Friday, April 24, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Unanswered questions in the water tunnel analysis

TomEliasW

By
From page A10 | August 28, 2013 |

Backers of the water tunnels at the heart of the proposed $25 billion plan for updating and replumbing the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers thought they had played a trump card the other day when they presented a 244-page economic impact report.

The analysis authored by UC Berkeley economist David Sunding puts the state’s profits from building the tunnels at $84 billion over the first 50 years after the project is completed (http://ht.ly/nEobp). Long before it’s finished, the project would be a jobs bonanza, Sunding asserted, producing 177,000 jobs over 10 years of construction.

And yet… there was confirmation, too, that this expensive plan would not produce much more water than comes through the Delta today, somewhere between 4.7 million and 5.2 million acre feet of water yearly. The difference, said Sunding and his sponsor, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, is that the flow would be steady – everyone involved knowing from year to year how much water to expect.

Listening to them and Alan Zaremberg, California Chamber of Commerce president, hype the project via press conference and conference call, it was clear they hadn’t thought much about the great Peripheral Canal battle of the early 1980s.

“We didn’t write this report at all with a perspective on the 1980s,” said Sunding.

Maybe he and his co-authors should have. Adding to their analysis a few considerations inspired by that fight might give the new plan, dubbed “peripheral tunnels” by some, a better chance.

For the Peripheral Canal, pushed then as now by Gov. Jerry Brown, became the ultimate regional issue in California, and there is a paucity of regional analysis in the new economic study.

The canal was to have taken Sacramento River water around the Delta via a concrete ditch looking similar to the state Water Project’s current aqueduct, much of which is easily visible from the I-5 freeway in the San Joaquin Valley.

Many in Northern California feared it could not be filled without water from wild rivers like the Eel, the Trinity and the Klamath. So after Brown and the Legislature approved the canal, a ballot referendum killed the project. The anti-canal vote was near unanimous in the San Francisco Bay area and other parts of Northern California. In Southern California, the canal got 65 percent backing.

That stark regional division might play out again over the tunnels, despite laws passed in the interim to protect wild rivers.

That’s why any useful tunnels analysis must indicate which areas benefit and how much. When the economic analysis says the project would produce 117,000 jobs, would almost all involve construction work between the tunnel intake near Sacramento and the big pumps near Tracy that move water south? How many white-collar engineering jobs would the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas get?

The same with benefits from the steadier water supply the project is supposed to ensure. Statewide, the economic analysis valued increased water supply reliability, better water quality and reduced flooding and earthquake risk at $18 billion over the 50-year life of the project, compared with a cost of $13 billion (before interest). That’s a net benefit of almost $5 billion.

But there’s no clue who will profit or how much. Will it be Central Valley farmers, fishermen, operators of recreational facilities in the Delta or urban water users? Or all of them?

Similarly, while the analysis notes that water users will pay back the project bonds (with interest bringing total costs to $25 billion), there is no clue about which users will pay most. Farmers would get the lion’s share of the water, as they do today. But would they bear most of the costs, passing those along to buyers of almonds, cotton, citrus and other crops?

Or would most costs fall to residential and industrial water customers in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area, even if they get only a minority share of the water?

Said Sunding, “The costs and benefits for each water agency (and its customers) are not yet determined.”

That means the latest economic analysis is simply not very useful, despite its high profile and page count. Which leaves the jury still out on the entire tunnels plan.

— Email Thomas Elias at [email protected] His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    New design submitted for conference center

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Water and power have a troubling interdependency

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Bob Dunning: Fairness is an afterthought for them

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Los Angeles march to commemorate Armenian killings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Hostage deaths a reminder of risk of ‘deadly mistakes’

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Walkers head out three times weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4Comments are off for this post

     
    Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Beginning tai chi classes start May 5

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    College Night set April 30 at DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    School board hears report on health services

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

     
    Tour of co-ops precedes Sacramento conference

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Mamajowali will perform at benefit house concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

     
    Explorit: Celebrate International Astronomy Day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Learn basics of composting in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Winkler Dinner raises funds for enology, viticulture activities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Raptor Center welcomes visitors at May 2 open house

    By Trina Wood | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Take a peek at region’s past at Tremont Mite Society’s social

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    BeerFest expands to include cider

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Mapping where human action is causing earthquakes

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A9

    Hummingbird health: Appreciating the little things

    By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

     
    Thanks for supporting the arts

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Bike Swap another success

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Drink is a tasteless insult

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

     
    The fight for gender pay equity

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

    It’s a depressing beat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Lehner talks about the UCD student-athlete experience

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Reeling Blue Devils stop skid against Sheldon

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggie Spring Game environment will up the gridiron fun factor

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Rare DHS track loss still full of highlights

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    DYSA roundup: Lester, Osborne lead Storm over Dixon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Lady Demons’ fundraiser a smash hit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Pro baseball roundup: River Cats lose their fourth straight

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B12

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

     
    ‘Ex Machina': The perils of playing God

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Ceramicist works will be featured at The Artery

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Chamber expands Korean sister-city opportunities

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Car Care: Tips for buying your first ATV

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

    Subaru goes rear-wheel drive with sporty BRZ coupe

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B7 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Whitney Joy Engler

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Valente Forrest Dolcini

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, April 24, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B5