Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday pledged to fast-track hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of construction projects throughout the state, including a pair of large water projects that have languished for years amid permitting delays and opposition from environmental groups.
For the past decade, California officials have pursued the water projects in the drought-prone state. One would construct a giant tunnel to carry large amounts of water beneath the natural channels of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to drier and more populous Southern California.
The other would be a massive new reservoir near the tiny community of Sites in Northern California that could store more water during deluges — like the series of atmospheric river storms that hit the state earlier this year — for delivery to farmers.
But neither project has been built, despite promises from multiple governors and legislative leaders. Environmental groups have sued to block the tunnel project, arguing it would decimate threatened species of fish, including salmon and the Delta smelt. The Sites Reservoir is still trying to acquire necessary permits to begin construction.
Newsom is seeking a slew of changes to make it much faster for these projects to gain the required permits and approvals. Other projects that could be eligible include solar, wind and battery power storage; transit and regional rail; road maintenance and bridge projects; semiconductor plants; and wildlife crossings along Interstate 15, Newsom’s office said. His efforts to speed projects would not apply to building more housing.