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SJ County is among agencies suing Metro Water District
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STOCKTON — The Planning and Conservation League and Food and Water Watch, as well as three Delta local agencies, Central Delta Water Agency, Contra Costa County, and San Joaquin County Wednesday announced they will file a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Met) over their plan to purchase several islands in the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary.
Metropolitan Water District on March 24 filed a Notice of Exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act for the purchase of the Delta islands, claiming the purchase was for Delta habitat restoration purposes.
However, Met’s General Manager, Jeff Kightlinger, admitted to the press at the time of the island purchase announcement that the islands could facilitate building the $15.7 billion Delta tunnels project championed by Governor Brown by “reducing eminent-domain needs and providing a storage place for construction dirt.”
In addition, Kightlinger made additional public statements regarding the uses and benefits of the Delta islands that contradicted the CEQA exemption statement.
“Based on this improper CEQA filling, we are calling on the Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors to reverse the bad vote that they made at their General Manager’s urging to purchase the Delta islands,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta said at a rally in Stockton in support of the lawsuit. “Clearly, the purchase of the Delta islands is Met’s attempt to anchor the Delta tunnels in our region so that construction could begin, despite the fact that the plan is still not approved or financed.
“The $175 million purchase price for the Delta islands does not count the costs to Southern California ratepayers for the inevitable litigation that begins with today’s filing. If Met loses in court, they will not be able to ever sell these islands for the same price. That means Southern Californian water users will become owners of a very expensive duck habitat hundreds of miles to the north. Met will also be on the hook for maintenance of hundreds of miles of Delta levees, an ongoing cost that will be paid year after year by Southern California ratepayers.
“Our 35,000 members from throughout California agree there are better ways for Southern California water agencies to plan for their water future.  More than 7,500 area residents have already signed letters that will be sent to Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors urging them to drop the Delta islands purchase and to instead invest the $175 million in solutions that build sustainability in Southern California like storm water capture and water recycling. Met has already spent nearly $100 million on Delta tunnels planning, but the process at the State Water Board has recently ground to a halt, and there is no financial plan between Met and agricultural water districts, like the SEC fined Westlands, as to who will pay what proportion of the $15.5 billion construction costs.”