Delta Caucus Successfully Thwarts Twin Tunnels Loan
NAPA – After receiving strong opposition to the project from a group of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, the federal government has rejected a request for a loan to pay for California WaterFix, a controversial twin-tunnels project that threatens the environmental and economic vitality of the state’s most important waterway.
“This is a good first step toward saving the Delta from the direct and irreversible harm posed by this massive and ill-conceived project,” Sen. Dodd said. “From the start, we have been loud and clear about our objection to it. Now the state must do the right thing and eliminate it from consideration altogether.”
In October, the nine-member California Legislative Delta Caucus sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler, urging him to reject a request from the Delta Conveyance Finance Authority for a $1.6 billion startup loan through the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act. At a Nov. 15 meeting of the Delta Conveyance board, officials reported the EPA had decided not to grant the loan.
Delta Caucus members have shown the twin tunnels project is a financial boondoggle that would not produce additional water for central and southern California residents. It fails to comply with goals of the 2009 Delta Reform Act, which calls for achieving a more reliable water supply while “protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.” It is expected to result in increased saltwater intrusion, which will harm the region’s agricultural output and have a negative effect on the economy. The assessment is echoed in the EPA’s own review. The agency indicated to the Bureau of Reclamation in 2017 that water quality for agricultural, municipal and environmental uses would be downgraded. It said the impacts could violate the Clean Water Act.
The minimum cost for the finished project was estimated at $20 billion but that figure could rise based on the state’s recent history with major infrastructure projects, such as the San Francisco Bay Bridge and High Speed Rail. The Delta’s congressional delegation has also expressed concerns about the project.
In addition to Sen. Dodd, the EPA letter was signed by Sens. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, Steve Glazer, D-Orinda; and Assemblymembers Jim Frazier, D-Discovery Bay, who serves as caucus co-chair, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento and Tim Grayson, D-Concord.