State Water Contractors seek to dictate Delta tunnel capacity and configuration

Governor Gavin Newsom stated in his February 12, 2019 State of the State address that he did “not support the WaterFix as currently configured.  Meaning, I do not support the twin tunnels. But we can build on the important work that’s already been done. That’s why I do support a single tunnel.”  The meaning of Governor Newsom’s statement is the subject of active negotiations between the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Contractors (SWC.)

DWR and the SWC have begun negotiations on a potential State Water Project contract amendment to pay for a single Delta tunnel.  Under a settlement agreement with Planning and Conservation League over the Monterey amendments, the negotiation meetings are required to be public. The first negotiation meeting was held on July 24, 2019.

At the July 24 meeting, the State Water Contractors presented a First Offer to DWR.  The State Water Contractors seek an Agreement in Principle that would allow the SWC to define the Delta tunnel capacity and general configuration, including the tunnel alignment, number of intakes, and pumping station capacity.

Meanwhile, in consideration of Governor Newsom’s direction, the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority is reportedly considering four potential alignments for the Delta tunnel project in the DCA’s engineering design process.  The potential alignments include the “previously preferred” Waterfix tunnel alignment, and one nearer to I-5 that would avoid some of the major impacts from project construction on Delta recreation, Delta tourism, and Delta legacy towns.

Metropolitan Water District has bought two of the Delta islands in the WaterFix project main tunnel alignment, Bouldin and Bacon Islands, and CalTrans has constructed an interchange for the project at Highway 12 on Bouldin Island.  So it seems likely that the State Water Contractors are proposing that the main Delta tunnel alignment not change.

Bouldin tunnel

WaterFix main tunnel alignment on Bouldin Island with tunnel muck areas

For operations, the State Water Contractors are proposing that the Delta tunnel be a State Water Project facility, integrated into the State Water Project.  The SWC propose to define “Delta Conveyance Project Water,” which would be “the additional amount of total SWP water that can be conveyed with the Delta Conveyance Project compared to the amount that can be conveyed without the Delta Conveyance Project.”

The  State Water Contractors are also proposing that water agencies opt in to participate in the Delta tunnel project.  SWC who choose to participate would pay for a share of the available Delta tunnel capacity, up to their Table A allocation. The proposal states that the SWC believe that the Delta tunnel would be fully funded by the opt in framework, but propose an iterative procedure for determining participation as the design of the Delta tunnel is developed.

Meanwhile, the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority is pushing forward with engineering work on the Delta Conveyance project and submitting the bills to DWR.  Unless agreement is reached, DWR may run out of funds to pay the DCA.

Further negotiation meetings are scheduled for July 31, and August 7, 14, 21, & 26.

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