The governing board of Southern California’s largest water wholesaler voted Tuesday to spend billions more dollars on a water-delivery tunnel project, despite objections by Los Angeles’ representatives on the board and concerns it will sharply raise residents’ water rates.
The California WaterFix project is designed to divert water from the Sacramento River as it enters the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and carry it to existing federal and state pumping stations in the southern part of the delta through one or two 35-mile tunnels.
In the face of statewide funding shortfalls for the $17 billion, two- tunnel project, the state Department of Water Resources announced in February that the agency planned to pursue a staged construction approach, building only one tunnel initially at a cost of about $11 billion.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California board voted last year to contribute $4.3 billion toward the WaterFix project. But the board voted Tuesday to increase its investment to $10.8 billion, providing the remaining funding needed to build the full two-tunnel project.
“Our goal at Metropolitan is to ensure a reliable water supply for decades to come through the most affordable and environmentally responsible means possible. I believe this investment in the water system is necessary to prevent a far more expensive, disruptive water future that would result if we lose the ability to rely on this Northern California supply due to climate change and other natural risks.” MWD board Chairman Randy Record said.
MWD officials said the agency’s increased investment in the project is expected to cost the average Southern California household up to $4.80 per month in increased water bills. Critics of the project have estimated a much higher impact, suggesting monthly bills for Los Angeles residents could jump by as much as $16 per month.
Gov. Jerry Brown hailed the MWD board’s decision. He has long supported the project, saying it will help environment by protecting fish and also securing a more reliable delivery system for the water. “This is a historic decision that is good for California — our people, our farms and our natural environment,” Brown said.