How a giant 45-mile-long super-tunnel could be key to helping arid Southern California | American News

A giant 45-mile-long underground tunnel is at the heart of a new plan to move water from California’s wetter north to its parched south.

The program would see water removed from the Sacramento River, the state’s largest, to the California Aqueduct which currently terminates near Santa Barbara and San Bernardino in the southern part of the state.

A report examining the project said the 10-year construction would require the removal of 71 buildings, including 15 homes, as well as taking over 2,340 acres of farmland and crossing sites important to tribal communities.

It could also harm two types of fish – the endangered delta smelt and chinook salmon – and harm water quality by increasing the amount of bromide, chloride and salt.

But the feasibility study said all of this would still have fewer negative consequences than other options that have been on the table to deal with Southern California’s drought for the past 50 years.

The preferred plan for the huge tunnel would be to build two stations to draw water from the Sacramento River near the state capital, then transport it south before breaking at the top of the California Aqueduct, the the state’s main channel for moving water south, built in the 1960s.

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Two out of three Californians, or about 27 million people, depend on water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

At the southern end of the delta, state and federally operated pumping stations are currently sucking up water and pumping it south. The proposed tunnel project would take water from the Sacramento River before it reaches the delta.

An aerial view of the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta

Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District is the state’s largest water contractor, using water from the Delta to supply 19 million people, including the city of Los Angeles.

Adel Hagekhalil, the company’s chief executive, said they were working to expand its supply from other sources, but the tunnel project was “essential to provide flexibility and ensure that the state captures all the water it can”.

How much does a giant tunnel cost?

State water officials say a tunnel is badly needed to modernize the state’s water infrastructure in the face of climate change, which scientists say is likely to cause both prolonged droughts and major downpours of rain and snow.

It would also better protect the state’s water supply from the risk of an earthquake that could cause levees (a natural or man-made wall that holds back water) to collapse and flood the water. ocean salt in the system.

Although California is in the third year of a punishing drought, it saw record rainfall last October and another major dumping ground of rain and snow in December, some of which the state was unable to capture.

The cost of building the planned tunnel has not been revealed although a prior estimate for a different route has been put at around $16bn (£13bn).

It would be paid for by the water companies that would use it, but even if state politicians agree to go ahead with the plan, it is unlikely to start until at least 2028 and construction would take more than a decade.

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