In summary

Every single Californian deserves access to clean, reliable, affordable water, but the most disadvantaged communities in California, will not be helped by a tunnel.

By John Vasquez of Vacaville and Chuck Winn of Ripon

John Vasquez is a member of the Solano County Board of Supervisors, District 4.  Chuck Winn is a member of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, District 4. Both are long-time members of the Delta Counties Coalition.

Re “A social justice perspective of the Delta tunnel project”; Commentary, June 20, 2020

In his commentary Gary Kremen asserts, “As California confronts increasing water challenges, the most equitable statewide solution from a social justice perspective is the single-tunnel project proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.” The Delta Counties Coalition, which represents the communities that will be most impacted by the tunnel project, takes issue with many of the statements made by the multimillionaire, founder who sits on the Delta Conveyance Finance Authority board.

Every single Californian deserves access to clean, reliable, affordable water. Contrary to statements in the column, the most disadvantaged communities in California, will not be helped by a tunnel. This massively expensive, environmentally destructive conveyance project won’t provide additional water to water-starved communities in this unpredictable climate-change era; nor can it promise safe, low-cost water supplies. 

While we’re disappointed that the author restates the scare tactic that an earthquake could cause catastrophic levee failures, it does allow us to inform readers that no historic or scientific evidence shows any substantial probability of major levee damage in the Delta due to an earthquake. Maintaining Delta levees remains critical to safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of 4 million Delta residents and protecting approximately $60 billion in state and local infrastructure that ultimately benefits 27 million Californians south of the Delta. For $1 billion, Delta levees could be improved to baseline standards, and could be financed through the state’s general fund, with less financial burden to hardworking low- and middle-income Californians.

The author’s threat about grim outcomes without a tunnel are inaccurate. The $16 billion-plus project would require water rate and property tax increases in State Water Project service areas, taking precious dollars away from Californians. Had the state studied other alternatives, better options would be apparent, including increased water storage, water conservation, reuse, recycling, sea and brackish water desalination and Delta levee investments. These measures could be implemented for roughly the same cost as a tunnel while protecting the Delta, producing billions of gallons of new water and providing long-term jobs and economic activity. 

Equity has meaning. The Delta Counties Coalition has long-championed statewide water solutions that are truly equitable for every single Californian, not just the elite who continue to have tunnel vision at the expense of people who cannot afford the consequences. 

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions: