Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District (MWD) recently rescinded its plan to fund both Delta tunnels. These tunnels, part of a project called California WaterFix, were intended to sustain the delivery of water to urban Southern California and agricultural businesses in the San Joaquin Valley.
Instead, the MWD will be pursuing the construction of only one tunnel. The board will vote next week to approve $5.3 billion in funding of this single tunnel, says the Los Angeles Times. The total cost of the tunnel, according to The Sacramento Bee, will be about $11 billion.
Metropolitan officials call this a “staged approach,” where the second tunnel will be built sometime after the first, as funds become available.
The April 2 decision follows the MWD’s discussions with major agricultural districts, which rely on water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. While these districts were originally supposed to assist in funding, many are now unwilling to make any financial commitments.
WaterFix has been in the works for a decade, and this isn’t the first time that issues have arisen due to financing and costs.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Jeffrey Kightlinger, a general manager of the MWD, said that while he had preferred to pursue the full, two-tunneled project, it was time to move forward with a decision. “More important is that we just get going,” he said.
However, not all are in favor of the tunnel’s construction. Los Angeles representatives and the San Diego County Water Authority have expressed their concern that if the MWD invests the total cost of the tunnel, $11 billion, the rates for local water would increase.
The Sacramento Bee points out that Metropolitan would be able to divide its costs over 19 million individuals whose monthly water bills would rise by a few dollars. The farmers’ costs, on the other hand, would be split between only a few thousand individuals—a cause of the internal resistance and the agricultural districts’ unwillingness to contribute to funding of the Delta tunnels.
Additional concern exists that this project will divert funding from other projects which include the installation of recycled water and stormwater capture facilities.
The Los Angeles times also states that L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti remains in opposition of the Delta tunnels.
Regardless, Kightlinger confirmed the MWD’s plans to move forward with one tunnel, stating, “The bottom line is that we’re really looking forward to moving forward with this project.”