Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | April 21, 2020

The Project Formerly Known as WaterFix

Although the Department of Water Resources rescinded all approvals of WaterFix project in May of 2019, the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority has been continuing engineering and geotechnical work on a single tunnel project under supervision of the Department of Water Resources.

In June of 2019, Delta Defenders, the Delta Chambers and Visitor’s Bureau, North Delta Cares, and other Delta community-based organizations sent a letter to the Department of Water Resources asking that DWR cancel the Notice to Proceed on the Delta tunnel contracts.  In response DWR’s Deputy Director Gary Lippner stated:

we have rescinded all WaterFix-related permitting, approvals and applications. Neither the Department of Water Resources (DWR) nor the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA) is continuing work on that project or currently performing any new planning based on the previous WaterFix approvals.

But in December 2019 DCA Director Kathryn Mallon met with engineers from five international tunneling firms to review the engineering design for the single tunnel project.  For specifications of project facilities, Mallon gave the engineers a copy of the July 2018 WaterFix Conceptual Engineering Report.  And in January 2020 the DCA’s Engineering Manager, Phil Ryan, announced that the DCA had used information from the WaterFix project to decide that the intake design and locations from the previous project would be used for the new single tunnel project.

Intake 2

Fishing groups strongly opposed the massive WaterFix intakes as far too large for the tidal location and likely catastrophic for salmon.  The Delta communities of Hood and Clarksburg were horrified at the noise impacts from construction of the massive intakes.

EIS noise contours

Modifications to the WaterFix intake design and location are critical to limiting the impacts of the single tunnel on Delta communities and fish, as directed by Governor Newsom.  But when the DCA’s Stakeholder Engagement Committee members and members of the public asked if the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority would analyze alternative locations for the intakes, DWR’s representative said to submit them as part of the CEQA scoping comments.  Those comments were due during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Delta Counties, Delta residents, Delta business owners, Delta community-based organizations, Tribal representatives, fishing and non-governmental organizations have all asked the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to pause Delta tunnel planning processes that require public participation due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Water Resources has refused. California Water Research and Delta Defenders submitted CEQA scoping comments which argued that, to the extent that scoping is used to determine the only alternatives to be analyzed by the DCA in their engineering design efforts, DWR’s process is an abuse of discretion.

 


Responses

  1. Delta Defenders, the Delta Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau, North Delta Cares, and other Delta community-based organizations asked the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) that it cancel its Notice to Proceed on the Delta tunnel contracts. This was a direct result of Delta Defenders and the other organizations’ inability to participate in the Delta Tunnel environmental review process due to the impacts of COVID-19. The DWR has refused this reasonable request and it has become readily apparent that DWR’s process represents an illegal abuse of discretion.


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