California Gov. Gavin Newsom Advances Water Tunnel Project Amid Opposition From Environmental Groups

A long-sought and disputed project in drought-prone California aimed at capturing more water during heavy rain storms reached a key milestone on Friday when Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration finished an environmental review for an underground tunnel.

The tunnel would be about 45 miles (72 kilometers) long and 36 feet (10.9 meters) wide, or large enough to carry more than 161 million gallons of water per hour. The tunnel would be another way to get water from Northern California, where most of the state’s water is, to Southern California, where most of the people live.

The Newsom administration says the tunnel is a necessary upgrade of the state’s aging infrastructure because it will protect the water supply from earthquakes and capture more water from rainstorms known as atmospheric rivers that scientists say have been increasing because of climate change.

But environmental groups, Native American tribes and other opponents say the project will take more water out of the river than is necessary and will harm endangered species of fish.

Friday, the California Department of Water Resources released its final environmental impact report for the project. The report is the last step of a complex and lengthy state regulatory process. But it doesn’t mean the project is close to being built. The project still must complete a federal environmental review and obtain various state and federal permits. That process is expected to last until 2026.

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