Author: Carol

California’s $3 billion pipeline threatens the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

California's $3 billion pipeline threatens the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water. In October, the Army Corps of Engineers will consider whether to allow the use of a $3 billion pipeline to send water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and through northern California’s mountains to meet California’s drought needs.

The pipeline, proposed by energy giant Southern California Gas, would carry water from the Colorado River across southern California to San Diego Bay.

But environmentalists fear it threatens the estuary’s fragile ecology, and that the state is losing $36 million a year by allowing the water to flow through.

And despite the project’s promise to bring relief for farmers and urban users who stand to lose thousands of jobs if it fails, other states are fighting for control over water that could potentially bring water to them.

Here’s a look at some of the key issues at stake and the state’s efforts to manage it.

The Sacramento and San Joaquin-Delta river basins. Credit: Jason Szenes, Sacramento Bee.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is the largest estuary on the West Coast, a 1,200-square-mile wetland that is surrounded on four sides by mountain ranges. Water flows steadily over most of its length, but it is divided by a series of low-lying arms where high-energy storms can create huge floods known as “cascades” and deliver large amounts of water over the course of a few days.

“In the delta, the water comes down from the mountains,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in his 2011 State of the State address, pointing to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta State Water Project, a massive water storage and conservation project that brings water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River watershed to the delta every year for use by farmers and urban users.

That project, Brown said, “is vital to the future of our state and our country.”

But environmentalists say the water supply of the delta is threatened by the proposed $3 billion pipeline that would carry water from the Colorado River to the San Joaquin-Sacramento river basin. If it’s approved, water from the Colorado River at the delta’s southern tip would then flow south through the Sacramento River watershed to the Bay, where it would be stored in an underground reservoir.

The Army Corps of Engineers

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