The Delta Stewardship Council is considering nine appeals of the certification by the Department of Water Resources that the WaterFix project is consistent with the Delta Plan.  In addition to appeals filed by the Delta Counties, one of the appeals was by North Delta Cares, a small community organization that represents residents and businesses in the Northern part of the Delta, including the small North Delta legacy towns.

North Delta Cares’s appeal cited concerns about release of hazardous materials from construction of the Delta tunnels:

It is North Delta Cares’ concern that although CEQA concludes that there are no sensitive receptors exposed to hazardous materials, substances, or waste as a result of construction of the water conveyance facilities under the proposed project and therefore, there would be no impact, the Legacy Town of Hood and its inhabitants […] is ¼ mile from the construction of Intake 3 and ½ mile from construction of Intake 5. These intakes sandwich this Legacy Town and the construction impacts create a hazardous situation for the people and animals living there.

Hood intake

North Delta Cares cited the WaterFix Final EIR/EIS, which stated:

Potential hazards include the routine use of hazardous materials (as defined by Title 22 CCR Division 4.5); natural gas accumulation in water conveyance tunnels; the inadvertent release of existing contaminants in soil, sediment, and groundwater, or release of hazardous materials from existing infrastructure; disturbance of electrical transmission lines; and hazardous constituents present in RTM. These impacts are considered significant because the potential exists for substantial hazard to the public or environment to occur related to conveyance facility construction. (FEIR/S, Pg. 24-5, L 28-39)

In response, the Department of Water Resources claimed that there were no sensitive receptors to hazardous materials in the town of Hood, because there were no schools, hospitals or parks in the town.

For the purposes of the Final EIR/EIS analysis, schools, hospitals, and parks are considered sensitive receptors… There are no schools, parks or hospitals located within 0.25 mile of the water conveyance facilities alignment. Therefore, no sensitive receptors would be exposed to hazardous materials, substances, or waste as a result of construction of the water conveyance facilities under Alternative 4A. (Id., p. 24-245)


Hood, CA           Source:

In closing arguments in the Delta Stewardship Council hearing, Barbara Daly stated for North Delta Cares:

This is an example of DWR’s attempts to define away the impacts on North Delta communities in the WaterFix Final EIR/EIS.   But in the Delta Plan Amendments PEIR, Impact 5.4-4, the Delta Stewardship Council defined sensitive receptors to include rural residences.   This kind of parsing of impacts on public health is unacceptable.

Gas Wells

There are serious potential hazards in the vicinity of North Delta towns. One is abandoned gas wells. As documented in California Water Research’s blog post, WaterFix tunnel construction: gas wells, in 2010, outside reviewers of the Delta tunnel design had recommended  that DWR locate all abandoned gas wells in the tunnel alignment and avoid tunneling over them.   As of last Spring, DWR and MWD had not done so.  North Delta Cares sent a letter to Metropolitan Water District’s Board on July 9, 2018, which mentioned the gas well hazards and MWD’s disastrous tunnel construction history:

Unfortunately, gas well and tunneling accidents are not new to projects under construction by MWD. The largest tunneling accident in California history occurred in 1971 during MWD’s boring of the 5.5 mile-long, 170 feet deep, underground Sylmar Tunnel to Castaic Reservoir with a tunneling machine killing 17 people in a gassy tunnel explosion. The Sylmar Tunnel was known to go through an area of oil and gas wells. This was the longest trial in U.S. history and ultimately resulted in litigation amounting to $9.3 million in civil judgments.

The only mitigation that DWR and MWD are proposing in the Conceptual Engineering Report is to determine in the future how close they can safely pass to gas wells during tunneling. This is unacceptable and extremely irresponsible in the light of the serious potential for an accident involving gas in tunneling operations.

DWR sought to exclude both North Delta Care’s letter and a newspaper article on the Sylmar Tunnel Disaster from the Delta Stewardship Council’s consideration of North Delta Care’s appeal, although the article on the Sylmar Tunnel Disaster had been submitted as evidence in the State Water Board’s hearing on the WaterFix Change Petition.

