U.S. Water News Online
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger waded into
politically risky waters recently when he said he supported building
a canal to pipe water around the environmentally fragile delta
because the state is running low on supplies.
The governor made the comments before a gathering of business
leaders and farmers in Bakersfield, who this year have had their
water allocations cut because of drought conditions and shutdowns of
the state's main water pumps.
"We need more water. We need to build more storage and we have to
build conveyance, the canal, all of those kinds of things, even
though it's politically risky again," Schwarzenegger said.
It's the first time Schwarzenegger has publicly called for a
canal. The statements evoked the bitter debate over the so-called
Peripheral Canal that consumed California a generation ago.
Politicians have avoided the topic since voters overwhelmingly
rejected such a canal in 1982. At the time, Northern California
voters characterized the proposal as a Southern California water
Schwarzenegger said California's water infrastructure has not kept
pace with the state's growing population, which is expected to hit 55
million by 2050.
"Do you know that for 20 years, well actually since the late '70s,
they've not built a dam?" he said in remarks that were taped. "Since
the 1980s, they've not done any conveyance, built any conveyance that
delivers the water."
Supporters say building a canal along the eastern edge of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would provide a more stable way to
transport water from Northern California's rivers to about 25 million
people in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. The
water also irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.
But it remains contentious among environmentalists and those who
live in the delta's small towns. They fear a canal would siphon out
too much fresh water.
The governor last September issued an executive order launching a
comprehensive review of the delta and its many problems. At the time,
he said it was not sustainable for the state to base its
water-delivery system around the estuary because of high risks from
flooding and earthquakes.
The situation has become increasingly bleak in recent weeks.
The state Department of Water Resources last month temporarily
shut down its pumps over concerns about a massive decline in delta
smelt populations. Cities around the state have asked residents to
"The delta is broken, and we need to move ahead and look at
improvements to our conveyance system to be viable for the future,"
Jennifer Persike, spokesman for the Association of California Water
Agencies, said in response to Schwarzenegger's remarks.
Tom Graff, California director of Environmental Defense, said
Schwarzenegger was "jumping the gun" on his own delta task force,
which is expected to release a draft report later this year.
"The environmental concerns have been shortchanged over the years,
which is ultimately how we got into the mess with delta smelt," Graff
Schwarzenegger, who met with environmental representatives
recently in his office, said the state had "studied the issue to
"I know the environmentalists don't like to create and talk even
about conveyance. They don't like that, and they don't like to build
more water storage," Schwarzenegger said. "They want to do another
five-year study, there is no more study. We have studied this subject
to death. It's time for action."
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