Delta Tunnels – Who will pay back the bonds? (Hint: Cali taxpayers will be stuck with the bill)
A coalition of conservation groups today challenged the legality of proposed bonds that will be used to pay for the construction of the Twin Tunnels project. Also known as California WaterFix, the Delta tunnels would divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to Southern California.
The groups — Friends of the River, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Planning and Conservation League, Restore the Delta, and Sierra Club — are challenging the California Department of Water Resource’s claim that it has lined up commitments to repay $11 billion in bonds to construct the project, as state law requires.
- Background: LA ratepayers will pay for Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels (but big agriculture gets all the water)
The groups contend that the project cannot secure all of its approvals — a precondition of issuing the bonds — and that the department is seeking to illegally shift a substantial share of the cost of California WaterFix to state taxpayers, rather than ensuring that the recipients of the water be responsible for all costs, as the law requires.
“Just last week the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Interior blew the whistle on a $50 million dollar scam that illegally shifted costs for this project from Big Ag water contractors to the general public,” said Adam Keats, a senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “These bonds suffer from essentially the same problem, as they fail to ensure that California’s taxpayers will not be stuck holding the tab for this boondoggle of a 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.
A ruling against DWR in this action could be fatal to WaterFix because the project’s success hinges on funding promises — many yet to be inked — by the recipients of the project water. The conservation groups also earlier filed a challenge to the WaterFix environmental review under California’s Environmental Quality Act.
“DWR is attempting to unlawfully subsidize the WaterFix project in direct violation of the Delta Reform Act, which requires that the water contractors who will receive the water pay all costs required for the construction, operation, and maintenance of any new Delta water conveyance facility,” said Bob Wright, representing Friends of the River, Restore the Delta, the Planning and Conservation League, and the Sierra Club.
(For more information about California’s Delta Tunnels/ WaterFix plan, visit Restore The Delta’s website.)