SACRAMENTO — A regionally diverse coalition of Northern California counties, water resource management and flood control agencies, and reclamation and water storage districts filed legal action Friday against proposed bonds that will be used to pay for the construction of the Twin Tunnels project. Also known as California WaterFix, the tunnels would divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California.
The groups — County of San Joaquin, Central Delta Water Agency, County of Contra Costa, Contra Costa County Water Agency, County of Solano, County of Yolo, County of Butte, County of Plumas, Plumas County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and Local Agencies of the North Delta — filed a legal response to the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) premature and prejudicial attempt to create binding, taxpayer funded revenue bonds to finance a massive twin tunnel conveyance facility within the California WaterFix project.
The groups seek a court order declaring the bonds invalid, which would prevent DWR from securing required funding for the project to go forward. Today’s filing is an answer to a lawsuit filed earlier by DWR seeking a court order to “validate” the bonds by declaring them legal.
The legal action contends that “DWR’s bond validation must be dismissed as premature since essential details of the project and its financing remain undefined, unapproved, or both, and the procedure for bond repayment is vague and confusing at best.” They also note that DWR is seeking to illegally shift a substantial share of the cost of the tunnels to state taxpayers, rather than ensuring that the recipients of the water be responsible for all costs, as state law requires and as Governor Jerry Brown promised.
Representatives from the organizations filing the lawsuit made the following statements:
“WaterFix is one of the most costly and financially dubious water infrastructure projects proposed in California’s history. Just last week the U.S. Inspector General reported the Bureau of Reclamation’s failure to fully disclose $84.4M in public funding for WaterFix planning. State documents now confirm that dozens of local water agencies representing millions of Californians may be required to pay for the tunnels, even though they haven’t been asked to participate in the project, nor would they receive promised water supply reliability.
How can bonds even be considered under these questionable circumstances?” said San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn.
“DWR’s policies and procedures on the Delta tunnels are already the subject of numerous pending legal actions for violating state and federal laws. Under no circumstances should these bonds be considered until the outcome of pending lawsuits, additional audit investigations, administrative proceedings, federal decision-making, and stakeholder financing decisions are determined,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.
“We must be weary of a project, with such high costs, an exhausting timetable, devastating impacts to our Delta ecosystem, that is already mired in the earliest planning stages with deceit and misuse of funds. All Californians value the importance of a reliable water supply, but with so many other options like increasing storage capacity, water reuse, recycling, and desalination, why does our governor want to force these tunnels on us that will cause serious environmental harm and not provide new water? It makes no sense,” said Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.
“DWR acknowledges that it isn’t in compliance with any statutory and regulatory requirements needed to authorize construction, operation and maintenance of the tunnels. However, they have no problem using taxpayer dollars to create long-term bond obligations to fund the multi-billion dollar scheme without waiting for the outcome of administrative proceedings and judicial challenges. Their reckless and illegal actions are appalling and cannot be condoned,” concluded Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly.