Central Basin Water Board, LA City Council Committee Delay Delta Tunnels Vote

By Dan Bacher | August 30, 2017 |  

On August 28, the Central Basin Water Agency board in Compton voted 5 to 2 to postpone a decision supporting the controversial Delta Tunnels plan, a joint public works project between the Governor Jerry Brown and President Donald Trump administration.  

“Citing the many unknowns regarding the rate impacts of the project, estimated to cost $25 billion, the Central Basin board members said they needed more information on how it would affect ratepayers in southeast Los Angeles County,” said Brenna Norton, senior Southern California organizer for Food  & Water Watch.

The board plans to meet again in late September about the project that could cost up to $68 billion in total.

This delay provides temporary relief for ratepayers in Lynwood, South Gate, Florence-Graham, Willowbrook, Compton, and Carson,” said Norton. “The Central Basin board recognizes that there are many crucial unanswered questions about who will pay for the Delta Tunnels.”

“It would be a great injustice for low and middle income communities in Los Angeles County to carry the burden for the tunnels, which will raise rates but not provide new water. We look forward to giving the board the data it needs to vote down this wrong-headed scheme," she said. 
Twenty local residents and ratepayers showed up to question why the board would raise rates for a project that they believe their customers don’t need, as many cities throughout Los Angeles County are planning to import less water from the Delta, Norton said. Representatives from Restore the Delta, SEIU 721, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE),  Sierra Club, and SEIU 721, the largest public employees union in Southern California, urged the board to vote no on the project. 

Another seven people, mostly representing big business interests and building trade unions, spoke in support of the agency backing the California Water Fix. 

“We made progress today with our Southern California friends by delaying the tunnels vote in southern Los Angeles at the Central Basin Municipal Utility District," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta (RTD).

Director Leticia Vasquez, who represents the cities of Lynwood, South Gate, Florence-Graham, Willowbrook and portions of Compton and Carson, received a round of applause from the audience as she told the Board to delay the vote on the Delta Tunnels. Director Vasquez also serves as a representative on the Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors, which is also slated to vote this fall on whether or not to fund the California WaterFix.

The project could raise average household water bills between $7 and $16 per month for over 40 years and up to $200 a month when the project costs reach their peak, according to an independent study.

Then yesterderday, August 29, ratepayers opposing the Delta Tunnels attended the Los Angeles City Council's Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Committee meeting to urge them to oppose the project. 

“The Council asked great questions about the Delta Tunnels that remained unanswered and voted to delay approval of the project,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla.

On Monday, Restore the Delta submitted a formal letter regarding the risks of the CA WaterFix proposal to the Committee  as they consider whether the City of Los Angeles should back the tunnels project.  

The comment letter outlined various fiscal, environmental, and supply reliability risks within the project for Los Angeles, and critiques the LA Ratepayer Advocate report produced by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Public Accountability Office for not fully addressing the real costs of the Delta tunnels for ratepayers and taxpayers.   

"The lack of public transparency, honest financial assessment of the project, and political manipulations by public agencies indicate to us that the Brown Administration is using strong-arm tactics to force the CA WaterFix on ratepayers and taxpayers,” said Barrigan-Parrilla in a statement. “The LA Ratepayer Advocate analysis is woefully incomplete, and serves as another indicator that water management in California is a politically rigged system.”  

Background: The California WaterFix, Jerry Brown's 'Legacy' Project

The Delta Tunnels, considered by opponents to be the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history, is undoubtedly the “legacy” project of Governor Jerry Brown.

The Trump and Brown administrations and project proponents claim the tunnels would fulfill the “coequal goals” of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration, but opponents point out that project would create no new water while hastening the extinction of winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species

The project would also imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers that have played a central role in the culture, religion and livelihood of the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes for thousands of years. 

While the media often portrays Brown as a “climate leader” and the “resistance” to President Donald Trump as the Governor jets off to international climate conferences, the reality is much different, according to public trust advocates. In fact, Brown has collaborated with Trump on fast-tracking the construction of the controversial Delta Tunnels and the exemption of California oilfields from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Over just the past several weeks, the Brown administration has incurred the wrath of environmental justice advocates, conservationists and increasing numbers of Californians by:

Photo courtesy of Brenna Norton, Food & Water Watch.

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