Hexavalent Chromium

Chromium 6

Another serious potential hazard at the North Delta intake sites is heavy metals in the sediments. Potentially hazardous levels of chromium were found in environmental screening tests of geotechnical borings in 2010 and 2011. Hexavalent chromium is known to be a potent carcinogen, As testified by California Water Research in the Delta Stewardship Council’s hearing on October 25, the results of DWR’s environmental screening tests were in a 2011 internal geotechnical data report, which was referenced in the WaterFix Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) / Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) but never publicly distributed.

Site Boring number Depth (feet) Chromium (mg/kg)
Intake 1 DCR1-DH-010-43 43 56.20
  DCRA-DH-001-01-158 158 57.00
Intake 2 DCRA-DH-002-01-155 155 91.20
Intake 3 DCR3-DH-005-01 1 56.60
  DCR3-DH-005-01 1 56.60
Intake 4 DCR4-DH-008-01 (no depth) 51.10

Chapter 24 of the EIR/EIS on Hazards and Hazardous Materials implied that DWR had no evidence of any hazardous materials in the WaterFix footprint. DWR sought to exclude the table above, summarizing the information in the internal geotechnical report, from the Delta Stewardship Council’s consideration of North Delta Cares’ appeal.

This post was updated on November 2, 2018 with a better closeup of the plan for the intake next to Hood, CA, and a better picture of the town.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | October 29, 2018

Prop 3: Can California Afford to End Beneficiary Pays?

Local Costs for Water Supply are $27 billion a year

The Public Policy Institute of California estimated that the California water sector spent an average of $27 billion a year from 2008-2011 on water supply and wastewater treatment, about 84% of which was spent locally.

Water Sector Spending, 2008-2011 Source: 2017 CVFPP Highlights

Natural Resources general fund expenditures are $3.6 billion a year

In 2018-2019, general fund expenditures for Natural Resources total $3.6 billion. Due to ballooning Natural Resources bond debt, debt service is about 33% of general fund expenditures in the Natural Resources area in the 2018-2019 budget.

From 2000-2009, voters approved $19.6 billion in bonds primarily for water supply, water quality, and flood protection – almost quadruple the amount issued from 1990-1999.

If Proposition 3 is passed, Natural Resources bond debt authorized since 2000 will reach $40 billion, more than Transportation bonds, which total $29.9 billion.

The Treasurer’s Debt Affordability reports show that since 2000, California’s general obligation bond debt has quintupled — going from $17.9 billion in 2000 to $89.6 billion in 2018.

Debt service went from 3.0% of general fund expenditures in 2002-2003 to 6.4% in 2017-2018.  The increase resulted in a shift of $4.3 billion in 2017-18 general fund expenditures to debt service from 2002-2003.

Proposition 3 will require $433 million a year in debt service, and $580 million at the peak. Proposition 68 will require $200 million a year in debt service. The funds will likely come out of other areas of the budget.

California’s final 2018-2019 budget agreement provides an example of potential impacts of the shift of $633 million in general fund revenue which would be needed to pay for Proposition 68 and Meral’s proposed bond. Over the amount proposed in the May Revision, the Los Angeles Times reported that California counties got an increase of $250 million for homeless services, and state health, emergency and social service programs got a $100 million increase. The University of California system got an increase of $100 million, and California State University system got an increase of $200 million. This was a total of $650 million.


The Delta Stewardship Council held a hearing from Wednesday, October 24 through Friday 26, 2018 on nine appeals of the certification by the Department of Water Resources that the WaterFix project is consistent with the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan. The WaterFix project has been strongly opposed by Delta local government agencies. All of the Delta counties have filed appeals, including Sacramento County, and San Joaquin, Yolo, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties, which filed a joint appeal with Local Agencies of the North Delta. The City of Stockton also filed an appeal. In a dramatic development, the Delta Protection Commission sent a strongly worded recommendations to the Delta Stewardship Council on Friday, October 19, stating that the WaterFix project is inconsistent with the Delta Reform Act and the Delta Plan, and recommending that the project be remanded to DWR.   Delta Protection Commission members testified in the hearing.

