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Tim Donnelly, Republican candidate for California governor, discusses Bay Delta Conservation Plan

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Dan Evans/News-Sentinel

Tim Donnelly, assemblyman and candidate for California governor, speaks to a small crowd at the American Legion Hall in Lodi on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014.

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One of the Republican candidates for governor of California says he opposes the Bay Delta Conservation Plan — and that the office he is running for should not be controlling the state’s water.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, hosted a forum about water issues at Lodi’s American Legion Hall on Tuesday morning.

“You can’t talk about water without talking about government control,” Donnelly told a room of supporters Tuesday. “That’s what it’s all about. And whoever controls the water, controls the state’s destiny.”

Donnelly said California needs a statewide water plan that works, and the only way to solve the state’s water problem is to build more dams and increase storage capacity in reservoirs, in both Northern California and Southern California.

“I think it’s a stupid idea to tunnel under the wetlands,” Donnelly said, referring to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. “The budget has already tripled for that project. If they tell you it will take place over 18 years, it’s really going to take longer than 18 years to complete this project.”

Proponents of the plan, also known as the Delta twin tunnels, say it is aimed at restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta system and securing the state’s water supply.

Opponents claim the project is focused on changing where and when freshwater is taken from the Delta, and that it will harm Delta farmers and fisheries, as well as destroy the habitat of Delta smelt and other species.

The project includes building two tunnels underneath the Delta in order to deliver water to Southern California. The cost is estimated at $50 million.

Donnelly said while the state has made a huge effort to keep water stored, it hasn’t done enough to meet the needs of the people.

“I think we definitely need to get more water stored so it’s there when we need it,” he said. “We’ve subjugated its use for the environment instead of for human use. California’s economy is dependent on having enough water in the Central Valley, as well as in Southern California, as well as up here (in Northern California).”

Donnelly said Brown’s water policy is turning rural counties into “welfare” counties, and that the state’s water crisis was “man-made” amid a “government-created drought.”

He said money should be taken from other state projects to help build the additional dams and reservoir space he believes will solve the state’s water crisis.

“We ought to take money from high-speed rail, go back to the people and say we want to invest in our infrastructure,” he said. “Water is one of the most important keys to our infrastructure.”

Donnelly’s next stop is in San Mateo today, on his 10-day tour of the state.

Contact reporter Wes Bowers at wesb@lodinews.com.

3 images

Dan Evans/News-Sentinel

Tim Donnelly, assemblyman and candidate for California governor, speaks to a small crowd at the American Legion Hall in Lodi on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014.

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