Federal legislation has been recently introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-11th Congressional District-Richmond) to transfer the Contra Costa Canal System, currently a federal system, to the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD). The Contra Costa Canal System was originally constructed in 1937 as part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project.
Congressman DeSaulnier has introduced the Contra Costa Canal Transfer Act (H.R. 6040), which would transfer the title of the Contra Costa canal system from the Bureau of Reclamation to the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) and would allow the CCWD to make necessary safety improvements to the canal. The 48-mile canal system is currently exposed but following the transfer CCWD plans to enclose it in a surface tunnel.
Regrettably, 81 people have drowned in the exposed canal since it has been operational. DeSaulnier’s H.R. 6040, if signed into law, would help prevent these accidents. Additionally, it would improve recreation and land use in and around the canal system by revitalizing land located in the Concord Naval Weapons Station.
Congressman DeSaulnier has also successfully secured funding for the maintenance and repair of existing fish screen equipment located in the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta. The funding secured through in the House Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2019 (H.R. 5895) will improve fish screens in the Bay-Delta Watershed and migrating fish — including the endangered species of Chinook salmon, steelhead, and Delta Smelt — will be better protected from being drawn into water supply systems. H.R. 5895 passed in the U.S. House of Representative by a vote of 235-to-179.
The canal system includes the 48-mile Contra Costa Canal, the Shortcut Pipeline, two reservoirs, and related facilities. Under the companion bills, CCWD will receive ownership of assets it has operated since 1972 and has 100 percent paid off both the principal and the interest since 2010. CCWD can more efficiently operate and maintain the system on the local level and will reduce federal administrative burdens and associated costs.
“The canal system has reliably served the people and businesses of our community for 80 years,” said Lisa Borba, board president of Contra Costa Water District. “We appreciate the leadership from Senator Feinstein, Senator Harris and Congressman DeSaulnier to help us gain ownership of a system we can modernize to serve our customers for the next century.”
Congressman DeSaulnier was joined in introducing the Contra Costa Canal Transfer Act with Representatives Mike Thompson (D-5th Congressional District-Napa) and Jerry McNerney (D-09th Congressional District- Antioch). Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. The bill also has the support of the East Bay Regional Parks District.
“Maintaining and repairing our local water infrastructure is essential to protecting the ecosystems in the Delta. Fish screens help reduce the impact of our water supply systems on wildlife, especially the endangered species that migrate through the Delta,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “In addition, to allow for necessary safety improvements and to help revitalize land for recreation and development, ownership of the Contra Costa Canal should be transferred from the federal government to the Contra Costa Water District.”