The Delta Protection Commission’s recommendations carry some weight, because under the Water Code, the Delta Protection Commission officially advises the Delta Stewardship Council on significant projects within the scope of the Delta Plan. The DPC recommendations are 19 pages long, so this post will quote some of the key findings.

In the introduction, the Delta Protection Commission’s written recommendations state:

As discussed below, the proposed CWF project is inconsistent with the Delta Plan policies and recommendations regarding “Delta as Place”. If carried out as proposed, CWF will irrevocably alter the rural character of the Delta, its economic pillars (agriculture and recreation), and its cultural heritage. We believe this represents a significant adverse impact on the achievement of one or both of the coequal goals, since the coequal goals must be achieved in a manner that protects and enhances the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place. (p. 2.)

Delta Plan Policy P2, Respect Local Land Use When Siting Water or Flood Facilities or Restoration Habitats, requires that:

Water management facilities, ecosystem restoration, and flood management infrastructure must be sited to avoid or reduce conflicts with existing uses or those uses described or depicted in city and county general plans for their jurisdictions or spheres of influence when feasible, considering comments from local agencies and the Delta Protection Commission. (underlining added.)

The Delta Protection Commission’s recommendations state:

Our review of the record suggests that CWF does not “avoid or reduce conflicts . . . when feasible”, as required by DP P2. DWR’s supporting findings identify numerous impacts to Delta communities associated with the CWF project. Included among these impacts are disclosures of the impacts on community character of the CWF project’s construction activities, including declining property values, blight and abandonment. It is not hyperbole to suggest that the CWF project presents an existential crisis for the small Delta communities that would be most affected by the protracted, intensive construction period, the permanent infrastructure, and the radical – not evolutionary – effects on the Delta economic drivers of agriculture, recreation, and emerging heritage tourism. DWR has failed to grapple with the reality, demonstrated through evidence in the record, that CWF puts the long-term sustainability of small Delta communities in serious jeopardy; it also thoroughly fails to offer any meaningful mitigation for such impacts. (p. 6, underlining added)

Delta Plan Mitigation Measure 18-2 requires specific actions by lead agencies to mitigate impacts of projects on recreational facilities. The Delta Protection Commission’s recommendations state:

Impacts to Recreation: Recreation is second only to agriculture in contributing to the Delta region economy. According to the ESP, visitors to the Delta region generated a total of 12 million visitor days of use annually in 2010 with a direct economic impact of more than $250 million in spending, with most of this visitation in interior areas of the Delta that will be largely impacted by CWF. (p. 8.)


No mitigation has been proposed for the substantial “temporary” impacts to recreation in the Delta by the project proponents, other than creation of site-specific “construction traffic management plans” which are deferred to the future. There is no analysis in the record of temporary impacts, although  FEIR/EIS Chapter 15 defines “temporary” as longer than 2 years, and construction could take from 5-10 years depending on location and facility. Regardless, this lack of analysis and associated mitigation or project modifications do not meet the standard set forth by the Council in the Delta Plan MM 18-2. (p. 10.)

Delta Plan Mitigation Measure 7-1 requires specific actions by lead agencies to mitigate permanent impacts to agricultural lands. The Delta Protection Commission’s recommendations state:

Impacts to Agriculture: Agriculture is the dominant land use and economic driver in the rural Delta region, with total crop value of approximately $919 million in 2016. Combined with approximately $82 million in animal products value, the total $1 billion Delta agricultural economy has an economic impact of 12,407 jobs, $999 million in value added and $1.81 billion in output in the five Delta counties.  CWF mitigation does not provide equally or more effective protection than Delta Plan EIR mitigations.

The Delta Plan EIR Mitigation Measure (MM) 7-1 states that a project that will result in permanent  conversion of Farmland should preserve lands in perpetuity with a target ratio of 1:1. (p. 12.)


