Metropolitan Water District changes course on Delta Tunnels again

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The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, one of the key backers of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels plan, today changed its position against on whether to finance a two tunnels project or a staged project, with one tunnel to be built first and a second  tunnel to be built later.

On Monday, MWD general manager Jeff Kightlinger reported in a memo to the board that staff would submit at the board meeting on Tuesday, April 10, a recommendation for the powerful water district to fund its share of a potential first stage of California WaterFix, including include two intakes, a single tunnel and a capacity of 6,000 cfs.

However, things have changed since Monday. “Since then, a number of Metropolitan directors have requested that the option presented at the February 27 board workshop for Metropolitan to finance California WaterFix at a level that would allow the full project to move forward also be brought to the Board for consideration,” said Kightlinger in today’s memo to Board Members.

“Accordingly, the board letter that has been posted sets forth both options, with a staff recommendation to express Metropolitan’s support if the Department of Water Resources elects to pursue a staged approach and support of Metropolitan’s participation at up to 47.1% of the project cost,” he stated.

Here is the full board letter.

After hearing of MWD’s change in plans, Brenna Norton, Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch, responded,  “Whether one tunnel or two, Southern California residents will foot most of the bill for the tunnels.”

“Rather than investing in faraway projects, we should invest in local projects that put LA back to work and guarantee new water for our communities,” Norton concluded.

On Tuesday, Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club California, the Southern CA Watershed Alliance, and S.E.E. are organizing a press conference and rally organized to protest MWD’s board vote to fund the California WaterFix.

The press conference starts at 11AM, with MWD board vote and public comments beginning at 12PM. It will take place at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Headquarters, 700 Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (next to Union Station).

“After eleven years, and over a quarter of a billion dollars, the project description, operational details, and cost analysis are still sorely lacking,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “This isn’t simply about the people of the Delta being opposed to the plan. It’s about the State, and its sponsor MWD, failing to make an honest and accurate case for any tunnels that show.”

Those who cannot attend but wish to watch the press conference can watch live at 11AM on the Food and Water Watch Facebook:
Those wishing to watch the MWD board vote online are encouraged to tune in to MWD’s livestream at 12PM:
The State Water Resources Control Board is currently conducting evidentiary hearings on the petition by the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to change the point of diversions for the Delta Tunnels project, in spite of a change in the project by the state and federal governments from the twin tunnels to a two phase project. The board has to date rejected the pile of recent motions by cities, counties, water agencies, conservation groups, fishing groups and farming organizations to stay the hearing.
The Delta Tunnels project would hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River winter and spring Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species. It would also imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers, according to opponents.
For more information, read my earlier article about Metropolitan Water District’s recommendation to finance only a staged California WaterFix project: