SACRAMENTO, CA, Aug. 11, 2016 – Yesterday, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted to launch an audit into funding for the California WaterFix (Delta Tunnels) as requested by Assemblymember Susan Eggman and Senator Lois Wolk.
At a State Capitol hearing, the legislators said the $16B cost, lack of legislative oversight, and murky funding mechanisms all indicated the need for an audit.
“Such a significant investment needs, I think, to have a corresponding level of oversight and scrutiny,” said Assemblymember Susan Eggman.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta said, “We want to thank Assemblymember Eggman and Senator Wolk for their leadership on this issue. A project this expensive, and potentially destructive to the San Francisco Bay-Delta, deserves scrutiny and public oversight.”
A representative from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) said the agency did not oppose an audit and promised full transparency. There was no testimony against the proposed audit.
In public comment, Barrigan-Parrilla made the case for an audit of the Delta Tunnels. Full testimony here.
“The proposed Delta tunnels project, also known as California WaterFix, is required, under CA Water Code 85089, to have the state and federal water contractors pay for the planning, mitigation, and construction of the project. That is not what has been happening, and that is why I am here today to ask this committee to move forward with an audit of CA WaterFix.
“…there are three areas of potentially improper transactions involving public funds within the Department of Water Resources, Westlands Water District, San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority, Metropolitan Water District, and Santa Clara Valley Water District.
1. The Deputy Inspector for the U.S. Department of Interior is already investigating how the Department of Water Resources siphoned off millions of Federal taxpayer dollars meant for improving fish habitat to instead prepare the Environmental Impact Report for the controversial Delta tunnels project…
2. Both the Santa Clara Valley Water and Metropolitan Water Districts have used property tax funds to pay for Delta tunnels planning without a vote of property taxpayers…
3. How did DWR select and award one of the state’s large engineering water contracts to a contractor with a BS in economics and no water project management experience…?
“…The project beneficiaries have created a ‘joint powers authority’ to further mask how the beneficiaries are basically in charge of this so called “public water project” that will benefit just a few regions of the state at the expense of our public trust resources, the regional economies and vast water quality resources served by this estuary and the rivers that feed it.
“This shift in control is known only after months and months of Public Record Act requests and deserves an investigation into how this major project will now be run by the select beneficiaries without Legislative oversight.”
NOTE: Delta Tunnels evidentiary hearings continue today with testimony regarding modeling of the project. Watch it today and throughout the week every day starting at 9 am. Link to watch live. Catch up by checking out our live tweeting at Twitter.com/RestoretheDelta.