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California WaterFix needs fixing

By in Press Enterprise on October 10, 2017

By The Editorial Board

A new report by the state auditor is an alarm bell for the proposed Delta tunnels project, and like any alarm, it sounds for a reason and shouldn’t be ignored.

The 91-page report on the major infrastructure project now called California WaterFix reveals that the state’s Department of Water Resources has not completed an economic or a financial analysis of the project to demonstrate its financial viability. Further, the DWR has yet to fully implement a governance structure for the design and construction phase of WaterFix, and the agency has failed to maintain important program management documents.

The DWR’s relaxed attitude about the project’s cost isn’t necessarily shared by the water agencies that would pay for it. The board of Westlands Water District in the Central Valley voted not to participate in WaterFix, leaving an enormous funding hole where that agency’s $4 billion contribution to the project’s funding was expected to be. The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which would be on the hook for about 26 percent of the tunnels’ cost, will vote today on whether water customers in its six-county service area will be paying MWD’s $4.3 billion share of the bill.

The Delta tunnels project has been in the planning phase for a decade and would serve the important purpose of protecting the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from the effects of pumping water from the delta to serve farms and cities further south. The Central Valley Project, built by the federal government in the 1930s, and the State Water Project, built in the 1960s, operate side-by-side pumping stations which together exported an average of 8 million acre-feet of water annually in the 1980s. Since then, legal actions to protect endangered species have cut the output of the water projects roughly in half.

The WaterFix project […]    

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