REACTIONS to Metropolitan’s vote for the California Water Fix

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Board of Directors voted for the California Water Fix, although by no means unanimously.  Here are the reactions, starting with Metropolitan’s statement, and everyone else following in alphabetical order.

From the Metropolitan Water District:

The biggest water decision of this generation of Southern Californians was reached today as Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors voted to support a state-federal project to modernize the state water system and help improve supply reliability for the Southland.
Metropolitan’s board approved the district’s 26 percent share of financing the California WaterFix project as well as moving forward on a governance structure to build and finance the $17 billion project. Metropolitan’s share is about $4.3 billion.

“Every generation of Southern Californians has to reinvest in our water system to ensure a reliable water future. Today marks one of those historic votes that reaffirms that commitment and vision,” Metropolitan Board Chairman Randy Record said. “We simply must modernize and improve the reliability of our imported supplies as well as meet the needs of growth by developing more local supplies and extending conservation.”

About 30 percent of the water that flows out of taps in Southern California comes from Northern California via the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta’s delivery system, however, is badly outdated, a problem compounded both by a declining ecosystem that is harmful to fish and a 1,100-mile levee system that is increasingly vulnerable to earthquakes, flooding, saltwater intrusion, climate change and environmental degradation.
California WaterFix would modernize the decades-old delivery system by building three new intakes in the northern Delta along with two tunnels to carry water to the existing aqueduct system in the southern Delta.

“Given our size, Metropolitan is the anchor tenant for any successful California WaterFix, and this vote puts us on record as being ready and willing to participate. We still have a ways to go before we have a final, fully funded project, but this vote keeps WaterFix on the path to finding a viable and lasting solution,” Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said.

Today’s board vote follows more than a decade of planning, preliminary design, environmental analysis, regulatory review and public input. It also concludes several months of public review by Metropolitan’s board, including discussions in July and August on a series of policy white papers examining the project’s construction, operations, benefits and cost. During this open and transparent vetting, Metropolitan has received hundreds of public comments and letters on the project, responding to dozens of inquiries in a 28-page document.

Along with approving Metropolitan’s level of investment from the proposed project, the board today also voted to finalize the project’s governance structures; participate in an adaptive management program; and to join separate joint power authorities to oversee construction and finance.

With the board’s action, Metropolitan becomes the latest water agency in the state to approve participation in California WaterFix. Among State Water Contractors, the boards of Zone 7 Water Agency, Mojave Water Agency, San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency, Desert Water Agency, San Bernardino Municipal Water District and Crestline-Lake Arrowhead Water Agency have all voted to support the project. Kern County Water Agency’s board is scheduled to vote on California WaterFix this Thursday, Oct. 12, with other agencies scheduled to follow.

Following the votes by the participating water agencies to identify the initial level of investment, Metropolitan expects further deliberations to identify how to move forward with the proposed existing project, consider phasing the existing project or no project. Any additional level of investment by Metropolitan would require further action by the district’s board.

From the Delta Counties Coalition:

The Delta Counties Coalition issued the following statements in response to Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California’s vote to finance the State of California’s proposed Twin Tunnels project (known as “WaterFix”):

“Since it was first proposed, the State has mishandled this project every step of the way,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli. “When the initial Environmental Impact Report was rejected by the federal government, the State simply chose to drop the co-equal goal of protecting the ecosystem. So the State’s argument that this project will actually restore the Delta is unproven and probably never will be.”

“I am appalled that MWD would agree to gamble its ratepayer dollars on this ill-conceived project,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.

Contra Costa Supervisor Diane Burgis added, “Even though the State claims the WaterFix will help produce a more reliable water supply to Southern California, there are many less costly alternatives like water conservation, recycling, desalination and upgrading Delta levees that would produce better results than this proposed $17 billion project. And unlike the Twin Tunnels, they will actually increase statewide water supply.”

“Metropolitan’s actions are hardly surprising, but are disappointing nonetheless. Rather than working together as a state on projects to provide the south with new water supply, Metropolitan Water District approves an expensive, divisive project that decimates the Delta”, said Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.  

“It is hard to comprehend why MWD would waste billions of ratepayer dollars to support a project that has been mired in controversy from the start,” added San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn. “A better alternative to the tunnels would be to increase water storage throughout California, which would provide more water at a significantly lower cost to consumers. Additional water conservation, stormwater capture, recycling, desalination and investments in Delta levees could also be built for roughly the same cost as the tunnels, while producing billions of gallons of new water for all of California’s needs. MWD’s vote just perpetuates the deception by promising their customers that the multi-billion dollar investment in the WaterFix will result in additional water.”

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 issues, please visit sharedwatersolutions.com.

