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Current Council Agenda and Past Meeting Information


Meeting Date: March 25, 2008

Subject/Title: Receive and File an Informational Report on the Peripheral Canal

Prepared by: Paul R. Eldredge, Assistant Director of Public Works/Assistant City Engineer

Submitted by: Bailey Grewal, Director of Public Works/City Engineer

Receive and File an Informational Report on the Peripheral Canal.



A. History

The concept of the Peripheral Canal (referred to as the “PC”) originated in the 1960’s. The thought was to transport water around the Delta, just south of Sacramento, to the export pumps in the Clifton Court Forebay, near Tracy. The canal was to be 44 miles in length and sized to move 22,000 cubic feet per second (“cfs”) or approximately 14 billion gallons per day. It included a 2,000 cfs connection to the Folsom South Canal to deliver water to areas south of Sacramento and east of the Delta (since there was insufficient flow in the American River to supply all those anticipated demands). About 5,000 cfs would have been pumped back into the Delta at various locations to mitigate water quality problems caused by the canal operations.

The original PC concept was to include new upstream reservoirs on the Eel River, as well as other north coast streams and rivers, to supply an additional 5 million acre-feet per year (or 2,885 cfs) for anticipated needs of south of Delta water uses as in-basin (Sacramento and Bay Area) demands grew. The PC was sized with the assumption that water would be coming from these new facilities. These streams and rivers are now considered wild and scenic; thus, no projects will be built on them, and the 5 million acre-feet is not available to supply the exporters.

In 1982, after years of analysis and debate, the PC concept along with the proposed storage was soundly defeated by 62.7% of the voters.

B. New Proposal

Proposed by exporters and fishery resource agencies, the PC concept has recently resurfaced. It is uncertain what size facility would be built if approved; however, the range would be from 2,500 cfs (1.6 billion gallons per day) to 15,000 cfs (10 billion gallons per day). For purposes of comparison, the average flow in the Sacramento River at the Rio Vista Bridge ranges between 9,400 cfs to 22,393 cfs (although in wet winters it can range over 50,000 cfs, and in flood periods over 200,000 cfs).

Some proponents suggest that the PC would directly feed the pumps, protecting the fish from being pulled into them. Others contest that the PC would reduce the “flushing” action the water in the proposed PC would otherwise provide in the Delta; thus, reducing the water quality and affecting the wildlife.

The PC concept has been recommended as a viable option by various groups and organizations studying the Delta and is opposed by approximately the same number of those who support it. Generally it has been considered a component of a comprehensive proposal that includes storage and in-Delta improvements such as levee repairs. Most recently the PC concept is starting to gain some momentum as a stand-alone project due to different funding sources, such as downstream user fees. The PC proposal is also referred to as an Isolated Facility and Isolated Conveyance or Dual Conveyance. If approved today, it is estimated that it would be 15-20 years until a facility is built.

C. Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force

Governor Schwarzenegger established the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force to develop a durable vision for sustainable management of the Delta. Their goal is to manage the Delta over the long term to restore and maintain identified functions and values that are determined to be important to the environmental quality of the Delta and the economic and social well-being of the people of the state. This task force has identified 12 integrated and linked recommendations that are designed to be implemented together and then work together in an interdependent fashion to achieve success. One of these recommendations suggests creating an isolated facility that would take water around the Delta from newly created upstream storage facilities. They believe this would enhance the reliability of exports, create fewer problems for selected species, be less exposed to seismic risk and result in high water quality. However, at this point, there is not sufficient specific information to guarantee these outcomes. This task force has been directed to develop a Strategic Implementation Plan by October 2008.

D. Typical Arguments Against the PC

• Contrary to popular belief, exports would actually be reduced with a PC, because of in-Delta flow requirements with a PC.
• Delta water has become increasingly more saltier than before and the PC would only add to this.
• A large PC would cause the southern Delta to become a wastewater pool with no flow, which would be detrimental to wildlife and recreation.
• The PC would turn the Delta into a tidal lake rather than an estuary.
• The PC is proposed as a 44 mile long, unlined, canal that would be subject to failure during a seismic or flooding event.
• The PC would not resolve issues with the Delta levee failures which would result in salt water inundation to the fresh water supply.
• The PC would solve a problem of water supply for Kern County farmers and Southern California, but would not solve the vast array of issues in the Delta: with their issue resolved, they would have no interest in solving the others.

E. Typical Arguments In Favor of the PC

• The PC would allow for increased water exports with more storage or changes in water quality standards.
• The PC would allow the Delta to resort to a more natural state, as the Delta is kept artificially fresh due to water exports.
• The PC would allow for better water quality in the Delta.
• The PC would solve the fish problems of entrainment at the export pumps.
• The PC would protect the State and water users from water shortages due to catastrophic levee failures.


Map of the “Flexible Delta”
Map of the “Resilient Adaptive Delta”

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