Bay-Delta Conservation


The massive Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed by Governor Jerry Brown’s administration in 2013, has prompted significant concerns from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other commenters, significantly delaying a revised plan until 2015.  Federal officials say that the project would violate pollution standards and could worsen conditions for imperiled fish species, including Delta smelt, Longfin smelt, green sturgeon and four runs of Chinook salmon.

Fresh water flows from the Delta into the Bay improve Bay water quality and provide healthy habitat for fish and wildlife, including the many endangered and threatened species that live in the Bay and along its shoreline. These impacts are exacerbated by California's historic drought crisis.

Save The Bay is part of a broad coalition calling on the Governor to heed the advice of state water experts and reduce diversion of fresh water from the Delta, develop regional and local water supplies, and increase conservation efforts. That more sustainable approach will save money, and better balance the water needs of all Californians, fisheries, and farmers.

The Governor's draft plan includes a proposal to build two tunnels, 40 feet high and 35 miles long, to move water from the north Delta to pumps in the south Delta. This plan could decrease fresh water flows to San Francisco Bay, especially in drier years, like the extended drought California is currently experiencing, Reduced flows into the Bay could further reduce already-decimated salmon populations and increase salinity in sensitive fresh water habitat.

The scope of the current plan process is enormous, and could ultimately become one of the largest and most expensive public works projects in U.S. history, with no guarantee that it will provide a more reliable water supply for all Californians and protect, restore, and enhance the Delta ecosystem, as the Governor asserts.

Water wars in California are nothing new. The battle to stop the proposed Peripheral Canal more than 25 years ago was an important turning point in California water history. Save The Bay played a lead role then, exposing the threat the canal posed to San Francisco Bay, and mobilizing a large coalition to defeat it at the ballot box.

In the News

August 29, 2014:  EPA says proposed Delta water tunnel would harm environment

“In a sharp rebuke of state plans for a massive water tunnel system in Northern California, federal environmental officials say that the project would violate pollution standards and could worsen conditions for imperiled fish species.  The comments … underscore the difficulty the $25-billion project may have in getting the necessary environmental permits while also satisfying the water demands of the agencies that are to underwrite much of its cost.”

December 9, 2013: California: Details of massive $25 billion water plan released by Jerry Brown administration

“Paying for the $25 billion project -- which is certain to face years of lawsuits and probably a statewide ballot measure -- is also uncertain. State officials say water agencies will pay for about two-thirds of the cost through higher water rates. The rest they project to come from a state water bond on the November 2014 ballot and money from Congress, neither of which is guaranteed.”

November 23, 2013:Why California water debate is going nowhere fast

“At its worst, this could be one of the biggest water grabs in state history. And for California, that's saying something. The focus instead should be the operating conditions for the delta, particularly the amount of water that needs to flow through it annually to maintain the health of the estuary.”

November 18, 2013: Why the Bay Area should care about the California delta

“If you savor locally caught salmon, the delta's health is crucial to maintaining the supply. If you love the dominant feature of our home, the San Francisco Bay, you should care about maintaining freshwater flows from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.”

February 19, 2013: Delta pipes pitch less than perfect.

“The pipe idea - single or double - won't address the need to take less water from the delta (delta exports rose to a record in 2011), and it disturbs the flow through the delta needed to maintain the salmon population.”

March 30, 2012: Prestigious panel agrees: Delta is stressed, with no easy fix

“Since 2002, nine native fish species have experienced steep population declines, capped by a declared "disaster" for Sacramento River salmon that included an unprecedented two-year closure of commercial fishing.”