Yesterday, environmental and public interest groups including Restore the Delta, Food and Water Watch California, Sierra Club Los Angeles Chapter, SEIU 721, S.E.E., the Center for Food and Safety, Los Angeles area pastors, and dozens of local Los Angeles County residents delivered another punch of opposing public comments to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) board of directors during their revote on the CA WaterFix project.
After approving 65 percent of total costs for the Delta tunnels at their April 10, 20189 vote, the board rescheduled their vote on the tunnels in May 2018 in response to a Public Records Act (PRA) request made by Food and Water Watch California and First Amendment Coalition that discovered certain MWD board directors violated the Brown Act with closed-door communications regarding the CA WaterFix decision on April 10, 2018.
As expected, the MWD board arrived at the same conclusion as they did during their April 10 vote, approving up to 64.6 percent of total project costs for the twin tunnels yesterday.
Numerous MWD board directors, including Director Gold (Los Angeles), Director Paskett (Los Angeles), Director Ballin (San Fernando), and Director Steiner (San Diego), thanked Food and Water Watch California for their PRA request and voiced their disappointment in fellow board directors’ efforts to whip enough yes votes for the Delta tunnels before the April 10 vote. Director Gold also vehemently expressed his disapproval of MWD director Brett Barbre’s joint effort with Congressmen Ken Calvert to create a run-around of state and federal law to exempt the Delta tunnels from judicial review. Finally, Directors Paskett and Steiner expressed concern that the State Water Resources Control Board updated Delta flow criteria could deter the feasibility of the tunnels project.
The approval of resolution 8.6 means that Metropolitan has rescinded their April 10, 2018 board action, and has authorized Metropolitan to not only fund well over half of the project’s total costs, but potentially contribute an additional $86 million for further contributions for study, review, planning, engineering, design, and other preconstruction capital costs.
In addition, the board resolution also grants MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger the executive power to authorize related financing, construction, and pre-construction agreements and amendments and the ability to negotiate draft terms and conditions for one or more multi-year transfer of State Water Project water supplies subject to board approval.
Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla commented,
“Since Restore the Delta started its campaign to stop the tunnels, we knew that this project was built on a foundation of half-truths and mistruths. Metropolitan staff has not only lied about the Delta tunnels serving the public trust, endangered species, and California fisheries, but has overestimated water deliveries from the tunnels and continues to believe they will be able to receive “flexible diversions” despite recently updated Delta flow criteria from the State Water Resources Control Board that asserts less water will be available for South-of-Delta deliveries. Even less water will be available as our planet continues to adjust to climate change—a fact that Metropolitan staff has underestimated, as evidenced by staff’s climate change modeling that stops at the year 2030.
“Metropolitan’s laundry list of lies is not limited to environmental mistruths and bogus fishery science. In fact, it includes lying to member agencies and local Southern California cities about the tunnels’ cost per household.
“More recently, PRA requests from Food and Water Watch California and Restore the Delta have uncovered some of the most unforgiveable falsehoods that have surfaced throughout the course of CA WaterFix. These findings include MWD’s Brown Act violation, and MWD staff’s support of and involvement in the House Appropriations Bill Valadao Rider and Calvert Rider.
“Our coalition went into yesterday’s revote anticipating that our comments would not lead to a positive outcome by Metropolitan for the future of the Delta. Yet, we are heartened that some MWD board directors are waking up and seeing the corruption that has been under their noses during the entire MWD Delta tunnels planning process. This fight is far from over. We will make sure that all Californians understand how Metropolitan seeks to manage California’s water for its own gain, rather than to protect the public trust.”