Ahead of key Cal Water Fix vote today in Santa Clara, tunnel opponents come out swinging

This morning, starting at 9:30am, the Santa Clara Valley Water District will be voting on whether to support the full California Water Fix project, a vote that was put off last week to give the directors more time to consider their decision.

Here’s what tunnel opponents are saying this morning:

Metropolitan Water District Accused of Violating Transparency Law, Jeopardizing April 10 Tunnels Vote

Food & Water Watch and First Amendment Coalition charge illegal communications violated Brown Act, demand illegal vote be rescinded

From Food & Water Watch:

Food & Water Watch and The First Amendment Coalition today sent a letter to Metropolitan Water District (MWD) Board of Directors accusing the board of blatantly violating the Brown Act, the state’s open government law, by making decisions behind closed doors before a public vote on the multi-billion dollar tunnels project.

The groups’ demand would require the Metropolitan Water District to formally withdraw its commitment to finance the tunnels, or risk a lawsuit to nullify the vote.

The attached letter outlines how Governor Brown colluded with Metropolitan Water District staff and directors to round up votes to take on the majority funding stake to build the twin tunnels and subsidize Central Valley farmers. The April 10 vote violated the Brown Act because key decisions followed back-channel conversations between board members, with Governor Brown as an intermediary, circumventing public scrutiny of the decision-making process.

“Metropolitan Water District staff and directors, working with Governor Brown, colluded to round up votes to use SoCal ratepayer and taxpayer money to subsidize Central Valley farmers” said Brenna Norton, senior organizer with Food & Water Watch. “This is a bad idea no matter what – but transparency is ultimately what allows people to hold their government accountable.”

These secret communications have been widely reported and even bragged about by Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) directors. For example, MWDOC Director Larry Dick commented at the April 5 Water District meeting that: “I happen to know from the best bookmaker at MWD, (who) says we have a guaranteed win on the two tunnels at 51.67%

Public records show multiple meetings and phone calls—some directly from the Governor—to round up votes for a two-tunnel deal. The Brown Act prohibits “serial communications” to prevent government from circumventing the requirement for open and public deliberation.

“The Brown Act requires legislative bodies like the Metropolitan Water District to conduct their meetings, their deliberations and their decision-making in public,” said First Amendment Coalition Executive Director David Snyder. “It is clear that MWD did not do that here, and on an issue of paramount importance to both the future of California, and to MWD’s use of taxpayer funds.  As a result, the public has been unlawfully shut out of a process they are entitled under California law to take part in.”

These accusations come on the heels of questions over whether Santa Clara Valley Water District struck a deal with the Brown administration to support the tunnels plan in exchange for state funding for a new $485 million dam. Santa Clara Valley Water District is set vote on the tunnels tomorrow.

Governor Brown would like to guarantee funding for the $17 billion dollar tunnels before he leaves office, and having to correct Brown Act violations would jeopardize that commitment.

Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

Anti-Tunnels Coalition Sends Letter to Karla Nemeth; San Diego Water Authority Letter Details MWD’s Fiduciary Inconsistencies Pursuing CA WaterFix

From Restore the Delta:

A coalition of environmental organizations sent a letter today to Department of Water Resources (DWR) Director Karla Nemeth regarding current State Water Contract negotiations related to moving forward with the CA WaterFix proposal.

The coalition’s findings reveal that approvals by various water districts to support CA WaterFix are premature given the current incomplete status of State Water Project negotiations. The environmental organizations signing the letter, consequently, find that DWR’s strong-armed push on Santa Clara Valley Water District to support CA WaterFix is also premature.

The State Water Contractors are in a chicken and egg scenario as they attempt to prove advancing financial movement with the Delta tunnels project before completing contract negotiations. However, certain items in contract negotiations must be completed first to continue forward with a new contract for State Water Contractors that includes CA WaterFix.

Details in the letter include:

  • No final Environmental Impact Report for the State Water Contractor Extension Amendments that relaxed funding rules and extended repayment another 50 years until 2085.
  • No draft environmental impact report on the latest CA WaterFix relaxation of water transfer rules being contemplated in current negotiations.
  • No legislative hearing as required under Water Code Section 147.5 for a public hearing at least 60 days prior to the final approval of either SWP contract extension amendments or contract amendments for CA WaterFix.

Restore the Delta’s Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla says of the letter, “DWR’s Director Karla Nemeth is really making a false threat to Santa Clara Valley Water District and other State Water Contractors that they have no option but to participate in CA WaterFix. The Water Code is clear. A Legislative hearing is required under WC Section 147.5 at least 60 days before final contract amendments can be approved, and the hearing must allow for public comments.”

Planning and Conservation League’s Jonas Minton commented, “Not only is this a backroom deal, but it is an incredibly bad deal for water ratepayers and taxpayers including those in Santa Clara County.”

In other news, San Diego Water Authority also sent a letter today to MWD’s Chairperson Randy Record discussing a number of contract and budget items including risks associated with California WaterFix as inconsistent with the MWD Board’s investment policy and fiduciary duty to protect public funds.

WaterFix: Impacts on the historic town of Locke

From the California Water Research blog:

“According to the Locke Foundation, in 1990, when the town of Locke was designated a National Historic Landmark, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior stated:

Founded in 1915, Locke is the largest and most intact surviving example of an historic rural Chinese-American community in the United States, including more than 50 commercial and residential buildings and covering approximately 14 acres along the east bank of the Sacramento River, south of the city of Sacramento. Locke is the only such community remaining in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which was a particularly important area of rural Chinese settlement.

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Water Fix construction noise impacts

From the No Delta Gates blog:

In this blog, [Jan reports] on the findings from the Water Board Hearings about the noise impacts from the tunnel construction on the small communities in the North.

The towns of Hood and Clarksburg are in the middle of the massive tunnel project. That is where the pumping station will be located.

An expert sound witness hired by Save the California Delta Alliance to testify in the Water Board Permit Hearings about the WaterFix (Delta Tunnel) permits, reviewed the WaterFix Noise Chapter and found that, in his opinion, the calculations for sound used by the DWR are incorrect. Walter Salter testified that, ‘Construction noise levels are likely underestimated in some areas, by as much as 10 dB to 15 dB or more…” He found that, “Construction noise (pile driving, blasting, and trucking activities) is expected to significantly interfere with the activities at certain recreational facilities or businesses available for community enjoyment, such as the Clarksburg Marina and the Hood Supply Company (restaurant).” … ”

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