Metropolitan Water District Seeks Control of First Delta Tunnel in Two Phase Project

By Dan Bacher | March 1, 2018 |   
Proponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels project continue their campaign to build the new two phase version of the California WaterFix, despite the fact that the project makes no scientific, financial or economic sense, according to critics.

In the latest effort by Brown to fast-track the planning of the process before he leaves office, General Manager Jeff Kightlinger and Assistant General Manager Roger Patterson on February 27 revealed that the Governor, the State Water Contractors, and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) have been engaging in discussions to forge ahead with the first tunnel of the new two phase CA WaterFix project. They are doing this “while keeping quiet about specifics of a potential second tunnel,” according to an analysis from Restore the Delta (RTD).

”In addition to contributing to half of the State Water Project share of the tunnel project, MWD is considering the creation of a separate joint-powers authority (JPA) to pay for the Central Valley Project share of the tunnel, providing it can achieve favorable contractual guarantees from the state to control water deliveries and repayment terms for the project,” stated RTD.

The disclosures were made at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) Bay-Delta Committee meeting in Los Angeles, attended by representatives of Food and Water Watch, LA Waterkeeper, the Sierra Club, ratepayer advocates and consumer advocates.

During a question and answer period, Kightlinger said that Santa Clara Valley Water District staff is presenting an option to the Santa Clara Valley Board to consider co-financing an $11 billion single tunnel as part of the phased-in project, noted RTD.

Kightlinger also explained that Westlands Water District has indicated interest in purchasing wheeled water (water that is moved and resold from project to project) from a project financed by MWD. Kightlinger also noted that Governor Brown wants decisions made by MWD and other key players within a two-week period, said RTD.

MWD board members expressed deep reservations about Kightlinger’s goal of a board action vote taking place this April before the supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is completed, and before the State Water Resources Control Board rules whether or not to approve the petitions by the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation to change the points of diversion, critical permits that are required to construct the project.

“You don’t dive into a creek until you know whether you’re on rocks or not, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Larry Dick, a board member representing Orange County, told the Board today.

Delta Tunnels opponents were appalled by the latest move by MWD to fast-track the construction of California WaterFix project.

“It is deeply concerning that Metropolitan Water District is considering taking over the majority cost share of the project,” said Brenna Norton of Food and Water Watch after the meeting.  “MWD would be taking over the agricultural share of project on the backs of the ratepayers.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD), noted, “There is so much to unpack for the public from what was revealed today at MWD’s Bay-Delta Committee meeting.” 

“On the surface, it is clear that the California Department of Water Resources is moving forward with a two tunnels application for the change in the point of diversion to secure a State Water Project right for MWD, who will become the financier and operator of the project,” said Barrigan Parrilla. “California’s water management is being gamed to give the majority of power over watershed management throughout the state to Metropolitan Water District. The state is abdicating its responsibility to manage water for all people in California as a public trust resource.”  

Restore the Delta’s tweets of the meeting can be viewed here.

Video and handouts from the meeting can be found here.

Whether one or two Delta Tunnels are constructed, the results will be the same: higher water rates for people who can't afford them, no new water and the destruction of the West Coast's largest estuary. The California WaterFix is undoubtedly a lose-lose proposal.  

In other Delta Tunnels news, Courthouse News Service reported that California cities, counties, water agencies and fishing and environmental groups sued the state of California late Tuesday, alleging that state regulators “have been secretly plotting and discussing a contentious $16 bill water project. To read the full article, go to:

In other MWD news, documents acquired by RTD from a recent public records act request to MWD confirm that the newly appointed California Department of Water Resources Director (DWR) Karla Nemeth was a MWD employee from 2009 to 2014, earning over $900,000 in total compensation.  

During her MWD tenure, she was contracted to work for Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) planning under the CalFed program, and then by the California Department of Water Resources,. All PRA documents sent by MWD to Restore the Delta can be read here.

In December 2016, I broke the story of the staff shake up at MWD that culminated in the recent appointment of Nemeth, the fourth director appointed in a year. At the time, internal emails, confirmed by a DWR spokesperson, revealed that Mark Cowin, then Director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), and Carl Torgersen, the DWR Chief Deputy Director, would retire from their positions at the embattled agency at the end of 2016.

The chaos within the DWR leadership began months before the Oroville Dam spillway fiasco:… 

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