State officials Wednesday said they will press ahead with a smaller version of a long-planned water delivery project, initially building one, instead of two, massive tunnels in the heart of California’s vast waterworks.
The decision to downsize California WaterFix boils down to money. The urban and agricultural water districts that are supposed to pay for the multibillion dollar project have only committed to enough funding for one water tunnel that would extend 35 miles under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The reduction is yet another setback for a decade-old proposal that was originally pitched as a grand fix for the ecologically failing delta and the key to sending more water south to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and Southern California cities.
Questions about WaterFix’s impact on the delta environment, opposition by delta interests and funding shortfalls have steadily whittled down the project’s ambitions and scope. A major habitat restoration program was dropped. The construction footprint was reduced. And now, instead of a $17-billion, two-tunnel project, the state is proposing one tunnel that would cost $10.7 billion.
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