By Elizabeth Zach, staff writer

Farmer and tractor tilling soilBy September, California’s water agencies will decide whether to approve plans to pump billions of gallons of water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Bay Area, Southern California and the state’s productive farm regions.

Deliberations on the controversial $15.5 billion plan have been ongoing for more than a decade.

“Now we’re within 90 days of actually making a decision on whether the project is going to go forward or not,” Roger Patterson, assistant general manager at Metropolitan Water District of Southern California told the Sacramento Bee.

The plan’s approval would deeply affect all California residents. In the San Joaquin Valley, farmers who have been hampered by declining water supplies meant to protect endangered Delta fish will see if Gov. Jerry Brown’s promise of more reliable deliveries is worth smaller profits. Brown’s administration maintains that the tunnels will improve the Delta ecosystem, allowing the water pumps there to operate with fewer interruptions, even though the total volume of deliveries isn’t expected to increase.

“There’s a lot of frustration with 10-plus years of work, (but) there’s also optimism that we’re looking at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Jason Peltier of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which serves farmers throughout much of the San Joaquin Valley, told the Bee. “Momentum is definitely building.”

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