Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, visiting an area where sentiment against the Peripheral Canal is intense, told a business group in Stockton that the state was "going to fix the delta and to build a canal around the delta."
The governor made the comments at a gathering at the opening of an electric vehicle plant. His statement was first reported by The Stockton Record. After the speech, the governor did not take questions from reporters, the Record said.
It was one of his most direct comments to date about the canal, which is not popular in San Joaquin County. Among those who were surprised and displeased was Douglass Wilhoit, CEO of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, who said the newly approved water package did not address "the very faulty and incomplete water legislation which we fear does not go far enough to protect and restore the Delta."
The governor's comments came shortly after the Legislature sent to his a desk a package of bills that change the governance of the delta, require conservation and groundwater monitoring, and ask voters to approve borrowing $11 billion for water projects.
Those projects do not include the controversial Peripheral Canal, which would carry water from the Sacramento River and move it about 45 miles southward along the edge of the delta toward the California Aqueduct, and on to the Central Valley and Southern California.
The goal of the canal — a combination of a concrete-lined channel and tunnels — is to get river water into the aqueduct rather than extracting it rom the fragile delta, where the huge pumps disrupt the environmnent. Estimates of the canal's cost run from $6 billion to $12 billion and by some estimates it would be the largest public works project in the nation's history.
In 1982, voters in a referendum rejected the construction of a peripheral canal that had been approved by the Legislature and governor. The issue was so intense and emotional, that the canal since then was considered a "third rail" of California politics.