You know that I’m not actually going to read those, right? I base my comments instead on the news summary, because that’s the kind of in-depth reporting you’ve come to expect here. What I read makes me simultaneously more cynical and more optimistic. It also tells me what the new direction for the Peripheral Canal must be, if it is going to exist.
You guys know that I’m in favor of the Peripheral Canal, because I don’t think there’s hope for the Delta to be both a functioning ecosystem and an important drinking water conveyance system. I want those functions separated. So I trot around to the blogs and say things like, ‘but it doesn’t have to be a “water grab.” It could be for reliability without being for pumping more water. Reliability for urban drinking water for 25 million people is really fucking valuable.’ Then opponents laugh at me and say, ‘of course it isn’t for reliability. Of course it is for pumping additional water.’. After today, I have to admit, yep. They’re right. The Preferred Alternative is the big tunnel, and it proposes to export more water than Delta has been able to support since its fisheries collapsed. The Peripheral Canal in these documents is, in fact, a bid to get more new water south of the Delta.
So that makes me cynical. Here’s what makes me not-cynical. We totally knew all this was true in the Schwarzenegger administration. The game was rigged then, like we knew. It is, however, the only game going on this scale. The Brown administration has been forced to play it, as has everyone. What else can they do, start from scratch? The new administration swears they are all transparent now, and the process is all open to new voices and stuff. After today, at least, it is way more transparent. It is a transparent bid for more water through giant tunnels. They have finally declared themselves. Now we can see whether the “open” part is also true. I don’t know what goes on in high level executive stuff. But I have somewhat more hope that the Brown administration would consider different Peripheral Canal options than they were handed from the last administration.
Which leads me to my other thought on the new information on the Peripheral Canal. The documents today released cost estimates, and Dr. Michael broke that down into $/af for us, which is what I need.
That comes out to between $3600 and $730 per acre foot of new supply - not counting operations costs – just to get the new water to the Tracy pumps. Add a few hundred dollars more for operating costs and pumping to Los Angeles.
Y’all, this is not ag water. There are almost no crops that can return a profit on $1000/af water. Avocados. Strawberries. Maybe weed, before it is legalized and everyone can grow it. Paying for this water would bankrupt the West Side. They are beginning to realize this, which is why they are looking for other ways to secure their water supply. (If I were on the East Side of the SJV, I would start getting nervous, because they are some relentless motherfuckers.) This is, however, still cheaper than de-sal. This may yet be worth it to urban SoCal, especially a SoCal that sees water levels in Lake Mead falling and is in litigation over allocating water to dust control in the Owens Valley. In a catastrophic failure of the Delta levees, it would totally be worth it.
I am still a proponent of a PC, so I am glad to have this all out in the public. People can push back against taking more water from an unstable Delta ecosystem. We can figure out who wants this water at this price. We can figure out if there are cheaper Peripheral Canal options that still protect SoCal’s water reliability. This is all progress, which has me back to being mildly optimistic again.