This is an assignment I took part in for the Brentwood Press, my local newspaper that I regularly freelance for and often focus on water-related issues here in California. The Army Corps of Engineers is weighing the environmental impacts of a huge water reroute on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a project backed by Governor Jerry Brown and Central Valley water providers but despised by many Bay Area residents.
A stack of complaints from angry residents has prodded a federal agency into keeping the lines of communication open longer as it prepares to make or break plans to transform the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
After years of standoff between these critics and supporters of what’s been known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which was renamed as the California WaterFix and recognized often as simply the “twin-tunnel project,” the fate of the undertaking now rests in the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is tasked with overseeing key national infrastructure endeavors. The heated debate leaves the Corps convinced that more time is in order before giving the go-ahead on the historic project, extending an original 30-day public comment period to 60 days. Commenting, which was set to expire on Oct. 9, will continue until Nov. 8.
“This is a crucial phase … a life or death step for the tunnels,” said Michael Brodsky, an environmental attorney who aggressively pushed the extension in representation of the Save the California Delta Alliance (STCDA), a grassroots organization that has been opposing the intended water transfers for years. “Now is the time for people who are interested in the project to make their views known to the Army Corps.”The Corps’ goal is to decide if the project, which is led by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has met reasonable standards in crafting environmentally sound building plans. If completed, WaterFix would see unprecedented changes to the Delta, including two 40-foot-wide, 35-mile-long tunnel pipes laid underneath it, along with a set of pumps that will divert freshwater to the Central Valley and southern California.