With Big California Water Project, Governor Wants to 'Get Shit Done'

Jerry Brown is taking a blunt approach to a controversial water plan.

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Reuters

Since returning to the state's top job for a second time in 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown has faced massive fiscal and functional problems. And he has not been shy about making bold moves to try to solve some of those problems.

"Analysis paralysis is not why I came back," he said at a press conference in Sacramento Wednesday. "I want to get shit done."

In this instance, the shit Brown hopes to get done is a $23 billion water delivery tunnel system that aims to help supply water to the state's Central Valley farms and the massive urban agglomerations in Southern California. The idea has been in the works for decades, as planners and politicians have been trying to figure out a way to get water from Northern California down through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta without harming the fragile delta ecosystem. With the two proposed tunnels, water could be sent down underneath the delta system instead of through it, a system that has resulted in large exports of water from the delta that have played into a variety of environmental issues.

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The plan has been applauded by a variety of business and labor groups, including the California Building Industry Association and the California Chamber of Commerce. Environmental groups, though, are protesting the plan, arguing that the delta and its ecosystem will still be harshly affected by the movement and extraction of water.

Most of the cost of constructing and operating the tunnels would be paid by water agencies and their ratepayers, according to the Los Angeles Times. About $3 billion or $4 billion would be spent on habitat restoration.

The proposal is similar to another plan pushed through the legislature by Brown during his previous stint as governor back in the early 1980s. That plan, however, was rejected by voters.

If the plan proceeds on schedule, construction could begin within the next three years and the tunnels could be operating by 2026. Brown will still have to convince stakeholders in the delta that the plan is better than the one shot down 30 years ago.

Photo credit: Max Whittaker / Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.