REACTIONS to Santa Clara Valley Water District vote on California Water Fix from Brown Administration, Restore the Delta, and Delta Counties

Yesterday, the Santa Clara Valley Water District voted to join the California Water Fix but with some conditions, a vote that caused confusion and conflicting headlines from the water district and newspapers.  Here are reactions from yesterday’s vote at the Santa Clara Valley Water District.  The statements from the Santa Clara Valley Water District are brought forward from yesterday’s ‘This Just In’ post; reactions follow in alphabetical order.

From the Santa Clara Valley Water District:

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara Valley Water District voted to participate in the California WaterFix project, the state’s proposed plan to improve the infrastructure that carries water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The participation is conditional, based on seven guiding principles listed below.

As much as 40 percent of the water Santa Clara County uses each year comes through the Delta. But the Delta’s aging network of earthen levees faces risks from rising seas, earthquakes and flooding, while the declining conditions for fish and wildlife have led regulators to put more restrictions on when water can move through the Delta.

“Conditions in the Delta threaten our future water supply,” said Board Chair John L. Varela. “Today, in a 7 to 0 vote, the Board of Directors took action to help our area continue to thrive by protecting Santa Clara Valley’s water supply. I commend my fellow board members for having the courage to stand up for what’s right for the people and businesses of Santa Clara County.”

Over the last several years, the board has held dozens of workshops and presentations on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and California WaterFix projects to hear updates and consider diverse perspectives. The importance of input is even ensconced in one of the principles the board adopted Tuesday to guide the water district’s participation in the project. The principles are:

  • Santa Clara County needs are the primary drivers in all our decisions involving the WaterFix project.
  • We will not allow Silicon Valley values and priorities to be placed at a disadvantage relative to Central Valley Agriculture or Southern California.
  • We are advocating for a flexible approach that addresses Silicon Valley stakeholder and community input.
  • As water is a human right, we must make investments to make sure our water supply meets future needs at a cost affordable by everyone.
  • Equity and costs are important.
  • Any final arrangement must provide flexibility to acquire supplemental water by taking advantage of future wet years to ensure residents have a reliable water supply, no matter what extreme weather the changing climate brings.
  • Keep negotiating for the best deal for Santa Clara County.

The water district will now work with the state and water agency partners to determine the best-sized project that meets the needs of Silicon Valley.

To learn more about the California WaterFix, visit our website.

From Santa Clara Valley Water District General Manager John Varela:

“Today, in voting to participate in the California WaterFix project, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors took a course of action that we believe will help Santa Clara County thrive.

The California WaterFix will reduce risks to water supplies from failing levees and rising seas, while improving water flow in the south Delta to protect fish. Because fully 40 percent of the water used in Santa Clara County comes to us through the aging infrastructure of the Delta, our life, environment and economy depend on the condition and reliability of the Delta infrastructure.

The board of the water district is committed to ensuring the people and businesses of Silicon Valley have the water they need at the most affordable price to continue making this an incredible place to live. This is why the board’s support for California WaterFix comes with certain conditions. Our existing imported water supplies, from both the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project must be sustained and protected at a reasonable cost per acre-foot.

Our vote follows dozens of workshops and presentations over the last several years to hear updates and consider diverse perspectives. We have given this careful thought and consideration, and now we will work with our partner agencies and the state to move forward in pursuit of a more secure water future.”

From Governor Jerry Brown:

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued the following statement regarding today’s unanimous vote by the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors to support WaterFix, California’s effort to modernize the state’s water infrastructure:

“The Board’s vote today is a major step forward for California WaterFix and ensures that Santa Clara will have the water it desperately needs.”

From the Delta Counties Coalition:

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

SCVWD’s vote places ratepayers on the hook for a very expensive and detrimental project,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli. “The WaterFix devotes billions of dollars to a project which produces no new water while ignoring more cost-effective projects that actually increase state water supply and do no harm to our Delta communities and environment.”

SCVWD’s vote is unfortunate especially given recent questions raised by the California State Auditor’s office in a report criticizing WaterFix’s lack of proper economic analysis and faulty financial plan,” said Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas. “While the cost and benefits of WaterFix have remained nebulous, the detrimental effects the project will have on the Delta will be very real.”

“It’s unfortunate that the Santa Clara Valley Water District chose to abandon their customers in the Bay Area and residents in the Delta by voting to fund a multi-billion-dollar, ratepayer funded project that won’t provide California with any additional water or greater water security,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff. “Now they will have to explain to their customers why their water bills have gone up without any local or statewide benefits.”

“This vote runs counter to SCVWD’s recent efforts to fund sustainable water projects. Every ratepayer dollar spent on the tunnels will take needed funds away from local projects to create new water supplies that would support the long-term needs of Bay Area residents and businesses,” said Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.