Instead, DWR proposes that the Council accept an alternative type of mitigation (MM AG-1c)64 in which no mitigation ratios and no analysis is included. Within the analysis in the Final EIR/EIS of the short term and long term impacts to agriculture, DWR did consider a conventional farmland mitigation program with 1:1 ratios, consistent with the Delta Plan mitigations measures, yet dismissed it with the statement that it “may not be feasible because of cost or availability of land.” This type of dismissive conclusion is unacceptable and shows little regard for either the Delta Plan or the Delta agricultural community. (p. 13.)

.The Delta Protection Commission recommends that the Council remand the project to DWR, stating:

To inform your decision, we have provided numerous instances where the record shows the project as currently proposed is not consistent with the Delta Plan charge to protect the Delta as a unique, evolving Place and would irrevocably alter the defining characteristics of the Delta, rendering the Delta as Place policies meaningless and the recommendations pointless. We strongly recommend, pursuant to PRC section 29773, that the Council remand the project until the proponents can demonstrate that these Delta as Place inconsistencies have been greatly reduced or eliminated. DWR will be able to take the opportunity afforded by a remand to meaningfully engage with local communities to determine ways in which it might best support Delta as Place policies. (p. 17.)

The Delta Protection Commission’s recommendations and testimony appear to greatly strengthen the appeals filed by the Delta counties and the City of Stockton.

This post was updated on November 1, 2018 to reference the Delta Protection Commission’s testimony at the Delta Stewardship Council’s hearing on the WaterFix Consistency Determination.

It is not generally known that the State Water Project Water Supply Contracts explicitly bar recovery of damages or general liability for operations of the State Water Project. For example, Metropolitan Water District’s contract states the following:

13.  Responsibilities for Delivery and Distribution of Water.

(b) Neither the District nor any of its officers, agents, or employees shall be liable for the control, carriage, handling, use, disposal, or distribution of project water before such water has passed the delivery structures established in accordance with Article 10; nor for claim of damage of any nature whatsoever, including but not limited to property damage, personal injury or death, arising out of or connected with the control, carriage, handling, use, disposal, or distribution of such water before it has passed said delivery structures.

The annual financial statement published by the Department of Water Resources claims, erroneously, that the State Water Project is self-insured for general liability. The 2017 State Water Resources Development System financial statement states:

11. Self-Insurance

The System is self-insured for all completed facilities of the SWP. The System is also self-insured for workers’ compensation, general liability and other risks. All workers’ compensation claims and other losses are on a pay-as-you-go basis. The Water Supply Contracts provide for recovery of such losses from the Water Contractors. Additionally, the CVP act and the related bond resolutions authorize the issuance of additional bonds, payable from available revenues or federal reimbursements under the National Disaster Act, for the purpose of providing funds for emergency repairs to power projects or water system projects necessitated by natural disasters, provided that certain conditions are met.

But clearly given the language in the State Water Project contracts, the State Water Resources Developments system is likely NOT self-insured for general liability. For this reason, taxpayers could have to pay damages from the Oroville spillway incident, awarded by the courts to third parties. In 2017, the state received claims from the Oroville spillway incident totaling $1.1 billion .

1 Oroville spillway emergency evacuees Source: Beale Airforce Base

The State Water Project contractors are also seeking $200 million in general obligation bond funds to pay the costs of the reconstruction of the Oroville spillway, although the 1960 Burns-Porter Act pledged that repair costs would be paid from revenues from sale of water and power. Water Code section 12937, subdivision (b), states (underlining added):

All revenues derived from the sale, delivery or use of water or power, and all other income or revenue, derived by the State, from the State Water Resources Development System shall be deposited in a special account or accounts in the California Water Resources Development Bond Fund and shall be accounted for and used annually only for the following purposes and in the following order, to wit:

1. The payment of the reasonable costs of the annual maintenance and operation of the State Water Resources Development System and the replacement of any parts thereof.

