SACRAMENTO – Members of California’s Legislative Delta Caucus, including its co-chairmen, Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and Assemblymember Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay, sent a letter Friday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency objecting to a $1.6 billion loan for construction of the state’s controversial twin tunnels project on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta known as WaterFix.
“This project poses devastating environmental consequences for the state’s most important waterway while threatening the economic vitality of the entire region,” said Dodd, one of nine lawmakers to sign the letter. “Since it won’t produce one new drop for central and southern Californians – and project estimates appear to be skyrocketing — it seems highly inappropriate to spend to spend this money on it now. We should instead be investing money in efficiency, reuse and storage efforts that provide real benefits without jeopardizing the health of the Delta.”
“The WaterFix plan would be a catastrophic boondoggle for the Delta region and the entire state, while not creating a single drop of new water,”
said Frazier, who represents the Delta region in the Assembly. “Its environmental and financial impacts would ruin the Delta region’s small-town communities, devastate local farmers, degrade water quality and worsen the quality of life in already disadvantaged communities. This project is not in the best interest of the state. It is in direct conflict with the EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment and provide clean, safe air, water and land for all Americans. We urge the EPA to reject the funding request.”
The letter to acting EPA Director Andrew Wheeler objects to a request from the Delta Conveyance Finance Authority for the $1.6 billion loan from the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act. It notes WaterFix is not widely supported in California and presents severe threats to Delta counties. Further, it does not comply with goals of the 2009 Delta Reform Act, which calls for achieving a more reliable water supply while “protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.” It is expected to result in increased saltwater intrusion, which will harm the region’s agricultural output and have a negative effect on the economy.
The assessment is echoed in the EPA’s own review. The agency indicated to the Bureau of Reclamation in 2017 that water quality for agricultural, municipal and environmental uses would be downgraded. It said the impacts could violate the Clean Water Act.
Finally, the tunnel project would pose a financial burden on taxpayers. The minimum cost for the finished project was estimated to be $20 billion but that figure could expand based on the state’s recent history with major infrastructure projects, such as the San Francisco bay Bridge and High Speed Rail. The Delta’s congressional delegation has also expressed concerns about the project.
In addition to Dodd and Frazier, the letter is signed by Sens. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, Steve Glazer, D-Orinda; and Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento and Tim Grayson, D-Concord.
Senator Bill Dodd represents California’s 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Yolo, Sacramento, and Contra Costa counties. You can learn more about Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.