Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman , D-Stockton, is introducing legislation to block the Governor’s controversial Twin Tunnels project unless it is approved by the voters of California on a statewide ballot.
“An enormous amount of time and energy has been wasted rebranding and repackaging the same old Peripheral Canal plan that voters rejected decades ago,” Eggman said. “It’s tragic that despite our ongoing drought, this flawed plan is being forced on us without any true debate even though it will not add one drop of water to California’s supply, but it will raise the water rates and potentially property taxes of millions of Californians.”
The bill will require approval via ballot initiative for any infrastructure project that conveys water directly from a diversion point in the Sacramento River to pumping facilities of the State Water Project or the federal Central Valley Project south of the Delta.
“In 2012, the Governor was committed to asking the voters to approve a substantial tax increase. I’m hopeful he will be just as committed to seeking voter approval before embarking on a project that will cost tens of billions of dollars and greatly impact the Delta region,” Eggman said.
Senator Lois Wolk, who has represented the Delta region in the State Legislature for 13 years, and who is a recognized leader on state water policy issues, added:
“California’s taxpayers and ratepayers should have the opportunity to weigh in on whether to commit billions of dollars to a project that economists say isn’t a good investment, scientists say is a disaster for the Delta’s ecosystem, and the water exporters’ own studies show will not produce a single drop of new water supply. “The proposed tunnels are the most expensive, most controversial water project proposed in half a century with the potential to permanently destroy the Delta’s ecosystem and community. Californians have the right to look at the facts and decide whether the tunnels are good for California, or whether we should drop this plan once and for all.”
The latest iteration of the Peripheral Canal was rebranded as the “California Water Fix” over the summer after the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, as it was previously known, failed to meet environmental standards required to obtain the necessary permits. By the administration’s own changing estimates, the project would cost at least $15 billion to $25 billion. The new plan has so far received a failing grade by the US Environmental Protection Agency, who called the new environmental impact report “inadequate”.
Support for Eggman’s move is fairly widespread.
“No one wants to risk turning the San Francisco Bay-Delta into the next Flint, Michigan. The public has the right to vote on this after there is an independent health study,” noted Jonas Minton, former Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources, and Policy Advisor, Planning and Conservation League.
“Given this so called Delta fix has grown in costs, lost any illusion of environmental mitigation, and doesn’t provide Southern California with any new water, the time has come to know what the true cost-benefit ratio is and allow a vote,” said Conner Everts, Executive Director, Southern California Watershed Alliance. “This legislation reinstates the legislature’s prerogative, and gives the entire state a voice, especially those in Southern California who would have to pay for the project. The drought has shown that people in Southern California want a say in how their water utility payments are invested and that local water strategies are the best result for each dollar spent.”
Restore the Delta also backs a statewide vote.
“Restore the Delta supports fully Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman’s legislation blocking the tunnels without a vote of the people,” noted Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla who serves as the executive director of the organization. “The tunnels will destroy the sole source of drinking water for one million Delta residents, the physical environment and the state’s most magnificent fisheries and breathtaking habitat for birds on the Pacific flyway - not to mention the agricultural and related economies for an additional three million Delta area residents. The Delta is not California’s sacrifice zone.”