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More support for a delta canal

January 2, 2009 |  7:18 pm

A high-ranking state committee has endorsed the idea of building an aqueduct around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to improve water deliveries to Central and Southern California.

The proposal for a new system to take water from the Northern California delta has been gaining traction as its mounting environmental problems create more pressure to curtail pumping from the southern reaches of the estuary.

A blue-ribbon task force last fall made a host of recommendations to restore the delta ecosystem and change the way water is conveyed through the region. In a paper released Friday, a cabinet-level committee embraced most of those recommendations, including "dual conveyance."

Under that concept, state and federal water managers would continue to move some water supplies through the delta, which is a maze of farm islands and water channels. But a new canal would be built to transport some supplies around the delta and carry them from the Sacramento River directly to the pumps.

A proposal to build a more ambitious version of such a canal in the early 1980s sparked a bruising battle between the state's north and south and was voted down.

The Delta Vision Committee Implementation Report also endorses proposals for new reservoirs, more statewide water conservation and stepped-up efforts to correct the delta's myriad environmental ills.

The recommendations, which would require some legislation and bond money to move forward,  represent the latest in more than a decade of so-far-unsuccessful efforts to stop the environmental hemorrhaging of the delta, which supplies two-thirds of the state with urban and irrigation water.

The delta suffers from rising sea level, crumbling levees, crashing fish populations, pesticide pollution and invasive species.

-- Bettina Boxall