The Fish Sniffer - Statewide Campaign Launched to Defeat Governor Brown’s $54.1 Billion Water Tunnels Project
Statewide Campaign Launched to Defeat Governor Brown’s $54.1 Billion Water Tunnels Project

Written By: Dan Bacher, June 13, 2013
Species: River Salmon Halibut Bass Steelhead Stripers Sturgeon shark
Location: Sacramento River- Delta, Sacramento River- Upper, San Joaquin Delta, San Francisco Bay, Suisun Bay, San Pablo Bay,

Statewide Campaign Launched to Defeat Governor Brown’s $54.1 Billion Water Tunnels Project

The California water wars heated up on Wednesday with the announcement of the formation of a new statewide coalition against the peripheral tunnels.

"While Governor Jerry Brown plots to build massive twin tunnels to divert Sacramento River to corporate agribusiness and oil interests, a group of over 30 organizations from across the political spectrum have formed Californians for a Fair Water Policy, a statewide coalition working to defeat the tunnels project that will unfairly and unnecessarily burden California’s taxpayers, ratepayers, and the environment," according to a press release from the coalition.

"The tunnels would impose billions of dollars of tax and water rate increases on Californians to enrich a few large and powerful agribusinesses and oil companies," said Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director for Food & Water Watch. "This project was a bad idea in 1982 and it’s a worse idea today."

Besides being enormously expensive, the construction of the tunnels is likely to hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species. No river system or estuary has ever been restored by taking more water out of it, as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels will do.

The coalition said Governor Brown failed to build the Peripheral Canal, a nearly identical project, after California voters rejected it in a historic referendum in 1982. The tunnels project is now called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a project strongly opposed by environmental and community organizations based in the Delta. 

"This is a water project based on greed not need," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. "Family farmers and fishermen in the Delta would see their livelihoods destroyed in order to send more water to a few corporate interests." 

While the Governor claims the tunnels project will cost $14-$25 billion, Restore the Delta estimates that the true cost of the tunnels is $54.1 billion when including interest, mitigation, operations and maintenance, and administrative costs.

The State has a history of underestimating the costs of major water projects, according to the coalition. In 1991 Santa Barbara County voters approved the Coastal Aqueduct at an estimated cost of $270 million. Thus far the aqueduct has cost nearly $1.7 billion and has proven to be unnecessary to meet the County's water needs. 

"California ratepayers and taxpayers should expect the same bad deal with the twin-tunnels," said Carolee Krieger, executive director of the California Water Impact Network. "Just like the aqueduct, these tunnels will cost much more than promised, drown local water agencies with massive amounts of debt, and will not secure our water supply." 

"In Los Angeles yesterday, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) Board of Directors took the first step toward raising property taxes to pay for the project. Local organizations protested the vote noting that southern California does not need more water from the Delta and needs to invest in repairing and diversifying its local water supply," noted Krieger. 

A study conducted by EcoNorthwest, an independent economic analysis firm, found that the tunnels project could cost over $50 billion and that Los Angeles ratepayers alone would be forced to shoulder rate hikes of up to $16 more per month for the next 40 years. 

"Contrary to popular belief, Southern California does not need more water from the Delta," added Scow. "It’s time to invest in smart water projects that diversify the water supply and prevent water pollution. We simply don’t have money to waste on $50 billion tunnels for corporate interests." 

Californians for a Fair Water Policy supports investing in smart, efficiency-centric projects to improve California’s water security and maintaining responsible levels of water exports from the Delta. Such projects include rebuilding our crumbling local water and sewer infrastructure, cleaning groundwater aquifers, expanding rainwater catchment systems, recycling water and improving water efficiency in the residential, commercial and agricultural sectors. Not only would these measures secure California’s water supply, they would improve water quality, prevent pollution and create long-term jobs. 

Californians for a Fair Water Policy is a statewide coalition of businesses, consumers, environmentalists, fishermen, farmers, Native Americans and community-based organizations who oppose spending more than $50 billion of taxpayer and ratepayer funds for the construction, financing, operation and environmental mitigation of new tunnels to export more water from the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary. 

Learn more at 

Contact: Eric Anderson, Food & Water Watch, 415-293-9831 

Steve Hopcraft, Restore the Delta, 916-457-5546

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