Interior Secretary Ken Salazar seems to believe that building a pair of $24 billion tunnels to ship water from Northern California to Southern California is going to end California's water wars. It's obvious he's not from around here.
The proposal put forth Wednesday by Secretary Salazar and Gov. Jerry Brown was immediately met with derision by local leaders, who rightly point out that building the tunnels before figuring out how much water is needed to restore the Delta puts the cart before the horse.

Even water users in Central and Southern California, who would end up paying for the tunnels, are worried about that aspect, fearing they could wind up footing the bill for a system that wouldn't have water to transport -- or at least not enough water to make it worth the cost.

The health of the Delta should be the first priority, and until the experts figure out how much water is required to restore it, any talk of diverting water away from it is premature.

Solano County supervisors are also concerned about the local effect of restoring the Delta wetlands. It could mean a loss of farmland here, if tracts are allowed to return to marsh. That can affect livelihoods. If property owners can't plant crops, they won't be needing agricultural supplies or workers. And they won't be paying property taxes that the county needs to conduct its business, such as providing sheriff's protection or fire service.

That's why it's essential that any restoration plans include
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a way of ensuring that everyone affected is properly compensated.
There is also concern about the North Bay Aqueduct intake at Cache Slough, which provides about half the domestic water for Solano's seven cities. Habitat restoration in that area could bring more smelt, which have a habit of getting caught up and killed in the intake pumps. That could mean more restrictions on when water could be taken there.

The intake could, of course, be moved, but that's expensive. Again, mitigating that situation needs to be included in the cost of restoring the Delta.

Issues such as these are the reason that local leaders are insisting they should have a seat at the table where Delta decisions are being made.

There is little dispute about the need to restore the Delta. Its health has been deteriorating for decades. There is also a need to reinforce Delta levees, lest an earthquake render the water unusable for everyone.

It is also possible that restoration will bring new business opportunities -- eco tourism, anyone? -- for landowners and the public agencies that count on tax dollars.

But without mitigation assurances, most Northern Californians and Delta neighbors are going to be loathe to send their water south.

If there's one positive aspect of Wednesday's announcement, it's that so many local leaders have united to ensure that this region's needs are met.

No, the proposed water tunnels aren't going to put an end to California's water wars -- at least not right away. At this point, they've only restarted the battle and served to mobilize an army of elected officials willing to fight it.