LA water giant approves governor’s Delta tunnels
October 10, 2017
• . Vote of approval was expected
• . Cost will be passed along to water users in LA, San Diego
The board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday voted to help pay for the controversial Delta water tunnels.
The board vote was 28-6 with two members abstaining and two not in attendance.
The costs will be passed along to businesses and residents in Los Angeles, Orange County ad San Diego. How much will be paid is uncertain. The California Department of Water Resources has estimated the cost of the project at about $17 billion. The Kern County water Agency, doing its own math, put the cost at double the state’s estimate -- or more. And an independent economist has said the final cost could be $67 billion, once interest on the bonds used to finance it, is paid
The Met has long supported the proposed twin tunnels, which would divert water from the Sacramento River before it could flow into the California Delta. The tunnels, touted by Gov. Edmund Gerald Brown Jr. as a legacy he hopes to leave to Californians, would be an underground version of Mr. Brown’s voter-rejected Peripheral Canal of 1982.
There will be no public vote on the tunnels, however, since the cost will be financed by revenue bonds which must be repaid by those receiving the water. The canal would have used general obligation bonds, making all Californians liable for the cost.
On Tuesday, a few hours before Met’s board took its vote, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in remarks to the Sacramento Press Club called for building just one tunnel.
“While we anticipated the outcome of the MWD vote some time ago, we knew that Southern California ratepayers needed to be warned about what this project means for them in terms of higher water rates and no increased reliability,” says tunnels opponent Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla.
“Metropolitan's investment will provide water supply reliability for the region's residents and economy,” says California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird.
Last month, Westlands Water District in Fresno County voted against participating, finding that its farmer members would have to pay too high a price for any water from the tunnels, making agriculture unprofitable for most crops.