California Gov. Jerry Brown had some sharp words for environmentalist critics of his proposed Sacramento River water tunnels.
On Wednesday, Brown told critics of his $15 billion plan to “shut up, because you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” according to the AP.
Brown’s office told Sacramento Bee blog Capitol Alert that the governor’s remarks were made in “jest.” But the sharp rebuke highlights the tension surrounding the pricey project, which would send water from the northern part of the state south by using a pair of underground water tunnels to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) has been under development for the last eight years, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Brown wants to use the tunnels to stabilize the water supply for the millions of farmers and residents south of the Delta.
But the project has come under fire from California environmental groups, who say the tunnels are not environmentally sustainable. Brown, who was forced to substantially reduce the amount of habitat restoration involved in the project, said he’s put a “million hours” into poring over every aspect of it.
“We will not go away, and we will not shut up,” Restore the Delta executive director Barbara Barrigan-Parilla said in a statement, adding that Brown “has his fingers in his ears and will not listen” to criticism of the project.
“We can’t stand by and watch a project move forward that’s going to destroy the most important estuary on the West Coast of the Americas or completely destroy California’s largest watershed,” Barrigan-Parilla added.
Meanwhile, the tunnels have drawn support from Californians for Water Security, a group made up of the California Chamber of Commerce and various farm and labor organizations. According to Capitol Alert, the group has spent “well into the six figures” on TV and radio advertisements in support of the project.
At a news conference last week, Brown said the tunnels “must move forward.”
“This is an imperative,” Brown said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “This is not just some piece of rhetoric… this is a serious effort on the part of the federal authorities, state authorities.”
The BDCP is just one of a number of billion-dollar proposals to solve California’s four-year drought. In March, Brown unveiled a $1 billion drought relief package aimed at shoring up drinking water protections and building desalination plants, though the package was slammed for allocating over $600 million to flood control.
On Tuesday, California’s State Water Resources Control Board approved new regulations to cut statewide urban water use by 25%. The Board’s regulations were prepared under the direction of Brown’s emergency executive order, issued April 1.