Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial “twin tunnels” Delta water project will receive crucial funding from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The MWD board voted today (April 10) to support the project with $10.8 billion in financing. Member agencies voted by a margin of 61% to 39% to fund the massive project, also known as California WaterFix.

“This is a historic decision that is good for California — our people, our farms and our natural environment.” — Gov. Jerry Brown

Metropolitan Water District Will Fund Two-Thirds of Project

With the vote, MWD directors agreed to provide nearly two-thirds of the estimated $17 billion cost for the project, which will divert water from the Sacramento River and deliver it to San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California cities.

“This is a historic decision that is good for California — our people, our farms and our natural environment,” Gov. Jerry Brown said following the vote.

When completed, the water will flow through two tunnels, each up to 40 feet in diameter and buried 150 feet beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The 35-mile long tunnels will terminate at pumping stations for the State Water Project and Central California Project north of Modesto.

Project Is Bigger Than the English Channel Tunnel

The scale of the WaterFix is described as being as big or bigger than the English Channel Tunnel and Boston’s Big Dig.

In a letter before the vote, Brown strongly urged MWD to support the project, saying it will address California’s future water needs.

“It will capture more water during storm events for storage that can then be used during prolonged droughts or unexpected disruptions,” Brown wrote. “It also does the most to protect water quality and reduce the impact of the existing pumps on native fish.”

The funding decision by MWD resolved a critical obstacle in the path of the project after several Central Valley water agencies, including Westlands Water District, declined to help pay for it.

With today’s vote, MWD agreed to pick up the portion of the cost that farming interests would not cover. The Southern California agency is expecting to leverage its investment by selling some of the additional water it will receive to agricultural users in the future.

Environmental Groups Oppose Tunnels

Environmental groups oppose the project, fearing Southern California water agencies would use the tunnels to drain too much water from the Sacramento River. The Sacramento is the state’s biggest river and a vital supplier of fresh water to the San Francisco Bay, part of the largest estuary on the West Coast.

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