California officials are dramatically scaling back a habitat restoration plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, with possibly major implications for reworking the state’s water delivery system.
The Delta project now calls for restoring 30,000 acres for wetlands and wildlife habitat – down from 100,000.
The larger restoration was supposed to coincide with the construction of two massive tunnels that would send water to Central Valley farms and Southern California cities. Those projects are now being separated, which will speed up the permitting process. But it the move has angered environmentalists, and threatens to undo the fragile peace that allowed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to move ahead.
Gov. Jerry Brown contends the original restoration plan was too expensive and never realistic. He says the new blueprint will allow work to get started right away – and he defended his administration’s ability to negotiate a bevy of conflicting interests to improve the Delta.
“People have been talking about this for decades. Nobody has done anything,” Brown said yesterday. “So people are saying ‘well gee, you didn’t do the whole 100,000.’ Hey, it’s been zero for a long time and the needs are getting greater. The fish are being depleted. So we’re doing a hell of a lot!”
The governor also changed the name of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The new version will henceforth be known as the “California Water Fix.”