For immediate release: May 9, 2016
Contact: Christian Burkin (Eggman)(916) 319-2013, Melissa Jones (Wolk) (916) 651-4003
SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman and Senator Lois Wolk announced on Monday that they will request a state audit of California Water Fix, the new name for a very old project to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“There are still too many unanswered questions about how the Twin Tunnels are to be funded and who is going to pay for them,” said Eggman, D-Stockton. “With a federal investigation pending into whether billions of dollars meant for other purposes have already been misused, it is time for us to demand a higher level of scrutiny and public accountability for this project.”
“At a projected cost of $15 billion and climbing, California policy makers should be concerned about the source and accountability for funding for the Delta tunnels project. Currently the proposed Delta tunnels project has no financing plan for its construction, operation or maintenance,” said Wolk, D-Davis, who represents four of the five counties in the Delta. “Proponents of the project claim that the beneficiary will pay, yet the ability and willingness of the contractors to pay is in serious question. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent to conduct preliminary environmental review and engineering studies. Any further investment should be made with the utmost transparency to ensure that taxpayers are not paying the bill.”
The legislator’s announcement followed the release of a detailed Public Records Act request by Restore the Delta, a Stockton-based environmental advocacy group that is opposed to the construction of the Twin Tunnels. Restore the Delta also requested an audit of the project, citing a long list of concerns about public spending on the project, and its legality.
“We are concerned that millions of California and U.S. taxpayers may end up paying for a water project without their informed consent, and contrary to the principle that ‘beneficiaries pay,’” Restore the Delta wrote in a letter to the legislators requesting the audit.
Last month, the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior opened an investigation into the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s financial support of the Twin Tunnels project. The Inspector General was responding to a complaint by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which said in its complaint that funds dedicated to fish habitat had been spent inappropriately on the project, and that the state had double-billed for work that had supposedly been performed under an earlier $50 million grant.
Delta legislators to request state audit of Twin Tunnels
For immediate release: May 9, 2016
The Twin Tunnels project has been questionable, on many levels, since the very beginning. Time has only brought more obfuscation, not less. It is not the most economic plan, it is clearly not the most ecologically conservative plan, and it looks like it is a “sacrifice-play” and a total “freebie” for the beneficiaries! Since when is it ok to throw the citizens under-the-bus (or tunnels) and make them pay for the injury. Our Governor has been a big disappointment in supporting this plan and turning aside from providing transparency. This is no way to restore the Delta or show concern for this vital and unique area of our State.
I am a native-born Californian and have lived in, been educated in, and devoted my entire working career (not to mention the accompanying income taxes!) to the state of California. Among the primary reasons I give as to why I have chosen to continue living in the state after retiring nearly 4 years ago is the unique natural beauty of the many different environmental regions that one can experience from one end of California to the other. Unfortunately the state’s considerable natural resources are nearly always under siege by interests more concerned with short-term profits than protecting and sustaining them for the future. Such is the case presently with the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the Pacific coast. Diversion of water which has historically flowed into it from the Sierra snow runoff for many millions of years have been steadily increasing for use as the population continues to expand. There is simply not enough water flowing into the Delta to provide for every human activity, particularly when it is being diverted to other regions of the state where it is not found in abundance (i.e. deserts), without causing harm to the region nature has established as the recipient of the water, including the astounding variety of plant and wildlife species which has evolved unique to the Delta. The health of the entire estuary has suffered as such diversions of fresh water has escalated with deliveries to the southern part of the state; Unrealistic promises of water continue to be made regardless of what might be available, and the continued degradation to the Delta it may cause. An even larger assault now is the proposal for construction of the tunnels to more effectively and completely divert water southwards, which will surely be the death knell to the Delta and the wildlife and fisheries dependent upon it. And much of this water is eagerly anticipated by water districts supplying to agribusinesses involved in planting thirsty cash crops (e.g. nut trees) which are intended to be sold on the world market. For these interests there is no other agenda than to continue the status quo and attempt to wring profits growing such crops on land which is unsuitable for the task. To help facilitate this water diversion to Southern California, water delivery agencies such as the Metropolitan Southern California Water District have entered into discussions to purchase several islands within the Delta which are envisioned as storage facilities for containing fresh water prior to the move south. I appeal to the MSCWD board, which has the ability to opt out of such an agreement, to reconsider and imagine the consequences such a project would have, if brought to fruition, on a unique and critical habitat within our state. Additionally, since the claims of costs and available water quantities being made are under scrutiny by more qualified authorities, and proving to be highly questionable, this hugely expensive project could well turn out to be a boondoggle which will never be economically viable. I hope that the Board will do the right thing and discontinue it’s participation in the purchase of these Delta islands, and instead explore other more reasonable, and far less costly, alternatives. Please stand with me and think of one of California’s prime resources–the Delta–as a treasure which must be protected, not plundered. Thank you.