SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown’s push to expedite planning and construction of the disastrous Delta twin tunnels project violates key parts of the Delta Reform Act of 2009 and has the state Department of Water Resources abdicating its responsibilities by turning over management of the project to water agencies, the Legislative Delta Caucus charged Tuesday in a letter to the governor.
“The governor’s proposed WaterFix Project is a boondoggle, plain and simple. It threatens to devastate the Delta ecosystem and economy, saddling Californians with tens of billions of dollars of debt for generations,” said Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), who co-chairs the Legislative Delta Caucus. “The administration’s plan to create a joint powers authority and take management responsibilities away from DWR and turn them over to water agencies is irresponsible. The financials of the agreement lack substantive contribution and maintenance information, violating the Delta Reform Act of 2009 and creating doubt that the water agencies have the resources to finance such a project.”
The letter, signed by 11 members of the Legislative Delta Caucus, also raises questions about the financial obligations of one of the principal water agencies seeking to join the JPA, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). MWD has been sued for allegedly charging illegal rates to another water district and is potentially liable for billions in judgments. “The result of these rulings could significantly impact the ability of the JPA to comply with the terms of the arrangements to finance both upfront and maintenance costs of the WaterFix,” the letter states.
The collapse of the Oroville Dam spillways this year highlights another concern about the financial capabilities of the water agencies that contract from the State Water Project (SWP). The spillway repairs are expected to cost more than $274 million. Last month, state Natural Resources Secretary John Laird acknowledged that these water contractors need to contribute more money to meet their commitments to the SWP. “The incident in Oroville shows there has been greater investment on up-front capital and ongoing operation than on critical maintenance,” the letter states.
The Delta Legislative Caucus was formed earlier this year and has a membership dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Delta. Assemblyman Jim Frazier and State Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) co-chair the Caucus. Other members are Senators Cathleen Galgiani, Steve Glazer and Richard Pan, and Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty, Cecilia Aguilar-Curry, Jim Cooper, Susan Eggman, Tim Grayson, Heath Flora and Catherine Baker.
The Delta region is composed of five counties and is home to more than four million Californians. The Caucus allows legislators to maintain a more united voice on important issues affecting this region by keeping them updated, briefed and educated while also providing a venue for collaboration with various public and state entities.