SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Northern California cities and counties on Friday were leading a surge of lawsuits to try to block Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans to build giant tunnels that would carry water from the north of the state far to the west and south.
Sacramento County and other local governments, including Placer County water officials and the cities of Stockton and Antioch, all filed suit late this week objecting to Brown’s plans for the $17 billion water project, the Sacramento Bee newspaper reported . Environmental and sporting groups are among others that have also sued or announced plans to.
Brown’s project would build two four-story-high tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento River for delivery to Los Angeles and other large cities and farms in Central and Southern California, as well as some cities in the San Francisco Bay area.
California water officials say the project would better secure water supplies from the greener north of the state, and lessen the harm that the current water system is doing to native species in the delta of the Sacramento-San Joaquin rivers and in San Francisco Bay.
Spokeswoman Erin Mellon at California’s Department of Water Resources refused comment on the lawsuits Friday, saying her agency does not comment on ongoing legal cases.
The barrage of court cases comes after California declared last month that the proposed tunnels were legal under the state’s environmental quality laws and would not drive any endangered species to extinction. The declaration was one of the earliest of several crucial hurdles the project faces in coming months.
One of this week’s lawsuits, by Stockton, says the tunnels would harm the city’s water supplies and local native species by diverting fresh water from the Sacramento River that’s needed for habitat and communities downstream.
Stockton’s lawsuit accuses the state of failing to properly study those impacts, and of trying to ram through one of the most expensive water projects in the state’s history.
Sacramento County’s lawsuit says the tunnels would hurt Northern California farmers and low-income communities, as well as local native fish.