Big water tunnels project OK'd by Southern California agency

People try to catch fish along the Sacramento River in the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, near Courtland.

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

Rich Pedroncelli

The Kern County Water Agency has voted to participate in the California WaterFix project, potentially saving one of Gov. Jerry Brown's two legacy projects: the Delta tunnels.

California WaterFix would upgrade the state’s outdated water system and maintain a reliable source of water for 25 million Californians and more than three million acres of farmland in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California, according to a news release issued by California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird.

Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel said the project would bring more water to the region that’s needed to grow the economy. To date, Kern is the largest agricultural contractor that has voted to support the California WaterFix project.

“Being able to improve those water supplies has a direct effect on the potential improvement in our economy here in Kern County,” Creel said.

The proposed $17 billion project includes building two four-story tall tunnels to carry water from the Sacramento River beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to connect with the State Water Project and Central Valley Project intakes.

Studies show that had the system already been in place, an annual average of 1 million acre-feet of water could have been moved through the system's service areas over the past 10 years.

“That means a lot more water would have been available to meet our local needs, and a lot more for Southern California,” Creel said.

KCWA’s decision comes just two days after Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted to participate in the project.

“Today’s unanimous vote by Kern County Water Agency’s board shows a strong commitment to protect water supplies for agriculture in their region. California WaterFix is this generation’s opportunity to invest in a future that includes more reliable water deliveries to support the agricultural economy and promote sustainable groundwater management,” Laird said in a statement Thursday.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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