On Friday at the eleventh hour, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) pivoted their direction on the Delta Tunnels again, putting the twin tunnels back on the table for discussion during their April 10 vote, after scrapping the $17 billion proposal in a board memo sent on Monday.
Instead of voting on funding for the first tunnel of a staged project approach as planned, the MWD board will pick one of two options to move forward with the CA WaterFix:
1. Approve funding for the first 6,000 cfs tunnel of a phased-in project (that would add an additional 3,000 cfs tunnel much later).
2. Approve upfront costs of the original twin tunnels project (two identical 4,500 cfs tunnels built at the same time).
Specifically, MWD would contribute $5.2 billion (47.1 percent) of the $11 billion phased tunnels, or contribute $10.8 billion (64.6 percent) of the $17 billion twin tunnels.
Restore the Delta’s executive director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla commented,
“If MWD’s ever-changing planning processes offer a look into what adaptive management could be like during tunnel(s) construction and operations, California’s water management system is in deep trouble for the next century.
“If the MWD board manages to come to an agreement instead of a split vote, it is still unclear as to who will finance the remaining 53 percent of the phased-tunnels, or the remaining 35.4 percent of the twin tunnels. This means that if other State Water Project contractors do not commit any funding for the phased tunnels, or if Central Valley Project contractors cannot negotiate a more affordable buy-in to the twin tunnels, MWD must recruit private investors via a public-private partnership to finance the project—a clear attempt to undo protections of California water as a public trust resource.
“Equally disingenuous is MWD’s reference to improved water quality on its project charts that show decreased dissolved solids and bromides in their Delta water deliveries as they forgot to inform their Board that the tradeoff is worsened water quality for the 4 million residents of the San Francisco Bay-Delta, California’s fisheries, and Delta wildlife. MWD’s resolution and supporting documents make it clear that the project does not benefit all Californians as they claim. It may benefit a portion of moneyed MWD water users—the top one percent of Southern California corporations and potentially private financial interests and/or corporate agriculture in the Central Valley—but not without shouldering Southern California’s middle-class ratepayers and environmental justice communities with tax increases and cost overruns. MWD’s interests are the interests of California’s financial elite, with California’s middle and working classes paying the price.”
The Delta Tunnels, formally named the CA WaterFix, is Governor Brown’s controversial water conveyance system proposal that would divert Sacramento River water through either one or two 35 mile-long tunnels under the Delta to deliver water to South of Delta contractors. The phased approach would build one 6,000 cfs capacity tunnel first, and build the second 3,000 cfs tunnel at a later date; the twin tunnels plan consists of two identical 4,500 cfs tunnels built at the same time.