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Local water officials encourage support of tunnels

Plan includes building system to deliver water from Northern California.

February 27, 2014|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

With the statewide drought as a foundation — and the current storms a punch line to jokes highlighting how dry it still is despite recent rainfall — a trio of local water agencies encouraged Glendale business representatives and residents on Thursday to support a controversial plan to build a new system to deliver water from Northern California to the Southland.

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FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated in the last paragraph that the Bay Delta plan would be considered for a vote by early 2015. The plan will be considered by state and federal officials for an administrative decision, not a vote, by early 2015.
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The Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which includes a $15 billion proposal to build two 35-mile-long tunnels that would carry water from the delta east of the San Francisco Bay to existing plants that pump water southward to increase supply reliability and efficiency has faced strong opposition from groups in Northern California. The tunnels would be 40-feet in diameter.

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However, messages from officials in Southern California supporting the proposal have been sporadic, at best, agency representatives said at the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event.

“The voices being heard right now are not from this region,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who is also Glendale’s representative on the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a consortium of 26 cities.

“We need to have that consensus and be vocal about it,” she added.

Stakeholders in the North are characterizing the Southland as “endlessly thirsty” and the tunnels as “a giant straw” for the south, Friedman said. While it’s easy to fall into the years-long water wars narrative between the two sides, Friedman, a supporter of the Bay Delta plan, said that should be avoided.

“We’re one state,” she said. “We’re going to succeed and fail together.”

Opponents of the $25 billion Bay Delta plan also say it’s too expensive and point out environmental issues related to importing water. The tunnels are just a portion of the project’s cost. The plan is projected to tack on an extra $5 monthly charge to water bills in about a decade from now if it is approved by the state and the Obama administration.

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