Feds give two thumbs up to Delta tunnel project

The Delta tunnels got a crucial green light from two federal agencies Monday when scientists said the controversial project can co-exist with the endangered fish that inhabit the waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

In a pair of long-awaited decisions, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service said the tunnels, known as California WaterFix, aren’t likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Delta smelt, Chinook salmon, steelhead and other imperiled species.

“WaterFix will not jeopardize or threaten endangered species, or adversely modify their critical habitat,” said Paul Souza, regional director with Fish & Wildlife, which is responsible for protecting Delta smelt. Barry Thom, regional administrator at the Fisheries Service, said his agency made a similar conclusion that “the project doesn’t deepen any harm.”

The lengthy documents, known as biological opinions, represent a pivotal point for the project.

Other regulatory hurdles remain. The State Water Resources Control Board is in the middle of months of hearings on whether the project would harm water users and the environment.

Source: The Sacramento Bee

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