On Prop. 53: Defeat does not approve the Delta Tunnels

For Immediate Release: November 9, 2016
Brian Smith, 415,320-9384, brian@bpspr.com
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, 209-479-2053, barbara@restorethedelta.org

Restore the Delta on Prop. 53
Defeat does not approve the Delta Tunnels

Stockton – Prop. 53 was never a Delta Tunnels-only proposition. It was a proposition focused on revenue bond debt for large state projects, including High Speed Rail. This is why Restore the Delta, the largest Delta environmental organization, never took a position on Proposition 53.
But with the results now in, Restore the Delta executive director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla has issued the following statement:
“Despite the defeat of Prop. 53, the funding for the proposed Delta Tunnels is still highly questionable. There is no finance plan available for public review because it simply doesn’t exist. Westlands Water District, one of the major beneficiaries of the project, recently had its credit rating downgraded by Fitch credit rating service, and an independent economic analysis shows that even with a Federal and State tax subsidy, the project still does not pencil out for the big agricultural districts. ‘Even if Proposition 53 is not approved, the long-term plan for the project will remain controversial,’ according to Fitch Credit Rating services.
“Meanwhile, Southern California citizens will end up paying for the project four ways: property taxes; higher water rates; Federal and State taxes. Metropolitan Water District’s claim that all it will cost is $5 monthly per household is simply not true. Just look at how the Seattle Tunnel Project, a two-mile tunnel, is coming in at double the price, over $1.5 billion per mile. The twin Delta tunnels are actually a total of 70 tunnel-miles, and the State is only budgeting $500 million per mile.
“This is why presentations made by Metropolitan Water District and Department of Water Resources employees at the Cutting Edge 2016, International Tunneling Conference, during the last several days of the election news cycle, are significant. Restore the Delta attendees learned that the State wants tunnel construction contractors to assume the risk of owning the tunnel boring machines and needed replacement parts as a strategy to keep costs down. But international tunneling firms will not want to assume this kind of risk.
“This was part of CA WaterFix’s sales pitch to international contractors to buy into the project — a project that is still not permitted by the State or Federal government, a project that cannot meet Clean Water Act standards for the Delta, a project that will wipe out fishery economies up and down the west coast, a project that will leave hundreds of thousands of people with polluted drinking water, a project in which those who are supposed to repay the debt for the project can’t — a project presently being audited by State and Federal officials – a project that still has only 10% of the geotechnical data needed for tunnel contractors to begin construction.
“Restore the Delta will continue unmasking the true financial and environmental costs to Californians of the Delta tunnels project and fighting its implementation through administrative processes, education and outreach, and litigation if necessary. We will prevail because the majority of Californians disapprove of the Delta Tunnels and backers have not proven the proposal makes economic or environmental sense.”

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