Don’t let Governor Jerry Brown and the water contractors pull your wallet out of your pocket and steal your hard-earned money.
Restore the Delta (RTD) yesterday alerted all water ratepayers throughout California to “be on guard for water rate and parcel tax increases” to fund Governor Brown’s controversial Delta Tunnels proposal under the California Water Fix.
The Delta Tunnels plan is based on the absurd contention that diverting more water from the Sacramento River will somehow restore the fisheries and ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The alert was issued as the California Water is in complete chaos as the financial, scientific and economic justifications for the process are becoming increasingly untenable.
The San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) is holding a joint meeting and workshop with members at the San Clara Valley Water District on April 7, 2016 in San Jose. The agenda includes a reference to CA WaterFix being discussed as a closed session item at the end of the joint meeting, according to a news release from Restore the Delta. (http://www.sldmwa.org/OHTDocs/pdf_documents/Meetings/Board/Agenda/2016_0407_BOD_Agenda_FINAL.pdf)
The group asked, “Is the closed session discussion an effort to shore up financing for the Delta Tunnels?”
“The Delta Tunnels proposal does not have a viable financial plan,” explained Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “The water district that will benefit most from the proposal, Westlands Water District, was recently fined by the SEC for using ‘a little Enron accounting’ in their bond sales for Delta tunnels planning. Westlands, along with other west side San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts that make up the San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority, are now working to ensure that urban ratepayers will pick up the majority of the costs, benefitting San Luis Delta-Mendota water users.”
On March 9, 2016, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission fined Westlands and its former directors for bond sales that district leadership admitted included “Enron accounting” tricks to hide the insecurity of the bonds. (https://www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2016-43.html)
Consequently, Westlands and the San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority are now on negative credit watch status with bond rating agencies.
“Meanwhile, the two big urban water districts that will contribute to the project have voted to use parcel taxes that will not be approved by ratepayers in addition to raising water rates for the plan,” Barrigan-Parrilla explaiend. “For the elderly and homeowners on fixed incomes, these new expenses may come as a surprise. Both Santa Clara Valley Water District and Metropolitan Water District staff have made statements that the tunnels will only cost water ratepayers $5.00 per month, but they never mention the additional parcel taxes that their boards maintain would be levied. This same strategy is championed by officials with CA WaterFix, who told the press this week that case law allows water districts to raise parcel taxes without a ratepayer vote.”
In addition, independent economist, Dr. Jeff Michael, Director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific, estimates that water rates for urban customers would actually increase by $15 per month if agricultural customers failed to pay their fair share for the Delta tunnels project. That means water ratepayer households would each be contributing $7,200 over the forty-year span of the project without receiving any additional water in addition to increased property taxes.
In a letter to Northern California water districts sent on March 15, 2016, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association warned Santa Clara Valley Water District that their plans to fund the Delta tunnels without a 2/3rd majority vote of their ratepayers would violate Proposition 13. The group warned that urban water districts can expect legal action in defense of ratepayers if they are not given a vote on the increases.
“What we have now is a huge, expensive, proposal with unverifiable environmental benefits according to the EPA who issued the Recirculated Environmental Impact Report on the Delta Tunnels a failing grade of ‘inadequate’,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “The agricultural irrigation districts that are supposed to pay for at least 40 percent of the project are engaging in a full court press and seeking to eliminate public scrutiny so that they secure urban ratepayer funding to keep the plan going. Their end goal is to grab more water to keep growing almonds for export without having to foot the expense.”
“Nonetheless, these same irrigation districts continue to fund expensive projects with their growers’ money despite being placed on negative credit watch following the SEC fine of Westlands. Jason Peltier, with the San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority and formerly of Westlands, asked that his board take over funding in a $1.6 million astroturfing “public outreach” campaign to lobby for greater water exports from the Delta. This campaign was formerly funded by Westlands,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.
Barrigan-Parrilla noted that the El Aqua campaign was established to persuade Californians, and Latinos in particular, that more and more water should be delivered from the Delta to protect jobs, but it was revealed by the New York Times in December 2015 that the campaign served as a front for Westlands’ growers. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/us/farmers-try-political-force-to-twist-open-californias-taps.html)
Sold to the public as a grassroots campaign to protect Latino communities in need of water deliveries, Michael Fenenbock, of the Manhattan-based Fenenbock group, is the architect of the campaign and takes pride that he “vaulted water from a nonissue among California Latinos to a top concern.”
“It is incredible to think that San Luis Delta-Mendota officials are ready to jump in and rescue Westlands’ Manhattan-priced media efforts while on negative credit watch due to Westland’s illegal accounting practices,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “In truth, they need to push for more water deliveries to fill the proposed Delta tunnels to make them pencil out for their own future bond sales. With climate change, the water won’t physically be there. This entire effort, on the part of San Luis Delta-Mendota and Westlands to con urban water agencies to move forward with the project is nothing more than a carnival shell game. They want urban ratepayers to pay for planning and to make long term commitments for a project that has yet to be approved.”
Meanwhile, urban water districts like the Santa Clara Valley Water District are still evaluating a tunnels partnership with Westlands and San Luis Delta-Mendota, she said.
“To believe that Westlands, an entity that has been bailed out by the Federal government to the tune of $350 million for prior projects, and that has behaved so recklessly with bond investor money, will pay its fair share for the tunnels is stunningly naïve,” said Barrigan-Parrilla. “Santa Clara Valley and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California must come clean with their ratepayers. If Delta tunnels funding from Westlands and San Luis Delta-Mendota collapses because nobody wants their shady bonds, urban ratepayers will be on the hook for tens of billions of dollars that they will be forced to repay through taxes and higher water rates.”
The State Water Resources Control Board announced on March 29 that they are suspending the upcoming deadlines for the California Water Fix/Delta Tunnels water rights change petition in response to a request by the state and federal water agencies to extend dates and deadlines for the scheduled hearing, along with a number of other requests either to dismiss or delay the petition.
The Delta Tunnels Plan would hasten the extinction of Sacramento winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, along with imperiling the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. Yet the plan won’t create one single drop of new water for Californians.
The plan would divert water from the Sacramento River before it can reach the Delta in order to benefit corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and extreme oil extraction methods.
For more information about the latest events in the long saga of the Delta Tunnels Plan, go to: https://fishsniffer.com/index.php/2016/03/30/a-chaotic-mess-state-water-board-suspends-upcoming-delta-tunnels-deadlines/
While the Delta Tunnels Plan is potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history, it is just one of the many horrible environmental policies of Governor Jerry Brown.
The Brown administration has promoted the expansion of fracking in California; oversaw the creation of faux “marine protected areas” that don’t protect the ocean from oil drilling, pollution, military testing and human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering; has backed water management operations that have brought winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species closer and closer to extinction; and pushes carbon trading and REDD policies that pose an enormous threat to Indigenous Peoples around the globe.
For a more in-depth discussion of Brown’s tainted environmental policies, go to; http://redgreenandblue.org/2016/03/25/jerry-brown-celebrates-world-water-day-as-he-promotes-salmon-killing-tunnels/