Harder pushes back on Newsom’s embrace of Delta tunnel

The idea first floated by Gov. Jerry Brown and revived by Gov. Gavin Newsom is coming under assault from Northern California Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent embrace of a once dead-on-arrival proposal to move water from Northern California to the San Joaquin Valley and further points south via tunnel underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is coming under fire. 

This time, however, opposition is mounting from a fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill who have cast the project as a water grab to benefit communities and farms south of the Delta. 


Driving the news: Thursday, Rep. Josh Harder (D-Tracy) announced his re-introduction of the Stop the Delta Tunnel Act, aiming to block the drive to build a massive tunnel to convey water around the environmentally-sensitive Delta.

  • The bill, one page in length, seeks to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from issuing a permit for the so-called Delta Conveyance Project.
  • Harder’s initial slate of bill co-sponsors are largely Northern California and Bay Area-anchored, with Reps. John Garamendi (D–Walnut Grove), Mike Thompson (D–St. Helena), and Mark DeSaulnier (D–Concord), signing on.

Historical perspectives: The original pitch for the Delta tunnel was, in fact, two tunnels. Gov. Jerry Brown vigorously defended the idea of shuttling water beneath the Delta as a method of maintaining ecological balance while sufficiently supplying water to farms and millions of Californians. 

  • The steep price tag for construction and heavy pushback for an adjustment to water pumping rules consistently stifled any potential progress.
  • The twin tunnels project suffered its death blow when major Federal and state water contractors, including the Santa Clara Valley Water Authority and Westlands Water District summarily rejected footing the bill in 2018.

What he’s saying: In a video posted ahead of his formal introduction of the bill, Harder described the tunnel project as “a $16 billion boondoggle that would poison our farms, ship our water down to Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, and not do a single thing to help our community.”

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