Joint Legislative Budget Committee hearing on the contract extensions for the State Water Project is on again – and so is the heat …

O’Niel Forebay Gates to the California Aqueduct

Once again, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee has scheduled a hearing on the State Water Project Contract Extension for 10 am on Tuesday, September 11.  Water Code Section 147.5 requires an informational hearing with the legislature at least 60 days prior to final approval of any contract extension.

The existing State Water Project contracts are set to expire in 2035.  The contract extension process, underway since 2013, has resulted in a set of Agreements In Principle which provide for the extension of the expiration dates on all contracts to December 31, 2085; makes changes to billing procedures, reserves and other financial changes; and establishes a finance committee of both DWR staff and contractors.  An Environmental Impact Report determined that the extension amendment to the contracts would not result in any physical environmental impacts since it addresses only the financial provisions of the contract.

It’s important to note that the State Water Project contract extension isn’t really about the California Water Fix per se; it’s more about the general mechanism under which the state water contractors would pay for the operations, maintenance, and facility upgrades for the State Water Project system.  Certainly paying for the California Water Fix would fall into this payment structure, but also so would paying for the repairs to Oroville Dam spillways or the repairs to the Thermalito Pumping Plant, which caught fire a few years ago.  With the current contracts set to expire in 2035, payment for infrastructure repairs and capital upgrades cannot be financed past that date, which means payments would have to be made over 17 years or less, rather than 30 or more.

Over the past several weeks, Restore the Delta has run a successful social media campaign as well as mobilized their constituents to contact legislators, resulting in the hearing being postponed twice.  With another hearing on the schedule, Restore the Delta is once again in action, saying if the hearing occurs as scheduled, it “would rubber stamp a 50-year State Water contract before Delta tunnels amendments have been finished and reviewed by the Committee and before a detailed financial plan for the tunnels is available.

Earlier today, the Southern California Water Coalition submitted a letter signed by more than 40 groups urging the State Water Project Contract Extension legislative hearing to proceed as scheduled, saying that by postponing the hearing yet again, would “put California’s water supply in jeopardy and create “financial compression” that causes water rates statewide to surge.”

Will the hearing go as scheduled?  I’ll keep you posted …


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