One Tunnel Option Presents a Host of New Challenges; Official Discussion Starts Today in Kern County

As reported in recent news articles, the Brown Administration intends to resurrect CA WaterFix as a single tunnel as part of the State Water Project, with discussions beginning at Kern County Water Agency today. (We confirmed an agenda will be posted at Kern County sometime before the meeting at 1 pm today.)
Metropolitan Water District’s General Manager Jeff Kightlinger stated at the 9/26/17 Metropolitan Board Workshop on the tunnels that a single tunnel that could extract 6,000 cfs of Sacramento River flow could work and would cost $10-11 billion.
Environmental and water rights attorney with LAND (Local Agencies of the North Delta), Osha Meserve, finds that a single tunnel project while only minimally reducing the construction footprint could actually be worse for fisheries, water quality, and local water supplies because water extraction would be concentrated at fewer specific sites. Ms. Meserve states:
“Fewer diversions would intensify impacts, making any new diversions in the north Delta even more like the diversions in the south Delta in terms of production of reverse water flows and other localized impacts on water quality and water levels. Plus, a fewer number of intakes would further endanger fish attempting to migrate past the proposed new intakes, while siphoning off critical Sacramento River freshwater flows into the Delta.
“Frankly, there is no ‘one tunnel’ alternative in the EIR/S or anywhere in the project’s permitting documents, undermining the viability of the single tunnel idea. In 2013, a phased ’emergency build’ alternative was explored, where a 3,000 cfs tunnel was built first, and the 6,000 cfs conveyance capacity is added later. Documents associated with discussion of an emergency build alternative do not explain the details of the second tunnel, or whether there would ultimately be three tunnels under the plan.
“Presently, there are no approvals or engineering plans for a single tunnel project. None of the permits received or applied for to start construction describe a single tunnel option. In addition to the construction differences, the intensified effects of operation of fewer intakes serving a single tunnel would need to be reanalyzed at the State Water Resources Control Board and elsewhere.”
Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla noted,
“To date, State Water Project contractors have only committed to $5 to $6 billion towards project funding, even though MWD’s Jeff Kightlinger says a large single tunnel would start at $10 to $11 billion. The Brown Administration are tongue-tied as to where the money is going to come from seeing that there will be no federal funding of the project. They refuse to acknowledge the outcomes of the federal and state audits, or to discuss remedies suggested by the State Auditor.
“The cost per acre-foot of water delivered will increase with a single tunnel project while yield will decrease, which means that the promises made by Metropolitan Water District to their member agencies regarding costs cannot be met.
“However, Kern County Water Agency’s analysis from October 12, 2017 shows they believe WaterFix will yield more water for their member water districts, suggesting the one tunnel would be used to over-extract water from the Delta and not reduce reliance on the Delta as required by law.
“A single tunnel project by California WaterFix will require a complete redo of permitting, environmental review, and financial analyses. If the Brown Administration makes the risky claim that the project’s prior analyses cover a 6,000 cfs tunnel, or a tunnel built in stages, it will only enlarge the already vast universe of legal claims against the project. Instead of wasting time and throwing good money after bad, Governor Brown should end this folly today, and begin leading the charge for a sustainable water future through regional water projects and other actions already endorsed by the state and accepted by the public.”


For Immediate release: October 26, 2017

Osha Meserve, Local Agencies of North Delta, 916-425-9914,
Nora Kovaleski, 408-806-6470,
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, 209-479-2053,

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