Schwarzenegger Augments Canal Talk With Environmental Initiatives



Amidst evidence that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration is considering the unilateral construction of a canal around the Sacramento River Delta, the governor has unveiled a range of other proposals designed to bolster the health of the Delta, the Contra Costa Times reported. The proposals include reduced water consumption, improved fish screens, and needed flood-control improvements. They seem likely to assuage Democrats who have suggested that they will oppose Schwarzenegger's plan.

The health of the delta has plummeted in recent years due to the volume of fresh water being pumped out and sent down to Southern California. In response to this crisis, which has resulted in falling stocks of salmon, Delta Smelt and other fresh water fisheries, the administration is taking a fresh look at an old and controversial idea: a so-called peripheral canal, which would do an end run around the delta's east side and conceivably spare the delta some of the harmful effects of the current pumping regimen. California voters rejected a plan to build such a canal in 1982, but the dynamics of that election had more to do with "them" (LA) stealing "our" (Norcal) water than with the environmental merits of the proposal itself.

The Schwarzenegger administration is taking another look at the proposal because it hold promise as one means to restore some health to the Delta, which has turned increasingly salty due to the current pumping regime. But the governor reportedly also favors a variety of other measures designed to buck up the health of the delta. According to Times reporter Mike Taugher, the governor also favors the following measures:

  • A Comprehensive analysis of how best to transport water through the Delta.

  • A 20 percent reduction in the demand for water by the year 2020.

  • A rethinking of floodways in the Delta and possible restrictions on new construction in flood zones.

  • Improvements to delta pumps to better protect small fish.

  • The completion of feasibility studies for three proposed off-stream reservoirs, including expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir east of Mount Diablo.