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California Downsizes Water Delivery Plan

California Gov. Jerry Brown waits to announce plans to build a giant twin tunnel system to move water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farmland and cities, in Sacramento, California, July 25, 2012.

California has downsized its ambitious plan to build giant tunnels to move water from Northern California to the dryer southern part of the state.

Governor Jerrry Brown's administration on Wednesday said it would attempt to build a single tunnel in its effort to re-engineer California’s elaborate water-delivery system, called the California WaterFix.

After failing to get the money needed to two giant tunnels, the California Department of Water Resources said it would now try to build the project in phases: one tunnel now and a second tunnel years down the road.

The project would pipe water from Northern California through a four-story-high tunnel to carry fresh water from the Sacramento River under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Los Angeles' giant Metropolitan Water District and its millions of urban customers are expected to be some of the main beneficiaries.

The California Department of Water Resources says the first tunnel would cost $10.7 billion. That’s much less than the price tag for building two tunnels, officially pegged at $16.3 billion.

The urban and agricultural water districts are supposed to pay for the multibillion dollar project and had balked at the price for the original plan.

The downsizing is not expected to appease the critics who say the plan will hurt migrating salmon and worsen water quality in the delta.