Brown’s blunder down under

Andy Caldwell
COLAB Executive Director, guest editorialist, and radio talk show host

The biggest news story last week appeared in the classifieds. The legal notice declared a summons for all interested persons to appear in court in Sacramento as a defendant in a lawsuit. The lawsuit names the California Department of Water Resources vs. All Persons Interested in the matter of the Authorization of California Water Fix Revenue Bonds. That would be you.

Translation? Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to finance his Twin Tunnels project by way of a lawsuit. Each tunnel would be 150 feet below ground, 40 feet in diameter and 30 miles in length. The tunnel project would be as big a project as the English Channel tunnel and as big a boondoggle as Boston’s Big Dig.

As the notice explains, “The Department of Water Resources constructed, operates and maintains the State Water Project. Currently, Project Water is conveyed across the Sacramento Delta through a series of levees, ship and other canals, flood protection channels, salinity gates, and other facilities, all of which have been modified over the past 150 years. The department has approved the financing of the planning and design and the acquisition and construction of conveyance facilities known as the California Water Fix. The California Water Fix would transport water by way of two underground tunnels running below the Delta.”

The Twin Tunnels project is the multibillion-dollar equivalent to Mr. Brown’s high-speed rail project. The state of California is, of course, low-balling the cost at $16 billion, as this figure does not include the interest on the bonds, which will, at a minimum, cost another $20 billion. Nor does it include the billions more needed for habit restoration and enhancement. Mr. Brown has overestimated the value of the project, considering it won’t add to our water supply. The tunnels are simply a means of conveyance only.

Whereas most everyone agrees the Delta needs fixing, there is little agreement that the Twin Tunnels are the right fix. Hence, Mr. Brown is trying to move forward with this project by way of a lawsuit, which seeks to validate his authority to proceed without either voter, legislative or rate-payer approval.

Here is where you come in. Our county relies on state water to supplement our water supply. That means your water bills are going to go up significantly over time and you won’t have any additional water available to justify the cost. Rather than this project, we need more dams, reservoirs, desalination and reclaim projects in this state, and we need to quit wasting 40 percent of the water we have in storage for fish.

I am very much afraid that Gov. Brown will actually make water less available due to the expense of this project, as it will make the state water unaffordable, leading to the cancellation of state water contracts. This will not just affect the parties that rely on state water directly. For instance, in Santa Maria, if state water becomes unaffordable, that means the city may end up using more groundwater than they do now. That will affect the water supply available to farmers.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara News Press.

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