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The State Water Resources Control Board is working on two major water projects, both that carry their own levels of controversy.
While both projects deal with water, they are separate projects. Even as some speculation from river flow proposal opponents see the two as related, state officials maintain that they are separate projects.
What is the river flow proposal?
There are multiple sides to the issue, but ultimately the river flow plan is about water quality in the Bay Delta.
For environmentalist, this is about a declining salmon population, a species of concern, and for farmers, it’s about their livelihood depending on the very water other agencies want to use to support fish and wildlife. Still, there are more stakeholders.
Modesto Irrigation District has a surface water treatment plant that depends on the river to provide drinking water to its people.
Meanwhile, Turlock and Ceres were looking to use that river water to build a $288 million treatment plant of their own, which is meant to provide some relief for their current water supply to replenish itself and to diversify their water portfolio.
Somewhere around the middle, there is the State Water Board, tasked with balancing co-equal goals between the environment and agriculture.
What is the California WaterFix, AKA the delta tunnels/twin tunnels?
This project is about moving water from Northern California to Southern California. That fresh river water would come from the Sacramento River to Tracy and be transported via two underground tunnels to farms in the Central Valley and in Southern California.
As a project, it’s been challenged due to its potential environmental impact on the delta.
Are they the same project?
The answer is no. The Bay Delta plan update and the California WaterFix are two separate projects.
According to Les Grober, the State Water Board's Environmental Program Manager, the updates to water quality in the Bay Delta started well before the tunnels project.
One of the State Water Board’s biggest problems during the river flow hearings was the appearance of impropriety.
Some elected leadership from the region made connections between the amount of water that would be diverted from the Sacramento River and the amount of river water that would be taken from the San Joaquin’s tributary rivers, essentially that the amount of water taken from the tributary rivers would replenish what was diverted for the tunnels.
For some in the region, it appeared to be a matter of puzzle pieces fitting together, even if state officials have said the river flow proposal is not related to the tunnels project.
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