SACRAMENTO — U.S. wildlife agencies have given critical first approval to California’s ambitious $16 billion project to build two massive tunnels that would re-engineer the water system in the nation’s most populous state.
The National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday that the project likely will not jeopardize endangered fish in the largest fresh-water estuary on the West Coast.
A series of other decisions are still needed from federal and state officials.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans call for twin tunnels to ship water from the Sacramento River in Northern California.
Backers say it will ensure a reliable water supply from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farms and millions of residents, mostly in central and Southern California.
Opponents say it would further harm the delta and native fish nearing extinction.