SACRAMENTO, CA--Today the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) held an informational hearing to discuss the State Water Project (SWP) contract extensions. JLBC Chair Senator Holly Mitchell (D-30, Los Angeles) stated at the start and at the end of the hearing that the legislature would be fully committed to further legislative oversight of the Delta tunnels project, also known as California WaterFix (CA WaterFix).
At the hearing, Director of the Department of Water Resources (DWR), Karla Nemeth, verbally committed to the JLBC that amendments before the legislature today would not be used to finance bonds for the Delta tunnels and that DWR would bring future SWP contract amendments related to the tunnels project back to the legislature for further review before finalization.
Originally, the hearing was slated to take place last August, but was postponed twice in response to public outcry. Members of the public, legislators, and environmental and public trust NGO’s feared that the hearing would eliminate any further legislative oversight for the Delta tunnels, implying approval of as-yet unfinished amendments to State Water Project contracts related to the tunnels.
Senior Organizer for Food and Water Watch Brenna Norton commented,
“We thank Senator Holly Mitchell, Senate President Toni Atkins, and other members of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee for making the Department of Water Resources bring back the final amendments and costs to the legislature before rate hikes can be foisted on Californians to pay for the Delta tunnels. Californians are counting on these legislators to follow through on their commitment, otherwise, they will be hampered with a $17 billion bill for a wasteful project that will not bring them any new water.”
Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said,
“We are deeply grateful and impressed by the way Senator Mitchell conducted the JLBC hearing today, and are heartened that she resonated with the public’s comments and concerns regarding their distrust in DWR and the State Water Contractors. As the State Water Project contract extensions move forward, in order to support the public trust and transparency, DWR must clearly state in writing that the Department agrees to notify the legislature and appropriate committees 60 days prior to DWR starting the bond-issuing process, participate in a well-noticed public hearing for continued oversight of the CA WaterFix amendments, and must present a financial plan of the CA WaterFix for review.”