Circumnavigational conveyance alternatives
Could I ask that Dan Bacher and those he quotes use the term “canal” when referring to a canal to take water around the Delta, the term “tunnel” for the other option under discussion, and “canal/tunnel” when referring to both?
I ask because there are important differences in the potential effects of a canal or a tunnel on the Delta’s environmental and social health (to keep it tight), and elisions that blur these distinctions make everyone that much less informed.
Mr Bacher, we assume that you are writing for people out there who are not yet decided (and not just for those who already have), and it would therefore be good to provide them with as much information as possible. Even if that is to know that both canal and tunnel are on the table and both are to be opposed. Others can get into finer points distinguishing between the two.
Otherwise, if it is the canal alternative being referred to when really the reference intended is to both canal and tunnel, one could give the reader the mistaken impression that one alternative is preferable to the other, or that there is no other alternative. There are several others.
It may be that one is preferable to the other, when push comes to shove. But upon a survey of all the evidence, it does seem that Mr Bacher and those for whom he advocates despise both with equal fierceness.
Fine, but it does seem useful to explain objections to both, different objections, one assumes, since the canal and tunnel will produce different effects.
In a lesser-of-two-evils thought experiment, I pondered some of the differences between a canal and a tunnel a while ago. A few snippets:
Conclusions? The eastern isolated conveyance (the Peripheral Canal), the preferable of the two surface alternatives, is less expensive and less of a technological risk. But the tunnel is more viable politically because building a structure no one will ever see makes it ostensibly less environmentally impactful and greatly reduces necessary land takings, something that will no doubt be bitterly contested.
But would the tunnel really be a better alternative from a strictly environmental perspective? Yes, it would certainly bring far less change to the surface of the Delta. But of course, as a development, damaged land would have to be mitigated by “restoration” of an equal amount of habitat, so one might argue that a canal would do no damage to the Delta’s habitats. So does the argument against the canal hold up as an environmental argument? A private property, or a preservation one, yes - but not an environmental argument.
The ability to imagine canals, tunnels, dams, levees, and the rest is controlled by the narrow views of technocrats and politicians. To them, imagination is a risk, an unknown best avoided. This is why the tunnel is likely to be the solution. Even the Delta’s tenacious preservationists will have a hard time justifying their opposition to such a perfectly banal, functional, solution.
Since that stuff was written, the anti-water export Planning and Conservation League has tipped its hat in the direction of a tunnel.
As I wrote yesterday, the fortress levee solution is looking better and better in a fiscal environment as bad is Calfornia’s. But as you might infer from the above snippets I would still bet that if Gov Brown does find money for the circumnavigational conveyance infrastructure, it will be for a tunnel.
Anyway, please hear this - I am not writing this as a proponent of one or the other alternative. I am writing this because it is important to understand that each brings different consequences and possibilities for the Delta’s landscape and community. Indeed, there are different motivations for preferring one to the other.
Being unclear about what the thing is by just referring to it as a peripheral canal doesn’t help tease out these important distinctions.