REACTIONS: Water agencies and stakeholder groups react to certification of the California Water Fix environmental documents

Water agencies praise the move; Restore the Delta vows litigation

Earlier today, the Department of Water Resources held a press call to announce the certification of the environmental documents for the California Water Fix.

Here’s what Cindy Messer, Acting Director of the Department of Water Resources, had to say:

“After a decade of analyses, review, and public comment, today DWR has certified the Environmental analyses of the Calfiornia Water Fix, clearing a major milestone towards modernizing the state’s cornerstone water delivery system. State and federal water and wildlife agencies have been working together since 2006 to find the best way to improve how the State Water Project and Central Valley Project divert water from the channels of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Today we are approving California Water Fix and helping to ensure stable water supplies for millions of Californians. DWR, which operates the State Water Project, screened more than 100 different proposals before analyzing these 18 alternatives in depth in the 50,000 page environmental impact report under CEQA.  The combined public comment period on these environmental analyses lasted nearly a year.  The project was refined several times to shrink its footprint, minimize impacts to Delta landowners, and consider a shift in the regulatory approach under the US Endangered Species Act and California Endangered Species Act.

CEQA requires state and local agencies to identify the potential significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.  The final EIR, certified today, includes measures to avoid or minimize impacts that could arise from the proposed project.  The CEQA certification, Notice of Determination, and decision documents put Water Fix a step closer to construction, which could begin as early as 2018 and is expected to last approximately 10 years.

As both a modern and ambitious infrastructure project, Water Fix will require world-class engineering, efficient construction management, aggressive cost containment, and transparent business operations.

Today, DWR also filed a validation action with the Sacramento County Superior Court regarding DWR’s authority to, among other things, issue revenue bonds to finance the planning, design, construction, and other capital costs of California Water Fix.  The validation action will provide the requisite assurance to the financial community for the sale of the California Water Fix revenue bonds.”

Water districts and stakeholder organizations were quick to react.  Here’s what they had to say:

From the Californians for Water Security:

“Today, Californians for Water Security released a statement following the release of Notice of Determination certification and decision documents from the California Department of Water Resources for the Governor’s California WaterFix.

From Robin Swanson, spokesperson for Californians for Water Security:

“Today, with the release of a Notice of Determination (NOD) from the Department of Water Resources under the California Environmental Quality Act, California WaterFix has once again achieved a crucial milestone in the permitting and approval process, this time reaching final approval at the state level.

Over the past six months, California WaterFix has continued to make crucial progress toward implementation, including the issuance of biological opinions from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service finding the construction and operations of WaterFix would not jeopardize the future existence of Endangered Species Act-listed species released under the Obama Administration, as well as the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

California WaterFix has been determined to be the only viable plan to protect our state’s water supply and the environment through exhaustive review processes reflecting nearly a decade of scientific and public analysis, including nearly a year of public review of the EIR, 600 public meetings throughout the State, and responses and revisions based on more than 40,000 public comments.

With the state’s approval of California WaterFix, we are closer than ever to implementing WaterFix and securing the state’s water supplies for future years.”

For more information on Californians for WaterSecurity, visit: www.watersecurityca.com

From Food and Water Watch:

Statement by Adam Scow, California director, Food & Water Watch

“It is very troubling, though hardly surprising, for Governor Brown to approve of building massive new tunnels that won’t fix any of California’s water problems. This project would waste $25 to $67 billion, with interest, of taxpayer money and devastate the San Francisco Bay ecosystem. It would unfairly burden Southern Californians with higher water bills at a time when we must repair the aging and crumbling pipes under our homes and streets. What’s more, the tunnels would mostly benefit corporate agribusinesses that have over-planted water-intensive crops in the desert. We urge local water districts, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, to prevent their ratepayers from being unfairly burdened by this destructive project.”

From the Kern County Water Agency:

Today the State of California achieved another important California Water Fix milestone by announcing the release of the Notice of Determination for the project.  The Notice of Determination is a finding by the State that California WaterFix is in full compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, often referred to as CEQA.

California WaterFix is the State’s ambitious effort to update its aging and inadequate water system.  The project would construct two tunnels to move water from the Sacramento River to the South Delta near the city of Tracy in a way that improves water supply reliability and better protects the environment.

“Now is the time to invest in the state’s water future,” said Agency Board of Directors President Ted Page. “Crumbling infrastructure is a national problem, and it is high time we get out in front of that problem with respect to our water supply in California and Kern County.  Water is the most important ingredient in Kern County’s economic success and the California WaterFix is the best way to secure that future.  We greatly appreciate the State’s steady hand in bringing this project to a successful conclusion and moving forward on the permits necessary to begin construction.”

The Kern County Water Agency is a State Water Project (SWP) contractor and holds contracts with the California Department of Water Resources for approximately one million acre-feet of annual SWP water.

From the Metropolitan Water District:

Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement on the release of a Notice of Determination by California Department of Water Resources.

“Today, California WaterFix moves yet another step forward. With the recent issuance of two federal biological opinions, California WaterFix is demonstrating its ability to fully comply with environmental laws while striving to provide reliable water supplies for two-thirds of the state.

Today’s Notice of Determination reflects full compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, one of the state’s premiere laws to protect the environment. Metropolitan appreciates the ongoing efforts and leadership of the Brown administration to advance California WaterFix toward investment decisions by our board and the other participating public water agencies.”

From Restore the Delta:

As anticipated, the California Department of Water Resources issued the Notice of Determination (NOD) for CA WaterFix today.

Executive Director for Restore the Delta Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla issued the following statement:

“We are not surprised that the Notice of Determination has been issued. The Brown Administration will celebrate this document as a type of victory regarding the advancement of CA WaterFix. But it’s not. The EIR and the plan for the tunnels are deeply flawed as the project will not create water supply reliability in a world with increased and prolonged droughts, but perhaps up to 75 years of debt to be paid back by water ratepayers as recently proposed by Goldman Sachs representatives.

“We, other environmental organizations, and other parties in the Delta are preparing for litigation. We will expand our fight in the court of public opinion. We are considering all possible legal and political options to stop the project.”

From the Southern California Water Committee:

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today issued its Notice of Determination (NOD) for California WaterFix, indicating the project meets requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). After nearly a decade of extensive review and study, the NOD is a crucial step towards final approval as state water agencies deliberate their final vote on the project this fall.
California WaterFix will modernize and upgrade key sections of the state’s primary water delivery system, ensuring greater reliability and flexibility from the system that provides water from the Sierra Nevada mountains to Southern California, Central Valley and the Bay Area. According to a public opinion survey commissioned by the Southern California Water Committee (SCWC), California WaterFix has support from nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Southern California voters.
Los Angeles, CA – “Today is a major milestone towards clean, reliable water supply for Southern Californians. In light of our climate realities and reoccurring drought cycles, we need a flexible and efficient water system to capture more water during big storm events and save it in reservoirs for drier times. The status quo is not feasible; California WaterFix is the answer to modernizing our desperately outdated system.”
Charles Wilson
Executive Director
Southern California Water Committee

From the State Water Contractors:

The California Department of Water Resources today certified that the environmental review of California WaterFix meets all requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Notice of Determination (NOD) is a key step for the state as water agencies throughout California approach key decision points this fall.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates again that California WaterFix meets some of the most stringent environmental protections in the nation. We’re pleased to be one step closer to a reliable water system that will protect water for agriculture and millions of Californians, and support a healthier environment. It’s time for California to modernize the State Water Project and we look forward to the next steps.”

Jennifer Pierre
General Manager
State Water Contractors

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