The Great Pyramids of Tunnel Muck

An engineer in San Joaquin County Public Works whipped up these Google illustrations to help people visualize just how much tunnel “muck” and other material would be unearthed during Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels project.

His conclusion: The equivalent of 15.5 times the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest of the Egyptian pyramids.

To put that in perspective, the engineer then plopped down 15.5 of those 481-foot-tall pyramids on top of Washington, D.C. and downtown San Francisco, like so:


In fairness, the state recently announced changes to the project that could reduce the amount of excavated material. Plus,  far from being abandoned in enormous piles towering over Delta farmland, proponents say tunnel muck could be put to beneficial uses like strengthening levees and restoring habitat.

The illustrations do reinforce, however, just how massive the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is.

Brandon Nakagawa, the county’s water resource coordinator, said Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller came up with the idea for the illustrations. Enlarged versions were shown to Delta-friendly Congressional staffers who toured the estuary recently, in an effort to drive home the potential disruption the project could have on the Delta and its residents.

The images were well-received, Nakagawa said. “It’s like preaching to the choir,” he said. “But we just wanted them to see what they’re fighting for.”

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