwater till it's out and then... walk away, or we're going to shrink it. Instead of 4 million acres, we can only do 500,000 acres and the rest goes out of business.

Sierra Business Council Recommendation on Water Bond

Steven Frisch is president of the Sierra Business Council, a non-profit network of more than 4,000 businesses, community organizations, local governments and individuals. In July 28, 2014 Sacramento Bee, the Sierra Business Council recommends that any new water bond do the following:

1. Recognize the Sierra-Cascade as an area of statewide significance because they provide approximately 70 percent of the state's developed water supply - including drinking water for more than 23 million people and irrigation for one-third of California's agricultural land.

2. Allocate funding using a regional approach in which population, land area and a region's significance to the local and state water system are taken into account.

3. Distribute funding through state conservancies in areas where they operate, honoring their local knowledge and track record of getting funding to projects that achieve statewide goals.

4. Invest in the areas where the water originates - such as the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade - not just in the urban areas where votes are.

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Read a summary of the Twin Tunnels on our Local Policy Editorial page

Delta Protection Commission Video of Impact

Members of the Delta Protection Commission are local politicians who represent cities and counties in the Delta that would be directly affected by the Bay Delta Conservation Project (BDCP). They have emerged as a significant rival to the tunnel plan and provide this video simulation of the 3 intakes on the Sacramento River that would feed the 2 proposed tunnels. The video illustrates how the 3 intakes would dwarf the town of Clarksburg, which lies directly across the Sacramento River on the Yolo County side. It also depicts how roads and levees will be reconfigured and the scale and nature of changes to the riverfront at each intake. It is intended to demonstrate the magnitude and scale of what's being contemplated in the BDCP.

In addition to the animation, there are several static images of what the intake locations look like before, during and after construction.

The Department of Water Resources is now working to produce its own versions based on conceptual engineering documents.

Click to watch the Delta Protection Commission video of the BDCP (Twin Tunnel plan) impact on Delta communities.