Californians Angered Over $20 Billion Tunnel Proposed by Newsom

By: David Donovan | Last updated: Jun 11, 2024

Members on both sides of the political spectrum have expressed their outrage over California Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to build a giant tunnel in order to catch rainwater.

This has been in the pipeline for decades as California authorities have been seeking a solution to create a water tunnel system.

Delta Conveyance Project

The proposed tunnel specifications would be 45 miles in length and 36 feet wide in order to combat climate change and concerns over the state’s water supply.

Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta in California, USA, looking northwest

Flickr user

The tunnel in theory would gather rainwater from the Sacramento River and then shuttle it south to store it.


State Water Project

This comes as water has already been extracted from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta estuary in Northern California.

The Dos Amigos Pumping Plant on the California Aqueduct — located 10 miles (16 km) south of Los Banos near I-5, in Merced County, California.

Wikipedia user Elf

It is then transported south creating a supply for 30 million residents of California along with irrigating 6 million acres of farmland.

Increased Need

Although this state water project has been in effect for decades new research from state agencies has predicted that changes will necessitate new solutions.

Image of head of Old River along lower San Joaquin River — Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta region.

Wikipedia user MCalamari

With climate change and environmental regulations shifting the water supply will be reduced which has led to the Delta Conveyance Project being developed.

Staggering Price

Although there seems to be a real need for this increased water supply the public reaction has highlighted an issue with the price of the project.

Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta at flood stage, 2009.

Flickr user Doc Searls

The price has increased by $5 billion over previous estimations to $20 billion as per research from the Berkley Research Group.

Cost of Inflation

The price surge has come as a result of inflation in the post-pandemic economy which has caused an increase in materials and labor costs.

UC Berkeley engineering student Jerome Thai launches one of 100 floating sensors into the Sacramento River.

U.S. federal government

The funding for this project is due to come from 29 local water agencies meaning that it will come from the public’s pocket.


Tunnel Benefit

Proponents of the project say that the tunnel will net $38 billion in benefits, mainly from offering a more reliable water supply that is safeguarded from earthquakes.

Wheeler Hall, part of University of California, Berkeley, USA.

Wikimedia Commons user Bob Collowan

According to UC Berkeley professor David Sunding, in his analysis he sees that “The benefits clearly justify the costs.”


Opponents of the Project

There is a wide spectrum of opponents to Newsom’s project. Concerns are being raised by environmental groups for example.

Salmon jumping upstream as water rushes down

Unsplash user Drew Farwell

Their concern is that an endangered species of salmon in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s ecosystem will be at further risk if the plan goes ahead.


California Environment

There are further worries from environmental groups over the disruption that the construction will cause in Northern California.

The Sacramento river near the old pumping station.

J. Simonsen

The building will cause damage to farmlands, lower the water quality in the Delta, and contribute to noise and air pollution.


Compensating for Construction

In order to compensate for these issues the state is planning to set aside $200 million for projects in the area to counteract the construction.

Drainage Ditch, Friant-Kern Canal, Central Valley Project Irrigation System

Panoramio user Chris English

In Central Valley, however, there are concerns over water being siphoned from the area to benefit Southern California.


Lawmaker’s Input

According to Representative Josh Harder: “This new analysis acknowledges what we’ve known all along: the Delta Tunnel is meant to benefit Beverly Hills and leave Delta communities out to dry.”

Josh Harder walking on a farm with a farmer, there are people working behind her.

X user JoshHarder

He went on to state: “I’m sick and tired of politicians in Sacramento ignoring our Valley voices, and I will do everything in my power to stop them from stealing our water.”


Impact of Droughts

Over the last 15 years, there have been two major droughts in California, from 2011 to 2017 and from 2020 to 2022.

The view from Bend, California showing the Sacramento River and open land beyond it.

Wikimedia Commons user Nickdp190

The decrease in average annual water supplies could result in losses of 50,000 jobs and 900,000 acres of farmland.

The backlash to Newsom’s proposal could signal a need for alternative solutions to combat the water supply woes of California moving forward.