The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board voted 4-3 today to participate in the California WaterFix project. The reasoning of the Board of Directors reflected the complexity, cost and risk of the hugely controversial project.
The megaproject faces stiff opposition from Northern California water agencies and local governments, including the Delta counties of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Sacramento, Yolo, and Solano, and the Delta cities of Stockton, Antioch, and Brentwood. San Joaquin County attorney Tom Keeling, one of several Delta attorneys who spoke in opposition to the project at the SCVWD Board hearing, called the project a “litigation risk on steroids.”
Director Linda LeZotte opposed the project, citing the risks of the North Delta diversions to the Delta estuary. Although SCVWD staff had provided her with reading material about the adaptive management process and the Biological Opinions governing the North Delta diversions, she stated that they did not convince her that the Delta would not suffer adverse impacts.
Director Richard Santos opposed the project, citing liability of the District for damages during construction. Although the draft Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Agreement attempted to indemnify the water agencies from an liability, Director Santos stated that he had talked to several attorneys, and they had all said, “you’re liable.”
Director Barbara Keegan supported the project, but acknowledged concerns expressed by residents in Discovery Bay about impacts on boating and Delta recreation. She stated that the SCVWD appointed representative would be bringing the construction impacts to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction JPA Board. “Someone has to stand up and say, ‘this is a problem.'”
Director Tony Estremera supported the project, citing the need to “have a seat at the table.”
Director Gary Kremen supported the project.
The Board’s support for the controversial project was ultimately decided by the vote of Director Nai Hsueh, who expressed her confidence in the state government to “do the right thing.” Ms. Hsueh is a hydraulic engineer who previously worked for the Santa Clara Valley Water District for three decades.