Newsom offers a new approach to California’s water issues

By Don Nottoli and Bill Dodd, Special to CALmatters

By rejecting the twin tunnels proposal, Gov. Gavin Newsom has sent an important message that new thinking is required to address California’s complex water issues.

The Delta Counties Coalition is committed to supporting a more thoughtful process. The Delta Counties Coalition represents more than 4 million residents whose livelihoods and way of life are grounded in a healthy Delta economy.

The coalition serves to protect the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas from unwarranted intrusion that could destroy the precious Delta ecosystem and hurt our region’s economy.

During his State of the State address, Gov. Newsom said: “We have a big state with diverse water needs. Cities that need clean water to drink, farms that need irrigation to keep feeding the world, fragile ecosystems that must be protected. We need a portfolio approach to building water infrastructure and meeting long-term demand.”

He is right and his approach represents a refreshing vision for California’s water future. Gov. Newsom appears genuinely interested in listening to all sides and governing with an open mind and heart.

He has signaled his opposition to the twin tunnels project, and is open to a more holistic approach that could include alternatives like water use efficiency measures, levee restoration, additional storage and other local projects supported by the Delta Counties Coalition.

While the governor indicated a one-tunnel approach may be better than two, he said he’ll make a final determination on a Delta solution based on science.

The impacts of a single tunnel are unknown absent further study. No details exist about the size, location, cost, construction timetable or how at single tunnel might operate. What is clear is that a conveyance-only plan is not a viable, sustainable solution for Northern and Southern California.

The funds allocated for tunnels would be better spent on regional portfolio-based measures, including strengthening levees, restoring ecosystem habitat, increasing water use efficiency, developing local and regional water supplies, and providing additional surface and groundwater storage and recharge.

This winter’s storms underscore how much excess runoff we could have captured for future droughts and retained if we had more reservoir and groundwater recharge projects completed.

It’s encouraging that the conveyance alternatives the Delta Counties Coalition and others have suggested for more than a decade are part of the discussion with the new administration.  These alternatives, largely local projects, will provide regional self-sufficiency through local control, jobs, and benefits.

Advocates of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have opposed the twin tunnels and advocated for a more diverse approach to California’s water challenges and needs. We are confident that with Gov. Newsom’s leadership, the process moving forward will be open, transparent, and with the entire state’s interests in mind.


Don Nottoli is a Sacramento County supervisor and chair of the Delta Counties Coalition, [email protected] Bill Dodd is a senator who represents six Delta counties and co-chairs the Legislative Delta Caucus, [email protected] They wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

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