The Zone 7 Water Agency will remain a part of the Delta Conveyance Project for the next two years, following a 5-2 vote by the Board of Directors last month.
With approval of the environmental planning phase, the Tri-Valley agency will be able to provide input and continue its participation in the process but is not required to commit to the final project, officials said. Zone 7 has been involved in multiple undertakings to address Delta conveyance in recent years.
The Delta Conveyance Project is Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed single tunnel that would transport water from the northern part of the state to Southern California, and replaces former Gov. Jerry Brown's twin tunnels proposal.
The tunnel would be part of the State Water Project's (SWP) infrastructure in the network of waterways encompassing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that collects and delivers water to 27 million Californians, including homes, businesses and farms in the Tri-Valley. As a SWP contractor, Zone 7 delivers approximately 70% of the Tri-Valley's water supply.
According to public documents, Zone 7's share of the planning costs would account for 2.2% of the project, based on expected levels of participation. The board opted to approve $2.7 million of funding for 2021 and 2022 to participate in the two-year environmental planning cycle. Should the board decide to continue in a couple more years, the estimated cost for Zone 7 would be about $4.7 million.
In a statement, Zone 7 said the water project's infrastructure, which dates back to the 1960s, "is aging and needs to be upgraded to meet the challenges ahead."
Two-thirds of the state's water originates from snowpacks in the Sierra Nevada, where it travels down from before winding up in the Delta hub of SWP waterways and dispersing further. Carryover and transfer water as well as water banked in Kern County make the infrastructure's dependability "of critical importance to water supply reliability for the Tri-Valley community."
"The state’s precipitation is increasingly coming in the form of big storms between extended dry periods," officials said, adding the project infrastructure could be improved to better withstand climate change and be "more flexible in its ability to take advantage of big storms by moving water when it’s available without harming threatened and endangered species."
Board President Olivia Sanwong and Vice President Angela Ramirez Holmes cast the two dissenting votes during the board's Nov. 18 meeting.
Sanwong told the Weekly the "significant" planning cost estimates were partly why she voted no that night.
"I wanted to give my neighbors and community members additional time to review and comment," including the recent board discussion, Sanwong said. "My goal is to do what is best for the Tri-Valley community."
"I was strongly opposed to Gov. Jerry Brown's twin tunnels proposal, and it is unclear to me whether or not Gov. Newsom's single tunnel proposal is a practical alternative," Sanwong added. "For example, Gov. Jerry Brown's twin tunnels proposal specified the size of the tunnels and proposed how far underground the tunnels would be constructed. Whereas, Gov. Newsom's single tunnel proposal is not yet defined."
Sanwong also wondered about "the implications for our contracted State Water Project water of not opting in for the Delta Conveyance Project."
"There may not be, that would be something I would be curious to understand better, and I think it is important to understand better as these decisions are being made," she added.