California’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan includes an ambitious scheme to build massive twin tunnels through the California Delta. The idea is to transport—or steal, depending on your viewpoint—water from the Sacramento River to Central Valley farmers and thirsty cities in SoCal. Estimates for the plan range from $15 billion to over $60 billion. Until now, included in that sum was $8 billion for Delta habitat restoration. Long suffering the ills of over-development and drought, the Delta and its finned denizens need the help. The recently revised plan slashes restoration funding to $300 million and axes targeted acreage from 100,000 to 30,000.

Environmental and fishing groups are not pleased. The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance has long been critical of the plan. “Habitat isn’t simply acreage,” said director Bill Jennings. “Habitat is adequate water and water quality.” Water quality is a major problem in the Delta, with salinity and pollution levels rising. Combined with habitat loss and invasive species, the Delta is on life support. Chinook salmon and indicator species like delta smelt, for example, are federally endangered.

The state sees the tunnels as a long term drought solution and maintains that the new restoration plan contains more realistic goals to accomplish within Governor Jerry Brown’s current term. Considering the entire program will take decades to execute, no one is sure who’ll be responsible for finishing the work.

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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