By Mary O’KEEFE
At the Metropolitan Water District meeting on Tuesday the board voted to approve the California WaterFix.
“About 30% of the water that flows out of taps in Southern California comes from northern California via the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta’s delivery system, however, is badly outdated, a problem compounded both by a declining ecosystem that is harmful to fish and a 1,100-mile levee system that is increasingly vulnerable to earthquakes, flooding, saltwater intrusion, climate change and environmental degradation,” according to a statement from MWD.
According to supporters of the proposal, California WaterFix would modernize the northern Delta system with two tunnels that will carry water to the existing system in the southern Delta.
Those who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting voiced concern about the environmental impact calling this project a “Band-Aid” for California water issues. Some felt the funds for the project would be better spent in areas like updating local water systems and recycling programs.
But in the end, the board voted to support the state/federal project. The issue has been studied and debated for over a decade.
“This [vote] is not intended to be symbolic support; it is an action support,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager for MWD.
There were concerns from speakers and some board members about the $17 billion price tag for the twin tunnels project in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Of that amount, MWD is required to cover 25.9%, or $4.3 billion. That is the largest contribution from all water agency boards and will be paid by customers.
Many who spoke against the project were concerned about the increase in water rates that residents will experience, citing that many in low-income housing have budgets that are already strained with ever-increasing rents. The cost has been estimated from a $5 per month increase for those with large properties to 89 cents for those with smaller homes.
“The estimate that was given to us was between $1.90 to $3 [a month] increase in [water rates],” said Christy Scott, spokeswoman for Crescenta Valley Water District.
“Every generation of Southern Californians has to reinvest in our water system to ensure a reliable water future. Today marks one of those historic votes that reaffirms that commitment and vision,” stated Metropolitan Board Chairman Randy Record. “We simply must modernize and improve the reliability of our imported supplies as well as meet the needs of growth by developing more local supplies and extending conservation.”