Governor’s twin tunnels certain to see cost overruns, supervisors predict

October 3, 2017 9:01pm

•  San Joaquin County Supervisors point to governor’s bullet train and Bay Bridge replacement

•  “The same astronomical cost overruns as high-speed rail”

Noting that the California high-speed rail project is now forecasting cost overruns of 27 percent above its original estimate, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors says it’s certain that a similar fate will occur with the governor’s proposed twin water tunnels.

The board calls the controversial project a “poorly planned attempt” to divert water away from the California Delta, actually producing little additional water to resolve current water issues.

“History will repeat itself in the rising costs of the state’s two major infrastructure projects. First, the bullet train is still making history with new revelations of cost overruns now standing at a whopping $1.7 billion or $14.2 million per mile, just for the initial portion now under construction in the Central Valley,” says San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn.

“Second, the twin tunnels, which cannot seem to find any concrete financial projections or firm funding sources,” he says.

The water tunnels are destined for “the same astronomical cost overruns as high-speed rail,” adds San Joaquin County Supervisor Katherine Miller. “State infrastructure projects almost never meet their budgets or deadlines, and California's bullet train and the Bay Bridge are epic examples.”

Ms. Miller says the project, essentially an underground version of Gov. Edmund Gerald Brown Jr.’s voter rejected Peripheral Canal, “hasn't turned a shovel of dirt yet, and they've already misappropriated $84 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars trying to help get the plan off the ground as well as negotiated back room deals to make water agencies and their customers pay for a project that won’t produce a single drop of new water.”

Following Westlands Water District’s rejection of the state’s funding plan for the twin tunnels, several other water districts are set to vote this month on whether to reject the plan as well.

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors says there are more reasonable and less costly alternatives to the tunnels, including increased above and below ground storage capacity; water conservation, reuse, recycling, desalination and investments in Delta levees.

The state said initially that replacing the eastern span of the Oakland Bay Bridge, damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake, would cost just over $1 billion. That tab to date is a bit higher: $6.4 billion.

The state has said the twin tunnels would cost about $17 billion. But the Kern County Water Agency puts the price tag at between $32.1 billion and $41.4 billion, according to a draft analysis dated September 15. And an independent economist, Jeffrey Michael of the University of the Pacific, has said it could actually hit about $67 billion when interest on borrowed money is included.

Those who drink or otherwise use water from the tunnel drainage system would ultimately pay for the project through higher water rates.

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