The Cal WaterFix is In…

Cal WaterFix is a proposal to construct two massive tunnels to port water from the North side of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, to the state and federal pumps at the South side. It’s a recipe for disaster for the salmon fishery.

The Sacramento River and its tributaries flow into the North Delta below the City of Sacramento. The main river course flows along the northwest side of the Delta, making a gradual westerly turn into the the northern part of the San Francisco Bay near Vallejo.

Baby salmon utilize that watercourse as they emigrate to the ocean. They spawn at the farthest upstream reaches of the Sacramento and its tributaries, and then ride the flows into the Bay and eventually out the Golden Gate. The Sacramento River acts like a conveyor belt, moving juvenile salmon that are too weak to make the trip entirely under their own power.

Juvenile Chinook salmon on the American River. Photo by USBR, public domain.

Cal WaterFix diverts that conveyor belt into underground tunnels that pop up right next to the pumps that move water from the Delta into the San Joaquin Valley. The salmon and water that flow through the Cal WaterFix tunnels will never make it to the ocean, and never contribute to the already-depressed commercial salmon fishery.

The WaterFix project is backed by the California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Major political support for the project is coming from California Governor Jerry Brown and the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles. DWR and the Bureau are seeking permits for the tunnel project at the State Water Resources Control Board.

The Board is currently considering whether to allow DWR and the Bureau to change the location from which they suck water out of the Delta – the agencies would like to move their diversion point from near the pumps on the southern edge of the Delta to the proposed tunnel intake location on the northern edge. PCFFA and its sister organization the Institute for Fisheries Resources are formal objectors to the permits, having filed a protest and presented evidence at the Board’s administrative hearings on this issue. The Board will follow the point of diversion change hearing with a water quality certification hearing.


To participate in the State Water Resources Control Board’s hearings on the Tunnels, visit the Board’s Cal WaterFix program page.


The California Department of Natural Resources’ Cal WaterFix webpage provides official boosterism and information on the scope of the project.

27 January 2017 Environmental Water Caucus (PCFFA is a member organization) comments on Cal WaterFix Final EIR/EIS, and 30 January 2017 Supplemental Comments from PCFFA, IFR and others.

30 October 2015 PCFFA, IFR, The Bay Institute, NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, SF Baykeeper comments on Cal WaterFix environmental documents

NRDC’s alternative portfolio proposal: a single tunnel with water supply improvements south of the Bay-Delta mitigating the need for water exports from salmon streams. Note PCFFA is not a signatory to this proposal, but believes discussion of alternatives to Cal WaterFix is a step in the right direction.


19 December 2016 Water Deeply article on renewed interest in a single tunnel proposal.