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CA Indian Water Commission, environmental groups challenge Delta Tunnels financing
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Sep 19th, 2017 11:52 AM
"The California Indian Water Commission's involvement in this filing is about upholding traditional indigenous responsibilities to the lands and waters of California," said Don Hankins, CIWC President. "With this filing, we affirm our commitment to future generations through protection of the lands and waters of this state, and the associated organisms, which we also maintain obligations to."
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Lawsuit filed day before Westlands, SCVD, LA City Council Committee to vote on CA WaterFix

by Dan Bacher

The California Indian Water Commission joined three environmental groups — the California Water Impact Network, AquAlliance and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance — in filing a legal challenge to the financing of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels on September 18.

The suit was filed at a critical time for the future of the California WaterFix - the day before the Westlands Water District, Santa Clara Valley Water District and an LA City Council Committee were scheduled to vote on their continued participation in the project.

A recent landmark 9th Circuit ruling that federally reserved Indian water rights have precedent over all state and federal water rights puts a new twist on how much water there really will be available for the tunnels or any other project — and could put a big wrench in state and federal plants to build the massive 35 mile long tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. (Please see the PDF posted on this page).

“The state is asking for $11 billion in bonds without identifying the sources of revenue or indicating how total costs will be shared with the Central Valley Project, its Federal partner in the WaterFix,” according to a joint statement from the four groups.

“The State would like a blank check from rate payers to finance the Governor’s tunnels,” said Carolee Krieger, President of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN.) “With only 10% of the WaterFix engineering and design completed, there is no reliable cost estimate for the tunnels’ financing. This Validation proceeding is premature until these important issues are settled”

Krieger said the state Validation process, if unchallenged, “would allow bonds to be issued for tunnel construction without legislative or individual contractor’s consent.”

"State agencies are driven by the Governor to try and solidify every step of the WaterFix before he leaves office," said Barbara Vlamis, executive director of AquAlliance. "Fortunately we are part of a strong team that is equally determined to protect the source waters in the Sacramento River watershed," she concluded.

"The California Indian Water Commission's involvement in this filing is about upholding traditional indigenous responsibilities to the lands and waters of California," said Don Hankins, President of the federally recognized CIWC. "With this filing, we affirm our commitment to future generations through protection of the lands and waters of this state, and the associated organisms, which we also maintain obligations to."

The Delta Tunnels project is likely to hasten the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, winter-run Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species. It will also imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers that have been an integral part of the culture, religion, livelihood and subsistence of the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley tribes for thousands of years.

Meanwhile, the Westlands Water District, Santa Clara Valley Water District and LA City Council Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee will be holding meetings regarding future participation in the Delta Tunnels, all today at 1 p.m.

Westlands will hold a special board meeting for Westlands Water District to vote on the CA WaterFix participation at the district offices, 3130 N. Fresno Street, Fresno CA, 93703. The board meeting agenda can be viewed here: http://wwd.ca.gov/event/board-meeting-41/

SCVWD is hosting a separate special meeting to discuss their Water Supply Master Plan that could potentially include CA WaterFix at the district offices, 5750 Almaden Expy, San Jose, CA 9511. Their board agenda can be viewed here: https://scvwd.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx

Finally, the LA City Council’s Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee is hosting a meeting to vote on CA WaterFix in LA City Hall Room 1010, 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. The committee agenda can be viewed here: http://ens.lacity.org/clk/committeeagend/clkcommitteeagend3542115050_09192017.html

Why are all three meetings being held at the same exact time on the same exact day? “Tuesday's public meetings on CA WaterFix in various locations throughout California is another example of the three-card monte being played on California ratepayers and taxpayers as described in Monday’s AP article,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta.

On Monday, the Associated Press revealed that "Dozens of water agencies and millions of families and farmers would be on the hook for building two giant tunnels to carry Northern California’s water southward under new plans to shore up funding for Gov. Jerry Brown’s $16 billion project."

AP obtained new documents from the state’s largest agricultural water agency, the Westlands Water District, and confirmed the expanded funding demands in phone and email interviews with state and local water officials: https://apnews.com/712b5954fa3a4b4e9494cbbadefa6575/APNewsBreak:-Millions-of-Californians-on-hook-for-water-plan

“How can the City of Los Angeles vote on a project for which one of the biggest contributing partners is demanding additional water allocations and financial contributions from other contractors, seeing it won't benefit LA residents?" Barrigan-Parrilla asked.

“How can Santa Clara Valley Water District discuss finance planning for the project when their biggest partner on the Central Valley Project side, Westlands, may be postponing their vote until October 17th, and is insisting on participation by contractors who will not benefit? And how can SCVWD staff and some Board Members continue to understate the pressure from Governor Brown's Administration and the State Water Contractors to participate in this project that will not benefit Silicon Valley because they are being threatened with reduced water allocations and goodies for the District?" she questioned

Barrigan-Parrilla concluded, “We want to know which of our elected officials in California has the honesty and integrity to come clean about the fix that is in for decades of debt placed on all Californians to build what will be dry Delta tunnels."