Washington, D.C.- Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans, issued the following statement in response to news that the federal government will not move forward with the controversial Delta tunnels project.
“The decision to pull the plug on the massive Delta tunnels project is long overdue. As proposed, the tunnels plan was a grossly oversized, overreaching attempt to increase water diversions from a fragile estuary that is already over-tapped. It costs far too much, violates state and federal law, and threatens to do great harm to Northern California’s fishing and farming industries, as well as to tribal communities. This project has long needed a reality check, including a downsizing and re-envisioning to include a variety of new, sustainable strategies. Now it’s time to turn the page to ideas that reduce reliance on the Delta, as state law requires, and concentrate on investing in improved regional and statewide water supply reliability.”
Dating back to his tenure in the California State Assembly, Huffman has authored laws and conducted oversight to enforce the principle that California water plans must be affordable and must reduce reliance on the Bay-Delta estuary as a source of water exports. In 2014, he led a letter to the Obama administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service outlining strong congressional opposition to the Delta tunnels plan, which the authors described as unsustainable, environmentally destructive, and legally indefensible.
Today’s surprise announcement that the Trump administration will no longer support the Delta tunnels, now known as the “California WaterFix,” came in response to a letter led by Huffman yesterday. That congressional letter sought a Government Accountability Office investigation into the tens of millions of dollars that were secretly spent by the federal Bureau of Reclamation to help develop plans for the tunnels project. An earlier audit by the Interior Department’s Inspector General identified at least $84 million in taypayer funds spent without disclosure to Congress, at least $50 million of which should have been paid by the local water agencies that sought to benefit from the massive infrastructure project, such as the powerful Westlands Water District. The tunnels funding plan was first launched in 2008, during the period when David Bernhardt was the department’s top lawyer. Upon leaving the department, Bernhardt became one of the top lobbyists for the Westlands Water District. He has now returned to the Interior Department as Deputy Secretary.