Delta project estimate: $23B to $54B

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A judge struck down rules that have cut short the water supply in the delta, which is allocated to areas such as the San Luis Reservoir.

The high-end cost of trying to ship Northern California’s water
around the Delta could be a staggering $53.8 billion, according a
consultant’s report delivered last week to state lawmakers. At
minimum, the report estimates, the price tag would be $23
billion.
By Kevin Parrish, McClatchy News Service

The high-end cost of trying to ship Northern California’s water around the Delta could be a staggering $53.8 billion, according a consultant’s report delivered last week to state lawmakers. At minimum, the report estimates, the price tag would be $23 billion.

The draft Delta finance report was released by Sacramento’s Steve Kasower of Strategic Economic Applications Co. His estimates for constructing a conveyance system – including associated mitigation and habitat restoration costs – are two to three times higher than amounts previously reported.

“This is the only cost estimate we have,” said Wolk, whose district includes much of Manteca, Stockton and Tracy; much of the eastern end of the Delta; and Yolo County. “This is the only report that tries to make sense of the overall costs. And this is significant in the next nine days as we try to figure out the funding mechanism for this legislation.”

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, named seven members of the California Senate to the 14-member conference committee on water. Of the seven appointees from the state Senate, three are from the Los Angeles area and two others are also from districts beyond the Delta.

Steinberg, speaking at a Sacramento news conference Tuesday, called the opportunity historic for dramatic changes in the Delta. “We’ll be working 24/7 to achieve something that’s absolutely essential to California,” he said.

The conference committee is expected to meet today and Friday and bring a final recommendation to the floor of both houses Tuesday.

Kasower’s 11-page report breaks down the costs associated with two basic conveyance proposals: an above-ground peripheral canal or some variation on it, and a tunnel that would go under the estuary. The wide variance in overall costs is based on methodology.

Both plans include costs associated with off-stream storage, restoration, mitigation and conveyance.

A canal has been described as a “monumental project approximating the Panama Canal.” It would be 500 to 700 feet wide and up to 49 miles long, according to an August 2006 engineering report from Washington Group International.

A tunnel, according to Kasower, would be “reasonably equivalent to the London-Paris Channel Tunnel, or Chunnel.” The 31-mile Chunnel was built in 1994 at a cost of $21 billion.

Wolk believes there is a third proposal that should be considered. The Contra Costa Water District has proposed a smaller tunnel that would be less expensive ($9 billion), quicker to construct (10 years) and less invasive to Delta farmland (100 acres vs. 5,000).

But she won’t be in the room as lawmakers consider the legislative package that will go to the governor.

“Things are in play,” Wolk said. “It is inconceivable that such an ambitious group of bills would satisfy the various interests involved.” She said normally such endeavors “would take years” to complete.

San Joaquin County and the other four other counties adjacent to the Delta have let Steinberg and California Secretary of Natural Resources Mike Chrisman know they are not pleased with the committee’s makeup, said San Joaquin County Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller, the board’s point man on water issues.

He said the five counties have worked together to advocate for Delta interests. Wolk’s 5th Senate District encompasses portions of three of those counties — San Joaquin, Sacramento and Solano.

“What we’re trying to say is: The people who live in and around the Delta have got to be represented,” Ruhstaller said.

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