NEWS WORTH NOTING: NorCal water stakeholders unite to oppose DWR bonds for Delta tunnels; San Joaquin County issues call to all water districts to withdraw support for Delta tunnels; Lessons from Oroville: New report calls for action in era of climate change

Northern California Water Stakeholders Unite to Oppose Department of Water Resources Questionable Bonds for Twin Tunnels Project

From the County of San Joaquin:

A regionally diverse coalition of Northern California counties, water resource management and flood control agencies, and reclamation and water storage districts filed legal action Friday against proposed bonds that will be used to pay for the construction of the Twin Tunnels project. Also known as California WaterFix, the tunnels would divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California.

The groups — County of San Joaquin, Central Delta Water Agency, County of Contra Costa, Contra Costa County Water Agency, County of Solano, County of Yolo, County of Butte, County of Plumas, Plumas County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and Local Agencies of the North Delta — filed a legal response to the California Department of Water Resource’s (DWR) premature and prejudicial attempt to create binding, taxpayer funded revenue bonds to finance a massive twin tunnel conveyance facility within the California WaterFix project.

The groups seek a court order declaring the bonds invalid, which would prevent DWR from securing required funding for the project to go forward. Today’s filing is an answer to a lawsuit filed earlier by DWR seeking a court order to “validate” the bonds by declaring them legal.

The legal action contends that “DWR’s bond validation must be dismissed as premature since essential details of the project and its financing remain undefined, unapproved, or both, and the procedure for bond repayment is vague and confusing at best.” They also note that DWR is seeking to illegally shift a substantial share of the cost of the tunnels to state taxpayers, rather than ensuring that the recipients of the water be responsible for all costs, as state law requires and as Governor Jerry Brown promised.

Representatives from the organizations filing the lawsuit made the following statements:

“WaterFix is one of the most costly and financially dubious water infrastructure projects proposed in California’s history. Just last week the U.S. Inspector General reported the Bureau of Reclamation’s failure to fully disclose $84.4M in public funding for WaterFix planning. State documents now confirm that dozens of local water agencies representing millions of Californians may be required to pay for the tunnels, even though they haven’t been asked to participate in the project, nor would they receive promised water supply reliability. How can bonds even be considered under these questionable circumstances?” said San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn.

“DWR’s policies and procedures on the Delta tunnels are already the subject of numerous pending legal actions for violating state and federal laws. Under no circumstances should these bonds be considered until the outcome of pending lawsuits, additional audit investigations, administrative proceedings, federal decision-making, and stakeholder financing decisions are determined,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.

“We must be weary of a project, with such high costs, an exhausting timetable, devastating impacts to our Delta ecosystem, that is already mired in the earliest planning stages with deceit and misuse of funds. All Californians value the importance of a reliable water supply, but with so many other options like increasing storage capacity, water reuse, recycling, and desalination, why does our governor want to force these tunnels on us that will cause serious environmental harm and not provide new water? It makes no sense,” said Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.

“DWR acknowledges that it isn’t in compliance with any statutory and regulatory requirements needed to authorize construction, operation and maintenance of the tunnels. However, they have no problem using taxpayer dollars to create long-term bond obligations to fund the multi-billion dollar scheme without waiting for the outcome of administrative proceedings and judicial challenges. Their reckless and illegal actions are appalling and cannot be condoned,” concluded Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly.

The legal response can be found here.

San Joaquin County Issues Call to All California Water Districts to Withdraw Support for the Governor’s Controversial Twin Tunnels

In Latest About-Face, State Now Says Nearly All Water Districts Must Pay for the WaterFix Even if They Don’t Benefit

San Joaquin County issued the following statement today regarding the Brown Administration’s latest end-run to secure funding for its $17 billion WaterFix project, which has yet to receive any pledges of financial support from local water agencies.  The response comes in the wake of the latest revelation that California water users will be required to pay for the Twin Tunnels regardless of whether or not they receive water from the controversial conveyance system that will send precious Delta water to the south.

“We’ve been deceived so many times, we’re disbelieving of anything the State proclaims about how this project will be funded or how much it will ultimately cost,” said San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn. “To reject several less costly regional projects that not only increase the amount of water available statewide and also provide flood protection, shows how desperate the Brown Administration is to shove this project through no matter what the economic or environmental costs to the State and future generations. We call on all water districts who will soon decide on tunnel funding to withdraw their support and look at more effective and efficient ways to benefit ratepayers.”

“This is more proof that the Brown Administration is playing a shell game with the public. We learned earlier this month about the federal audit that caught the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation red-handed for improperly billing federal taxpayers for the tunnels’ initial planning. And now, we’re finding out the State devised yet another underhanded accounting scheme to force not just a select few, but a majority of state water districts to pay for the WaterFix. This, despite steadfast assurances by the Administration that the public would not be on the hook for any of the tunnels’ costs. What other financial gimmicks are we going to see next?” questioned San Joaquin Supervisor Katherine Miller.

Lessons from Oroville: New Report Calls for Action to Prevent Future Tragedies in the Era of Climate Change

California’s existing dam and flood infrastructure needs to be fixed now. This near catastrophe was a wake-up call to improve the state’s existing dam infrastructure and flood management, according to a new report released by Friends of the River, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the South Yuba River Citizens League, and American Whitewater.

The Oroville Dam 2017 Spillway Incident: Lessons from the Feather River Basin calls for more action at this and thousands of other high-hazard dams to keep water moving and people safe in the era of super storms and climate chaos. Oroville Dam gained worldwide attention in February 2017 when crumbling spillways at the nation’s tallest dam triggered one of the largest evacuations in California history. This report makes dozens of recommendations for bringing waterworks into the 21st Century in a comprehensive review of California dams, flood manuals, floodplains, and regulatory delay.

Click here for more information and to download the report.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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