REGION: Inland leaders explore remedies for uncertain water supplies

Twenty-eight years ago, Northern California voters killed a bond issue that would have paid for a canal to carry water from the big rivers in the north to fast-growing Southern California.

The Peripheral Canal, as it was called, is still being debated, and now officials are talking instead about building tunnels to carry the water more than 40 miles underground at a cost that could top $14 billion. The tunnels would carry supplies under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the pumps that feed the California Aqueduct.

The Delta may be hundreds of miles from Inland water taps, but its aging levees, declining fish populations and water pumping limitations have Southern California water purveyors again looking for a big fix.

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Look to Alaska to solve our water problem

A few years ago while visiting Alaska an article in the Soldotna newspaper about water caught my eye. Soldotna is a city near the mouth of the Kenai River. The Alaskans had offered for a second time to provide the lower 48 with massive amounts of fresh water.

The suggested plan was to sink three giant pipes into the Pacific to carry billions upon billions of gallons of fresh water from the Kenai to Northern California.

The Kenai is a mighty river that drains much of the summer snow and glacial melt of central Alaska into the Cook Inlet where it becomes useless through salination. The pipes would carry the fresh water without pumping as the water inlet would be above sea level and the outlet would be slightly lower just above sea level. California, Arizona and Nevada in particular would have all the fresh water needed. Remove just the California straw from the Colorado and the river would become healthy in short order.

Washington could use some of the touted “stimulus” money to finance a project that could put thousands of Americans to work building the pipe and placing it on the ocean floor. The money would be repaid with interest by the ratepayers in California, Arizona, Nevada and every other state that would benefit by this abundance.

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