The state of California embarks on an ambitious program to divert water from mountain streams and the Sacramento River to provide water for two-thirds of its population, according to a Reuters report.
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The program aims to restore 80,000 acres of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that suffered its driest year on record. The massive project will stream water to parched areas in order to help farmers and thousands of farm land with irrigation water, while at the same time providing urban districts with water.
The state project was released Monday, December 9, and would cost $16 billion. It is expected to change the state's water system delivery, which at present involves pumping systems around the delta to avoid fragile ecosystem destruction. With the new proposal, half of the water would be pumped from above the delta and will be sent through two tunnels.
"This is a rational, balanced plan to help meet the needs of all Californians for generations to come," John Laird, Secretary of the California Natural Resources, told Reuters.
The state of California still intends to protect its wildlife and ecosystem, which include 56 plant and animal species. It also includes the Chinook salmon that swims upstream and especially the plants and animals that have been declining over the years because of pumping water practices.
However, environmentalists are against the construction of the two tunnels saying it would cause ecosystem disruption. According to them, there is no way that the plan can protect the delta.
According to Senator Lois Wolk, a Democrat, the plan would result in an increase in the price of water and at the same time fail to protect the Delta.
"The cost for the twin tunnels continues to increase while the amount of water that can be safely diverted from the Delta continues to decrease," Wolk told Reuters.
The state of California estimates that the tunnels will be up and running by 2017 after anticipating possible legal challenges and including the regulatory processes involved in the plan.