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Tuolumne County pans Delta plan

Tuolumne County leaders are unhappy about the state’s multi-billion-dollar plan to build diversion tunnels to re-route water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and will likely join an opposition campaign later this month.

The Board of Supervisors voiced their concerns this week about the effects that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan will have on local water supplies long term. 

A final draft of the plan, which was proposed in March by Gov. Jerry Brown and centers around a pair of underground tunnels to move water to points south, is expected to be released later this month.

County board members showed interest in joining the opposition to the tunnels and related proposals. The county could join a group of government and non-profit agencies coordinating a campaign against the plan under the name Californians for a Fair Water Policy.

“I think it’s very important that we start taking public positions on especially water issues,” said Supervisor Karl Rodefer. “We risk being outflanked and overwhelmed by those that do if we don’t.”

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan calls for more than $20 billion in initiatives to help restore the beleaguered Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem while improving water supply for millions of Californians. Along with the 35-mile tunnels, the plan calls for creating more than 100,00 acres of habitat for delta fish species.

Critics, including the Tuolumne Utilities District and Calaveras County Water District, have said the plan is too costly and will do even more harm to the ecosystem. And mountain communities like Tuolumne County are also concerned the plan will mean even more water will come out of the Tuolumne and Stanislaus River watersheds to slake downstream interests.

“Every county up and down the Sierra is going to be doing this,” Jerry Cadigan, a local resident and water rights advocate, said of opposing the plan. “We have a legitimate basis for taking the lead.”

The county Board of Supervisors has taken an increased interest in water supply and water rights this year. The issue has regularly come up at supervisor meetings, and the board recently resuscitated the long-dormant Tuolumne County Water Agency as a body to become more actively involved in water-related issues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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