In Case You Missed It: “Metropolitan Water District backs away from plan to finance both delta tunnels”

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) will no longer pursue plans to finance the total construction costs of the twin tunnels, known formally as the California WaterFix. MWD general manager, Jeff Kightlinger explained why the Southern California water district would be changing course again in a board memo sent to MWD directors on Monday.

Next Tuesday April 10, the MWD board will be asked to vote on funding their share of the phased-in approach to CA WaterFix. Specifically, the board will be asked to approve phase one of the project—a 6,000 cfs tunnel with two intakes—whereas the second 3,000 cfs tunnel with one intake will be subject to board approval at a later, undetermined date.

Executive Director of Restore the Delta, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said,
“We are not surprised by Metropolitan Water District’s move to abandon the twin tunnels and lead a phased-in tunnel project instead. Southern California water districts would have taken on an unacceptable debt load from the costs of both twin tunnels that would ultimately be felt by Southern California ratepayers. This new project, however, will require revisions to the present Environmental Impact Report and changes to the water diversion change petition in front of the State Water Resources Control Board, as a 6,000 cfs export tunnel is quite different than two 4,500 cfs export tunnels in terms of construction and operations.

“Even more problematic, as we learned from documents we obtained in a recent Public Records Act request from MWD, the baseline in the recently published economic analysis for CA WaterFix was altered to achieve positive economic benefits for the first phased-in tunnel. Southern California ratepayers deserve the opportunity to examine the assumptions behind this doctored report.

“In terms of single tunnel operations, these same PRA documents show that California WaterFix as a phased-in tunnel project—that primarily functions as a single tunnel project until the second one is built—increases water diversions in dry years, not a “big gulp” during wet periods and “little sip” during dry periods as has been touted for the last five years. Specifically, documents from the PRA (listed by MWDPRA number) show how the Delta will be mismanaged for MWD’s water gain at the expense of the Delta’s health:

a. MWDPRA-SEJ0001576 – MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger said that the dry year yields could be 2-3 times current dry year diversions.

b. MWDPRA-SEJ0001577 – MWD staff stated that even in dry years we get storm events, and WaterFix would increase diversions by 200,000 acre feet per storm event (3 storms = 600,000 AF) – “there is definitely more dry year yield with the tunnels than the current system.”

c. MWDPRA-SEJ0001578 – MWD staff stating that the EIR analysis only looks at monthly averages and shows the same yield with and without Waterfix, and that the increased exports in dry years “won’t show up in the EIR monthly ops study.”

d. MWDPRA-SEJ0001584 – A Jeff Kightlinger email where he explains that he didn’t say 2 or 3 times as much diversions in dry years, but even in dry years there are storm events; in 2014-2015 there were 3 storms and WaterFix could have increased Delta exports by 800,000AF for both projects (which would be 200,000 AF of additional supply for MWD).

“After eleven years, and over a quarter of a billion dollars, the project description, operational details, and cost analysis are still sorely lacking. This isn’t simply about the people of the Delta being opposed to the plan. It’s about the State, and its sponsor MWD, failing to make an honest and accurate case for any tunnels that shows real benefits for Californians.”


ICYMI: April 3, 2018
Nora Kovaleski, 408-806-6470,
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, 209-479-2053,

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