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Despite obstacles, Central Coast interlake tunnel project moves forward

Monterey County Water Resources Agency

One of the biggest Central Coast water projects in decades is moving forward along the San Luis Obispo-Monterey County line.

Lakes Nacimiento and San Antonio would be connected by a more than two mile long water tunnel.

On average, Nacimiento receives three times the runoff as San Antonio, with rainy season overflow simply lost downstream.

The tunnel would allow that water to transfer instead into San Antonio.

The Monterey County Water Resources Agency said it would ultimately provide flood protection and save the county billions of gallons in stored water.

The project was approved by the Monterrey County Board of Supervisors in 2014 and since then has hit design challenges, such as avoiding earthquake faults.

Dave Chardavoyne is the general manager of the Agency and said another challenge is keeping white bass from slipping through the tunnel.

"It's been determined that white bass is not a good thing to have because they're a nonnative predatory fish," said Chardavoyne. "So, if we connect a tunnel between the two reservoirs, then white bass will go from one reservoir to the other."

However, Chardovoyne said there are solutions to this problem.

"We did the biology on the white bass and they only exist in the top twenty feet of water and so the intake will be below that, so that that will prevent them from entering the tunnel," he said.

The agency is also facing opposition from a regional union.

Last June, the Monterrey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council sent a critical letter to the county stating it did not believe the agency was capable of handling the project.

Council CEO Ron Chesshire said his group wants more cooperation with water administrators.

"We do remain watchful and critical to some extent and look forward to working with them but that hand has not been extended," said Chesshire.

The project has recently finished its environmental review and is now in the final design phase. Chardovoyne said the project should be finished by 2018.