When Antelope Valley’s three State Water Project contractors attended their board meeting in October, they heard a presentation regarding the significance of the Delta Conveyance Project, a plan meant to keep surface water supplies from Northern California delivered to Southern California.
At the October 13th meeting of the AV State Water Contractors Association, a six-member board consisting of representatives from Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, Palmdale Water District and Littlerock Creek Irrigation District, the association’s General Manager Peter Thompson, II introduced Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Project Association in Sacramento – an organization of 29-member water purveyors throughout California.
“It’s important to understand why we’re pursuing the project,” Pierre told the local water board. “The Delta “is a critical piece of the puzzle,” she said, referring to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Climate change has impacted precipitation. There’s been more rain and less snow in Northern California, Pierre noted.
“We no longer have the luxury of slow melting snow,” she said, in reference to the blanket of snow which in past winters accumulated in the Northern Sierra Mountains.
Water content in melting snowpacks which traveled into rivers and lakes accounted for the imported surface supplies that furnish much of Southern California.
The State Water Project serves 27 million Californians, “that’s one in 12 Americans, including 6 million in disadvantaged communities,” Pierre said. “Ensuring the State Water Project as a reliable source is critical.”
In December 2021, an enormous amount of water, in the form of rain, fell. That water could not be used because of current restrictions.
Pierre presented the board with a map showing the Delta and the location of pumps.
This Delta Conveyance Project changes the location of where water is being imported and diverts the runoff into the Bethany Reservoir, located in the northernmost part of the San Joaquin Valley, a state recreation area. This latest project is being promoted in hopes it will be sanctioned, rather than failing, the fate of previous plans.
Pierre showed the board a closeup of the Bethany Alignment. There are two intakes located on the Sacramento River. A very deep tunnel goes underground, so it’s “not disruptive to what goes on above it.” Essentially it will not interfere with the natural habitat.
Pierre said this plan has been “used successfully around the world.”
“It does occur where people live and work and play,” but she believes that the project developers and proponents “came up with a promising project at this time.”
The State Water Project Contractors Association in Sacramento is pleased with how the California Department of Water Resources has responded to this plan. The proposed route avoids the Central Delta and avoids using Highway 160.
“A lot of environmental impacts have been addressed.” This project has experienced “more engagement with the community.”
DWR committed to implementing a program that benefits the community.
“This is a huge construction job.” So, the developers must make it a positive project for the surrounding communities.
A draft Environmental Impact Report was released at the end of July. “We’re expecting tens of thousands of comments. If there is support for this project, it’s important to let DWR know. The State Water Project will only be functional in the future if we build this tunnel.”
At this juncture, eight State Water Project Contractors chose not to participate, according to Pierre “They will opt out. Those who choose to opt out will not receive allocations from water that goes through the tunnel They can opt for only Table A water.”
Commissioner Robert Parris, Chairman of the board, wanted to know how it will work if one or more of the eight that opted out “choose to come back in.” That involves cost-sharing.
Pierre said, in that case the project developers will “start with a clean slate.”
Dwayne Chisam, General Manager of the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency asked how litigation might affect timing of the project.
“You’re right,” Pierre said. “There is going to be litigation (about) the project. There already is litigation. We are going to keep moving forward. DWR has done everything (possible) to address those issues of what people might litigate on.”
“More people now understand the need for a project,” Pierre said. “If nothing is done, the State Water Project will be abandoned.”