Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | January 15, 2020

Delta tunnel: Notice of Preparation is not the beginning of work on the project

Today, January 15, 2020, the California Department of Water Resources released the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the Environmental Impact Report for the single tunnel project.  But engineering design of the single tunnel project has been ongoing since last May, as a continuation of previous design work for the WaterFix project.

The NOP states

The CEQA process identified in this notice for the proposed Delta Conveyance Project will, as appropriate, utilize relevant information from the past environmental planning process for California WaterFix but the proposed project will undergo a new stand-alone environmental analysis leading to issuance of a new EIR.

From the description in the NOP, “relevant information” clearly includes previous WaterFix engineering designs. The map in the NOP (shown below) clearly includes the WaterFix project alignment. The three North Delta intakes are in the same location as the WaterFix project, and according to the NOP, have the same capacity as the WaterFix project intakes (up to 3,000 cfs.) The NOP states that intakes would be constructed in two of the three proposed locations.

For the main tunnel, the Central Tunnel Corridor is in the location of the WaterFix main tunnel alignment. The map in the NOP does show an Eastern Tunnel Corridor, closer to  I-5, but the geotechnical drilling plan shows only “reconnaissance level” drilling along the eastern alignment.

The corridor for the Southern Forebay includes the location of Byron Tract Forebay from the WaterFix project, and the geotechnical drilling plan shows extensive drilling in the location of Byron Tract Forebay.

The potential alignments thus clearly include a revised WaterFix project.

Single tunnel NOP map

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As mentioned above, there has also been substantial engineering work on a single tunnel project since DWR rescinded the approvals for the twin tunnel project on May 2, 2019.

The 2018 WaterFix Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement delegated the powers of the Department of Water Resources to design and construct the “Delta conveyance” to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA), a Joint Powers Authority created by Metropolitan Water District,, Kern County Water Agency, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and other State Water Contractors.

Exercising DWR’s delegated authority, the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) executed the following contracts for the twin tunnels project, totaling $212 million:

  • Engineering Design  Jacobs Engineering, $93 million
  • Geotechnical services  Fugro, $75 million
  • Power  SMUD, $44 million

as well as contracts for survey, Right of Way mapping, and property acquisition planning. A $40 million contract for Program Management was also signed with Parsons Transportation.

The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority began engineering design of the single tunnel project immediately after DWR withdrew approvals of the twin tunnel project. The June 2019 report to the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority shows services performed by Jacobs Engineering under the Engineering Design Manager Contract, including “Assess single tunnel scheme”

single tunnel 2018-19

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In June of 2019, several Delta Legacy community groups sent a letter to DWR Director Karla Nemeth, requesting recission of DWR’s approvals of the Delta tunnel project engineering and design specifications, budget, and schedule.  The letter stated:

The WaterFix was a project that Delta residents strongly opposed, and that now has no underlying approvals or environmental review. Allowing the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (“DCA”) to continue preliminary design, survey and right of way mapping, and real estate acquisition planning based on the withdrawn WaterFix project specifications is wholly unacceptable to our communities. To our knowledge, DWR has no approved plans or specifications for the new Delta conveyance.  And if the WaterFix project specifications are being used as the basis for the design of the new Delta conveyance under DWR’s authority, it is predecisional and will prejudice the new Delta conveyance CEQA process.

We are therefore writing to respectfully request that you address the issues with the contracts executed under the October 26, 2018 Amended and Restated Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement.  We specifically request that you direct the Delta Conveyance Office to do the following:

1.     Request that the Design and Construction Authority withdraw the resolution adopting the WaterFix CEQA documents for actions pursuant to the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement.
2.     Explicitly withdraw DWR approval of the WaterFix project engineering and design specifications, budget, and schedule.
3.     Explicitly withdraw DWR approval of the WaterFix project real estate acquisition plan.
4.     Explicitly withdraw DWR’s authorization to commence work on the WaterFix project.
5.     Disclose all invoices submitted by the DCA for the WaterFix project since the Governor’s announcement on February 12, 2019.
6.     Determine whether invoices for work done on the WaterFix project since approval of the project was withdrawn on May 2, 2019 are appropriate for reimbursement.
7.     Disclose the scope of work and schedule on all contracts executed under the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement that are being continued under DWR’s authority.

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Instead of rescinding engineering approvals, the Department of Water Resources amended the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement with the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) to authorize engineering design of a single tunnel.  The DCA held off submitting invoices for the engineering work done in May and June until after the amendment to the Joint Exercises of Powers Agreement was signed.  Engineering work on the single tunnel project has continued since that time, funded in part by a $19.7 bridge loan from the Department of Water Resources. Cumulative expenditures by the DCA total about $20 million since May of 2019, according to the January 2020 report.

This post was edited for clarify on January 16, 2020.


Responses

  1. Every penny of state expenditures on the new Delta Mega-tunnel project will eventually be showing up on your water bill, so every Californian should be watch-dogging this latest state water boondoggle.


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