Delta Tunnels Opponents Say 'Fix LA and Santa Clara Valley First'

By Dan Bacher | March 5, 2016 | As local water pipes and infrastructure in the Santa Clara Valley and Los Angeles continue to lea...

By Dan Bacher | March 5, 2016 |

As local water pipes and infrastructure in the Santa Clara Valley and Los Angeles continue to leak and burst, opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s massive Delta Tunnels on Thursday, March 3 questioned the “wisdom” of state water districts investing another $1.2 billion in the controversial project that could cost up to $68 billion to taxpayers and ratepayers.

“Silicon Valley's largest water provider will have to spend at least $20 million to drain, test and repair a critical water pipeline that failed last summer and may have more hidden problems,” the San Jose Mercury News reported on Wednesday, March 2. 

The ruptured 8-foot-high, 31-mile-long concrete pipe brings up to 40 percent of the drinking water to Santa Clara County’s 1.8 million residents from the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, according a a news release from Restore the Delta (RTD). A 10-foot section of the pile ruptured on August 1, 2015, sending 14 millions of water into a cow pasture near Casa De Fruta along Highway 152, the Pacheco Pass Highway.

"This pipe is only 30 years old. I would not have expected it to fail so quickly," Barbara Keegan, chairwoman of the Santa Clara Valley Water District board, told Paul Rogers of the Mercury News. "It's not like there was a unique situation. The fact that it cracked and the wires corroded, how extensive is this?

But the Santa Clara Valley is not the only place where water infrastructure is corroding, bursting and leaking. In Los Angeles, leaking water mains and pipes lose eight billion gallons of water each year. 

The repairs to the Los Angeles water system will cost rate payers at least $1.3 billion and take at least a decade to fix, RTD noted.

Meanwhile, Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the state Natural Resources Agency and former reporter for the Sacramento Bee and LA Times, has told both urban and agricultural water districts she will soon request from them, after environmental studies are completed this summer, another $1.2 billion to fund “engineering and design studies” for the proposed Delta Tunnels project. 

The project that Vogel and the Brown administration promote would not create one single drop of new water, but it would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species and woud imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Klamath and Trinity rivers.

This is the last thing we need now, considering that the low 2015 returns of fall-run Chinook salmon to the Sacramento and Klamath rivers, spurred by drought and water diversions from both systems, point to salmon fishing restrictions on the ocean and rivers this year. 

"It's absurd that the Santa Clara Valley Water District would even consider moving forward with raising millions of dollars from ratepayers to advance the Delta Tunnels project when they cannot maintain their own existing water infrastructure," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “The tunnels project, misnamed California Water Fix, and their propaganda arm, Californians for Water Security, sell the Delta Tunnels as needed to save California's water supply when, in truth, the Delta is not the weak link in the water delivery system. Californians lose 10 to 15 percent of our water supply each year due to water main breaks and leaky pipes in urban areas.”

“It is also ironic that pipes laid just 30 years ago by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are already corroded and breaking apart. If we cannot build and maintain an 8-foot pipe in the Santa Clara Valley Water District, what can we expect with two Delta tunnels, 40 feet wide, built in peat soil?" she pointed out.

“Let’s instead spend precious ratepayer dollars to fix the decaying LA and Santa Clara Valley Water infrastructure before considering a massive new proposal with an Environmental Impact Report the EPA has already issued a failing grade of ‘inadequate’," Barrigan-Parrilla concluded.

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