Southern California’s massive Metropolitan Water District has offered to fund Gov. Jerry Brown’s “WaterFix” Delta tunnels to bring water from Northern California to users in the dry south.
With the clock running out on Brown’s last year in office, opponents of the project thought they had stopped the $17 billion construction plan to build two 40-foot diameter tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta to take 4.9-million-acre-feet of water and deliver it south to farmers and urban areas along the 800-mile California Aqueduct.
But the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) voted on March 28 to have its ratepayers underwrite the $11 billion cost to fund the first tunnel, and to then resell water to other districts at a significant mark-up. According to MWD’s plan, its ratepayers’ average per-household water bills could rise between $2.40 and $4.80 a month as a result.
The MWD was the first and largest contractor with the California State Water Project that was passed in 1960 by Gov. Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown Sr., father of the current governor. As the largest supplier of treated water in the United States, the MWD cooperative provides for the water needs of 19 million people through 14 cities, 11 municipal water districts, and one county water authority — a consumer base stretching from Ventura County to the Mexican border.
MWD already receives 35 percent of its customers’ water needs from Northern California as the owner of the California Aqueduct, and it was expected to originally take a 29 percent participation share in WaterFix. But its leadership is increasingly concerned about the state’s failure to invest in infrastructure or hammer out a six-agency agreement to move the plan forward.
Breitbart News reported that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) first warned in 2013 that California had a $65 billion infrastructure investment deficit in providing an adequate level of public infrastructure for dams, waterways, airports, roads, bridges, seaports, and tunnels. And in a warning that critics say should have been heeded before last year’s near collapse of the Oroville Dam spillway, ASCE’s “Infrastructure Report Card” awarded a “D” grade for the 50-year old system of state levees/flood control — California’s most neglected sector.
With the State of California having spent over a decade planning and producing the scientific research to justify the WaterFix project under rigid federal and state environmental requirements, MWD’s management view WaterFix as the only viable infrastructure project on the horizon that could adequately address its needs for the next three decades.
MWD plans to fund the first tranche of the WaterFix, and then to contract to re-sell water to the other five participating agencies, including Santa Clara Valley Water District, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, Kern County Water Agency, and San Luis Authority, which services the Central Valley’s powerful Westlands Water District.