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Metropolitan Water District Feigns Legislative Distance Over Calvert Rider: Public Record Act Documents Reveal Complicit Action Including Other CA Water Districts & Agencies

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For immediate release: July 2, 2018
Contact:
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, 209-479-2053, [email protected]

Metropolitan Water District Feigns Legislative Distance Over Calvert Rider: Public Record Act Documents Reveal Complicit Action Including Other CA Water Districts & Agencies

STOCKTON – Restore the Delta recently acquired a series of documents contained in a Public Records Act Request (PRA) from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD or Metropolitan) that indicate respective staff members from MWD, Kern County Water Authority (KCWA), and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCWVD) reviewed the extent to which the House Appropriations spending bill met their previously planned needs for the CA WaterFix project, including the Calvert rider—a legislative provision that would ban further judicial review of the Delta tunnels project.

In addition, some documents confirm that MWD and Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) board director Brett Barbre worked behind the scenes to pursue the passage of the Calvert rider despite MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger’s best efforts to distance MWD from any political backlash associated with the Calvert Rider.

In an email dated May 15, 2018 between MWD’s Roger Patterson, Kern County Water Agency’s Brent Walthall, various D.C. lobbyists, and Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Nina Hawk and Richard Callender includes a review list of the House Appropriations Bill. Brent Walthall noted the House Appropriations Bill included limited additional funding for WIFIA loans (public-private partnership loans for CA WaterFix), and language for a blanket exemption from lawsuits on the EIR/S on any decision by any agency under state or federal law for CA WaterFix. Moreover, Walthall noted that “two fixes” for the master contract and supplemental fees were missing from the bill. These email communications confirm MWD, KCWA, and SCVWD staff collectively reviewed how the House Appropriations Bill and the Calvert rider could meet their needs for CA WaterFix. (MWDPRA-RTD_000126).

An email exchange on May 16, 2018 between Roger Patterson, Kathy Cole of MWD, and Jennifer Pierre and Stefanie Morris of the State Water Contractors showed that Ms. Cole, Ms. Pierre, and Ms. Morris were worried that they knew nothing about the rider until news reports. Ms. Cole asked what the “collective we” should say about the rider, with Patterson answering “nothing” (MWDPRA-RTD_000048). Yet, a separate email dated May 15, 2018 shows MWD and MWDOC board director, Brett Barbre, sending off a quick email to Ian Foley, Congressional Aid to Representative Ken Calvert, praising him for a “good job on this bill” with a link to an article covering the rider (MWDPRA-RTD_000039). Mr. Foley’s response was, “I try.”

 

In May 2018, MWD released a statement claiming that they were not behind the effort to create the Calvert Rider, even though MWD believed in judicial reform regarding permitting processes.

Emails indicate that MWD Board Members had questions about the Calvert Rider for MWD senior management (MWDPRA-RTD_000001; MWDPRA-RTD_000048) when news of the rider became public. Assistant General Manager Roger Patterson told MWD Director Russell Lefevre that “language was not requested by either Metropolitan or the State Water Contractors” (MWDPRA-RTD_000003), while General Manager Kightlinger wrote to Los Angeles Director Mark Gold:

“Metropolitan did not engage with Congressman Calvert on this proposal and there was no input from us to his office on it. He has been a good friend of Metropolitan’s over the years and has partnered with Senator Feinstein on many water-related issues that we have supported such as CalFed Act and its renewals among others. He is very interested in water in general and has very knowledgeable staff; it is not surprising to me that his staff could and would prepare such a proposal if he were interested.” (MWDPRA-RTD_000048).

Restore the Delta’s Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla provided the following statement regarding the email findings:

“Very simply, General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger and Deputy General Manager Roger Patterson have had MWD & MWDOC Board Member Brett Barbre work directly with Representative Ken Calvert’s office on pursing the elimination of judicial review of California WaterFix, while keeping certain staff members, some MWD Board Members, and State Water Contractors in the dark. They feigned distance from the language knowing that political blowback from members within their own organization, partner organizations, and the public would result from this assault on the rule of law.

“Furthermore, it is clear that the Calvert Rider and the pursuit of WIFIA loans, which would be guaranteed by Federal tax payers and are used to create public-private partnerships, constitute the permitting and funding strategy by the members of the WaterFix JPA because the project is too expensive for their ratepayers and cannot withstand judicial scrutiny of its purported environmental merits.

“While we really didn’t expect less from MWD, KCWA, and SCVWD staff members, as they have not been honest with ratepayers, elected officials, and Californians about the environmental and economic risks of WaterFix, we remain deeply disturbed that Governor Brown allows this assault on the rule of law to continue.  Governor Brown is known as a social justice champion.  He makes speeches about protecting the rule of law and people’s rights.  He is holding a climate change conference in September to cement his legacy as an environmentalist.  Yet, he allows California WaterFix to drag on, without demanding environmental and economic veracity, and allowing sacrifice of due process rights for Delta communities, judicial review, and the rule of law. He is poised to sacrifice his moral principles just so he can build his tunnels.  But by allowing lies to be the foundation upon which his Delta tunnels are built, they won’t only be dry, they will forever symbolize for future generations the hollow ring of his environmental legacy.”

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