Ecology Center Submits Comments on Delta Tunnel Project

The Delta Conveyance Project proposes to build a tunnel under the Bay Delta diverting Sacramento River flows to enhance the State Water Project water-delivery capabilities to the Central Valley and Southern California. Our comments focus mainly on the implications of the project for the Upper Sacramento Watershed, including source waters from the Medicine Lake Highlands and Mount Shasta aquifers, while most conservation groups opposed the Delta Tunnel due to its significant impacts on the San Francisco Bay Delta and beyond.

The Delta Conveyance Project (formerly WaterFix, formerly Twin Tunnels) is the latest version of the state of California’s plans to draw fresh water from the northern reaches of the Delta and convey it to the Central Valley and Southern California. The Notice of Preparation (NOP) to which we responded defined the project and initiated an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which will determine the project’s compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a critical step toward moving the project forward.

Our comments pointed out that California’s volcanic Cascades, including Medicine Lake Volcano, Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen are sources of immense unprotected and largely unrecognized groundwater recharge, storingand releasing vast quantities of groundwater to spring-fed rivers that supply multiple human, wildlife and aquatic needs while providing drought resilience. The Delta Conveyance Project would rely in large part on these volcanic source waters.

We advocated for inclusion of the entire Sacramento watershed in the EIR analysis to include critical informationon downstream flows, as the availability of water downstream and from Shasta Lake Reservoir depends greatlyon the water from the Medicine Lake Highlands Aquifer, as well as the aquifers of Mount Shasta, Mount Lassen,and other far North State sources. The analysis also needs to include the likelihood that expanded demand for Upper Sacramento water would increase pressure to raise Shasta Dam, which would impact Native Americans and North State communities.

As noted in the Upper Sacramento River (USR) Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, “Water security in the USR is directly related to the vast underground storage capacity of Mount Shasta and the Medicine Lake Highlands.” It is therefore critical for the EIR to study and recognize the critical importance of these volcanic source waters.

Our full comments can be found here. Our coalition partner, Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment signed on to the Ecology Center’s comments, which were submitted to the California Department of Water Resources April 16th.