From Brenna Norton at Food and Water Watch:

“Food & Water Watch is disappointed by Metropolitan Water District’s vote to allocate more than $4 billion toward a wasteful Delta Tunnels project that would force higher water bills and property taxes on Southern California families. It is unfair to raise rates for a project that will needlessly make Southern California’s water more expensive, while benefiting corporate agribusinesses that grow excessive amounts of almonds and pistachios in the desert for export. We commend Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for opposing the project and a majority of his appointees on the Metropolitan board for voting against it. They were joined in opposition by representatives from the San Diego County Water Authority and the city of Santa Monica. The tunnels continue to face major financial obstacles as approximately 74% of the initial cost, which does not include interest payments, remains unsecured.”

From Restore the Delta:

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted in favor of supporting the CA WaterFix (Delta Tunnels) project today. The vote is an approval by the MWD board to participate in the construction of the tunnels, contribute 26% of funding, and go forth with two joint powers authorities–one for construction, and one for financing.

To view MWD’s proposed motions on CA WaterFix, reference item 8.4 on the Oct. 10 board agenda.

With Metropolitan financially committed, the focus of tunnels opponents now shifts to the two remaining water districts asked to participate in the Delta Tunnels: Kern County Water Agency and Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Kern County Water’s vote on CA WaterFix is scheduled for this Thursday, October 12, while Santa Clara Valley is scheduled to vote next Tuesday, October 17.

Next steps for tunnels opponents include Phase 2 of State Water Resources Control Board hearings, as well as continued litigation on the CEQA case and the Validation case.

Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said:

“While we anticipated the outcome of the MWD vote some time ago, we knew that Southern California ratepayers needed to be warned about what this project means for them in terms of higher water rates and no increased reliability. We also knew that we needed to spend time and energy educating Southern Californians about the Delta and our state’s water management, so that’s what we did. MWD may have won the battle, but we know the tunnels will never be built because economics, science, and law will carry us through the permitting processes and litigation, ensuring victory.

“What perhaps frustrates us the most is that a tremendous amount of time, talent, and treasure is being squandered for a nostalgic effort to recreate a big water project of the last century. The best minds who work in California water will spend years fighting this project until it is stopped instead of leading the way on better solutions. This is not a plan to make California water resilient in the face of climate change. It is not a project that will create environmental or economic sustainability for future generations. It is the last gasp of an unsustainable, environmentally destructive way of managing California’s water supply.”

To review highlights from the MWD meeting and tunnels opponents press conference, a collection of Restore the Delta’s tweets can be accessed here.

From Secretary John Laird:

California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird issued the following statement regarding today’s decision by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to participate in the California WaterFix project.

“Today’s vote by Metropolitan Water District’s board members shows leadership and a commitment to the region’s water supply future. WaterFix is this generation’s opportunity to protect critical water supplies from certain decline. Metropolitan’s investment will provide water supply reliability for the region’s residents and economy.”

California WaterFix is a science-driven proposal to upgrade the state’s outdated water system and maintain a reliable source of water for 25 million Californians and more than 3 million acres of farmland in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Southern California.

From the Southern California Water Committee:

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), the nation’s largest wholesale water agency, today voted in support of California WaterFix. Made up of 26 member public agencies and serving nearly 19 million customers, MWD’s vote accounts for just over a quarter of the California WaterFix project’s financing. 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.

“Today marks a historic day in ensuring the vitality of the Southern California region. Water is life, and for the many cities in Southern California that depend on the Sierra Nevadas for their water supply, California WaterFix is mission critical. We applaud the leadership and vision of the Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors in recognizing the critical role California WaterFix plays in securing a reliable water supply for generations to come. Making the right decision is not always easy, but today Metropolitan Water District’s Board demonstrated true stewardship of our region’s future.”
Charles Wilson
Executive Director
Southern California Water Committee

From the State Water Contractors:

California WaterFix got two big thumbs up today. The boards of directors of two members of the State Water Contractors—the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and Coachella Valley Water District—both passed resolutions supporting the project. MWD is the nation’s largest supplier of treated water, comprised of 26 member public agencies and serving nearly 19 million customers. Its ‘Yes’ vote accounts for just over a quarter of the California WaterFix project’s financing, making it a significant boon to advancing the project.

Randy Record, chairman of the MWD board, had the following comments in response to his board’s vote:

“Every generation of Southern Californians has to reinvest in our water system to ensure a reliable water future. Today marks one of those historic votes that reaffirms that commitment and vision. We simply must modernize and improve the reliability of our imported supplies as well as meet the needs of growth by developing more local supplies and extending conservation.”

Other SWC members will vote on supportive resolutions for the project in the coming weeks.

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