State Releases Draft Delta Tunnel Environmental Review: Baykeeper Statement

Jul 27, 2022

The California Department of Water Resources today released an environmental impact report for its proposed Delta tunnel project, which would divert water from the Sacramento River under  the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, denying critical flows to San Francisco Bay. 


The Delta tunnel project is required to meet the goals of the Delta Reform Act. In 2009, the state adopted coequal goals of improving the reliability of California’s water supply, and of protecting, restoring, and improving the Bay and Delta ecosystem.These goals are to be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place. At the same time, the state adopted a policy “to reduce reliance on the Delta in meeting California's future water supply needs through a statewide strategy of investing in improved regional supplies, conservation, and water use efficiency.” 


By contrast, all of the alternatives identified in the state’s draft EIR for the Delta tunnel would increase State Water Project exports by 400,000-500,000+ acre feet on average over the long term and by more than 200,000-300,000 acre feet in dry and critically dry years. Under the plan, the federal Central Valley Project would take more water too. As a result of increased diversions by the state and federal water projects, the state’s own analyses shows major declines in survival and habitat conditions for migrating endangered fishes including juvenile Chinook salmon, delta smelt, and longfin smelt.  


Baykeeper senior scientist Jon Rosenfield, PhD responded with the following statement:


"The root of San Francisco Bay’s problems is that too much water is diverted from the Sacramento River and the other Central Valley rivers that flow into it. The lack of fresh water flowing into the Bay through the Delta has caused today’s poor water quality, poisonous algal blooms, and the demise of Chinook salmon and other fish species. 


“The Delta tunnel, as presented here, would allow the state to divert more water from the Bay-Delta than it currently does, and increase the state's reliance on water necessary to sustain this fragile ecosystem.


"We’re in the midst of an ecological disaster, and the Newsom Administration’s Delta tunnel will make matters worse. The state is ignoring the best science as well as its own policies in this environmental review. 


“The state's promises to mitigate the tunnel’s anticipated impacts to critically endangered fish species through habitat restoration projects are speculative and unsupported by the available science.


“Before it makes plans to divert more water through a new pipe, the state should update its outdated Bay-Delta water quality control plan, now more than a decade overdue. If the state doesn't improve water quality safeguards, then changing the plumbing that takes water away from the Bay will not improve conditions for fish, wildlife, water quality, or the human communities that depend on them.


"Baykeeper will continue to review this most recent Delta tunnel plan to determine whether it achieves any of the state’s water,ecosystem protection, and community preservation goals.”

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