“I am obviously disappointed in SCVWD’s decision today. I was optimistic when they recently voted to invest $100 million in regional projects. Unfortunately, their vote to finance the WaterFix project means that SCVWD and ultimately its ratepayers will be responsible for an unknown sum because it is uncertain which other water districts will participate in financing the project and costs are likely to balloon well over $17 billion,” added San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn. “This blank check approach is risky, especially since the tunnels will not add any more water for our state’s residents, businesses, farmers or environment.”

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

From Secretary John Laird:

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

“We commend Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board members for taking action today to stabilize their water supply for generations to come. Their 7-0 vote adds to the momentum we’ve seen in the last two weeks as local agencies around the state have seen the value of WaterFix and formally voted to participate in the project.

Now that we know the universe of local agencies that want to formally join WaterFix, the state will meet with participating contractors to discuss specifics of the project and determine how best to optimize construction of the project to meet their needs. Though dialog continues with federal contractors, our efforts are focused on agencies that have voted to join the project.

As we transition into the next stage of this effort, we must maintain forward momentum to ensure this generational opportunity to fix the state’s aging water delivering system becomes a reality.

Over the next several weeks, the state will look at the certified environmental documents for the project to understand how to best utilize them to proceed with any optimized construction of the project. We will continue to move forward on all permitting processes so we can be prepared for implementation.

Again, we commend the Santa Clara Valley Water District for supporting WaterFix. Like many regions that are making aggressive investments in local supplies from recycling and groundwater recharge, Santa Clara has recognized these important investments do not eliminate the need for reliable supplies for the Delta and cannot be viable without the backbone supply that WaterFix will ensure.”

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 Restore the Delta:

Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla released the following statement regarding Santa Clara Valley Water District’s California WaterFix vote:

“Yesterday afternoon, Santa Clara Valley Water District agreed to moving forward with a project named California WaterFix, yet with funding capped at $600 million in 2017 dollars (minus interest), and for possibly one tunnel.

“The San Jose Mercury News and the Sacramento Bee reported that Santa Clara’s vote is a rejection of California WaterFix as proposed presently.

Governor Jerry Brown and Secretary Laird released statements that claimed victory because Santa Clara Valley Water District was moving ahead in supporting California WaterFix to get ‘the water they need.’

“These contradictory views of Santa Clara Valley’s vote reveal the deep disarray that this project is in. Governor Brown wants to sell the vote as a win. Yet, Santa Clara’s support, just like the Kern County Water Agency vote of 48.5 percent to pass a motion of support, is for something other than California Water Fix. So many conditions have been placed on the terms of support (including description of a scaled back project) that it feels like a bait and switch is being set in place for a new project.

“The truth is that Metropolitan Water District voted to fund 26 percent of WaterFix, Kern County came up short with approval of 6.5 percent funding at $1 billion, and now SCVWD has voted for about 4 percent support at $600 million. That suggests that total State Water Project funding for the project (with other small contributing agencies on board) is shy of 40 percent. In other words, Governor Brown doesn’t even have half the contributions for WaterFix bond sales lined up to move forward. Is this because 40 percent is enough for one tunnel—a project that has not been set to paper?

“While some politicians and environmental groups like the idea of a single tunnel, the single tunnel concept has never been evaluated within CEQA/NEPA documents, or in the permitting process in front of the State Water Resources Control Board.

“We at Restore the Delta prefer improved through Delta conveyance with no tunnels, coupled with a large volume of regional water projects that promote regional self-sufficiency and reduced reliance on the Delta as required by law.

“However, the through Delta (no tunnel) conveyance method, the single tunnel, and other viable Plan B’s, should be studied together side-by-side in a public and transparent manner. If the project cannot stand up to public scrutiny, then it is a bad project. And not telling the public in a forthright manner if the project is being revised is bad policy.

“This is why we are calling on Governor Brown to handle future water planning the right way. Delta water agencies, local Delta government, Delta public interest groups, Bay Area environmental groups, Northern California water interests and public interest groups, Northern California Tribes, environmental justice groups, commercial and sport fishing interests, and urban ratepayer groups should be welcomed to the table for analysis and discussions with water exporters as the project undergoes another revision. Project revisions need to stop being held in secret by the Governor’s office, water exporters, and the Department of Water Resources. All of California will be impacted by the project, and the Governor needs to treat all Californians’ interests equally.

“No groups in California should ever have to pursue a Public Records Act Request and advocate for a State Audit to find out what is being/will be spent on a project, who is paying what portion, or what is being considered for construction, financial and operational planning. The private phone calls from the Governor to water district officials, and political wheeling and dealing needs to end. It is time for transparency, honesty, and a real public process.”

Daily emailsSign up for daily email service and you’ll never miss a post!

Sign up for daily emails and get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. Breaking news alerts, too. Sign me up!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email