Peripheral Canal Cost Soar

From the San Jose Mercury Times:

The price tag for addressing the declining health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while providing a reliable water supply to California cities and farmers keeps getting higher.Officials met Thursday to discuss one of the state's most contentious proposals-piping fresh water around the delta and into the canals that carry it south and into the San Francisco Bay area. The various options are projected to cost between $4 billion and $17 billion.

The estimates were provided to a panel created by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to come up with solutions to preserve the delta. The estimates are far higher than the $1.3 billion cost in 1982, when California voters rejected the so-called Peripheral Canal.

"All the cost estimates for all water projects get higher the more you study them," said Phil Isenberg, a former state assemblyman who is chairman of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force. "There has not been a serious, detailed study for more than a decade."

The peripheral canal is being studied as a possible option to improving the Delta's ecosystem, but it remains a controversial issue. Northern Californian's worry that too much water will be diverted to Southern California, and farmers worry that there will be less freshwater in the Delta, and water quality will deteriorate.

Engineers at the state Department of Water Resources presented the task force with four options to move water from the Sacramento River around the delta and into the California Aqueduct:

- A $4.2 billion canal in the eastern delta that runs parallel to the Deep Water Shipping Channel, which stretches from the upper reaches of the delta to West Sacramento. The canal later would cross beneath the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers by tunnel.

- An eastern canal coupled with a second system that funnels water through the Middle River, west of Stockton, at a cost of between $5.4 billion and $14 billion.

- A $7.4 billion canal in the western delta that diverts Sacramento River water near Hood, similar to the path selected for the Peripheral Canal before the 1982 vote spiked the idea.

- A western canal coupled with the Middle River system, costing between $8.6 billion and $17.2 billion.

Paul Marshall, an engineer in the Department of Water Resources' Bay-Delta office, attributed the higher price to rising construction and labor costs. He said the costs were only preliminary estimates.

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