CALIFORNIA WATER FIX: News and reactions from Delta Counties, Friant Water Authority

The California water world is still reeling a bit from the news of Westlands vote on Tuesday, the ramifications of which are still unknown.  Here is the latest update from the Natural Resources Agency, California Water Fix program news, followed by statements by the Delta Counties Coalition, Jason Phillips with the Friant Water Authority, and Secretary John Laird.

First, the latest news from the California Natural Resources Agency, Cal Water Fix program:

Public water agencies of California are doing their due diligence on California WaterFix, weighing the costs against the clear and significant benefits.

There is one thing on which everyone agrees: Our aging water infrastructure needs to be modernized. Failing to act puts future water supply reliability at risk.

WaterFix is the best solution to a decades old problem and the state will continue to drive forward. The project will provide measurable and quantifiable water supply and water quality benefits for 25 million Californians, 3 million acres of farmland and the state’s economy.

The recent vote by Westlands Water District does not signal the end of the project. One no vote doesn’t make the Delta conveyance problem disappear. The state is not going to walk away from trying to advance a solution.

Local water agencies and climate change experts are weighing in with support for the project. Some actions in recent days include:

  • Just yesterday, the Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors demonstrated their commitment to securing a clean and sustainable water supply for their community. They adopted a resolution in support of participation in WaterFix and authorized staff to proceed with negotiating necessary agreements.
  • Also this week, both the City of Glendale and the City of Pasadena—who rely on the stability of Delta-conveyed water—issued resolutions of support for California WaterFix.  They are just two of many Metropolitan Water District member agencies and others who support the project in the southland.

Climate Resolve, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit focused on practical climate solutions, on Monday issued a statement of support for WaterFix to Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. In that letter, they state: “…Climate Resolve also sees the necessity of securing the State’s imported water supply, on which the region depends. Frankly, it would be derelict to not protect California, our economy, environment and our people. We must build the damn tunnels.”

More reactions …

From the Delta Counties Coalition:

In response to recent actions taken by the Westlands Water District and Los Angeles City Council regarding financing of the State of California’s proposed twin tunnels project (known as “WaterFix”), the Delta Counties Coalition (DCC) issued the following statements:

“We applaud the vote taken by Westlands Water District to not participate in the Governor’s tunnels plan because the project is too expensive. Water agencies should consider supporting more sustainable, cost-effective options,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli.

“As with previous State infrastructure projects, the costs for WaterFix will be astronomical and the financial impacts to Central Valley agriculture and Southern California residents can no longer be hidden or ignored,” said San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn. “Agencies like Westlands and he Los Angeles City Council are now recognizing that the twin tunnels financing plan doesn’t pencil out. It’s time for the rest of California’s water agencies to do the right thing for their customers by saying NO to any tunnel funding proposal and instead invest ratepayers' money in statewide solutions that actually create additional and more reliable water supplies.”

“It is good to hear that water agencies are questioning the huge, open-ended costs of the WaterFix tunnels project. Big infrastructure projects are rarely on- budget, so the $17 Billion price tag is just the beginning, and individual agency costs are also dependent on how many agencies are willing to pay for a project that may not produce any additional water supply. Water agencies that do not benefit and taxpayers should not end up paying for the tunnels and their potentially massive cost overruns,” said Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.

“The reality of the economic impacts of the proposed ‘WaterFix’ is finally sinking in with water districts and leaders from around the state slated to pay for the project. The beneficiary-pays approach is the right one, but as we’ve been saying since it was unveiled, the cost of the twin tunnels relative to little or no increased water supply is a deal breaker and the taxpayers should  not be the backstop for a project that doesn’t achieve the co-equal goals,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.

The DCC’s comments follow a vote on September 19, 2017 by the Westlands Water District against joining other agencies from around California to fund WaterFix and a decision by the Los Angeles City Council to table the issue until other agencies sign on to the project.

The DCC is an alliance of the counties of Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, and Yolo. The DCC advocates for protecting the interests of the Delta and California’s water supply and has produced a set of approaches that will achieve balance for the economic and environmental health of the Delta while also improving water supply stability.

For more information regarding the DCC and its ideas for fixing California’s water ills, please visit sharedwatersolutions.com.

From Jason Phillips, CEO of the Friant Water Authority:

The recent vote by the Westlands Board of Directors does not change the simple reality that many family farms will bear the brunt of shortages driven by the limitations of our water system.  Change must occur as the status quo is placing in jeopardy the viability of over 1 million acres of productive farmland, while endangered fish species that rely on the Delta continue to decline.  California WaterFix provides an opportunity to reverse these trends and to inject a long-overdue element of stability into our water system.  I applaud the governor for his efforts and for recognizing that the communities of the San Joaquin Valley cannot continue to survive under current conditions.  Our team has been closely evaluating California WaterFix and believes there continue to be opportunities for participation as many of our districts are willing to invest resources for increased water supply reliability.  I also believe, however, that those who do not benefit from California WaterFix should not have to pay for benefits received by others.  FWA and our member districts will be working closely with interested entities and Reclamation over the coming weeks to ensure that those who wish to participate have the full opportunity to do so in a manner that is fair to all water users in the state.

From Secretary John Laird:

California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird issued the following statement regarding the decision by the Zone 7 Water Agency to participate in the California WaterFix project.

“Last night, Zone 7 water agency board members demonstrated their commitment to securing a clean and sustainable water supply for their community. WaterFix will provide measurable and quantifiable water supply and water quality benefits, and is the best solution to a problem that affects 25 million Californians, 3 million acres of farmland and the state’s economy.”

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