2. The annual payment of the principal of and interest on the bonds issued pursuant to this chapter.

3. Transfer to the California Water Fund as reimbursement for funds utilized from said fund for construction of the State Water Resources Development System.

4. Any surplus revenues in each year not required for the purpose specified in the foregoing subparagraphs (1), (2) and (3) of this subdivision (b) of Section 12937 and not required to be transferred to the General Fund pursuant to subparagraph (a) of this Section 12937, shall, during the time any of the bonds authorized herein are outstanding, be deposited in a special account in the California Water Resources Development Bond Fund and are hereby appropriated for use and shall be available for expenditure by the department for acquisition and construction of the State Water Resources Development System as described in Section 12931 hereof.

In spite of this provision, it is currently unclear if the State Water Project contractors will end up paying any of the costs of neglect and deferred maintenance of the Oroville dam spillway.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | May 21, 2018

WaterFix: tunneling under levees

Construction of two 40′ diameter tunnels in the deep, soft alluvial soils in the Sacramento San-Joaquin Delta is a significant engineering challenge, particularly since it involves tunnel boring under Delta levees. In 2015, Central Delta Water Agency expressed major concerns that the WaterFix Partially Recirculated EIR/EIS failed to “adequately investigate, discuss or analyze, much less mitigate” the risks to Delta levees from tunnel boring. In 2018, San Joaquin County and the San Joaquin County Flood Control agency put on testimony in the State Water Resources Control Board’s WaterFix Change Petition Hearing that the preliminary geotechnical engineering for the Delta tunnels was inadequate and risks to Delta levees had not been addressed. This blog post examines those concerns.

Chapter 9 of the WaterFix Final EIR/EIS includes a discussion of the risks of settlement from tunnel boring. This is the section:

Impact GEO-3: Loss of Property, Personal Injury, or Death from Ground Settlement during Construction of Water Conveyance Features

Two types of ground settlement could be induced during tunneling operations: large settlement and systematic settlement. Large settlement occurs primarily as a result of over-excavation by the tunneling shield. The over-excavation is caused by failure of the tunnel boring machine to control unexpected or adverse ground conditions (for example, running, raveling, squeezing, and flowing ground) or operator error. Large settlement can lead to the creation of voids and/or sinkholes above the tunnel. In extreme circumstances, this settlement can affect the ground surface, potentially causing loss of property or personal injury above the tunneling operation.

Systematic settlement usually results from ground movements that occur before tunnel supports can exit the shield and the tunnel to make full contact with the ground. Soil with higher silt and clay content tend to experience less settlement than sandy soil. (p. 9-195)

The diagram below illustrates the surface settlement trough from tunnel boring. The WaterFix Final EIR/EIS estimates that the maximum systematic settlement could be up to 2.9 inches, with a settlement trough width of 328 to 525 feet.

The WaterFix Final EIR/EIS does not contain any analysis of the effects of settlement from tunnel boring on the Delta levees, implying that it will be done in the future:

the following federal design manuals and professional society and geotechnical literature would be used to predict the maximum amount of settlement that could occur for site-specific conditions, to identify the maximum allowable settlement for individual critical assets, and to develop recommendations for tunneling to avoid excessive settlement, all to minimize the likelihood of loss of property or personal injury from ground settlement above the tunneling operation during construction. (p. 9-288.)

But the WaterFix Final EIR/EIS does not even designate the Delta levees as “critical infrastructure,” stating only that the critical infrastructure will be determined in the future:

Other facilities that may be determined to be critical infrastructure include natural gas pipelines, the proposed EBMUD tunnel, levees, and local electrical distribution and communication lines. (p. 9-288.)

It is unclear why DWR did not designate the Delta levees as critical infrastructure during the 10 years of preliminary engineering for the WaterFix. The WaterFix Final EIR/EIS does discuss the risks of large ground settlements when tunneling, stating:

Operator errors or highly unfavorable/unexpected ground conditions could result in larger settlement. Large ground settlements caused by tunnel construction are almost always the result of using inappropriate tunneling equipment (incompatible with the ground conditions), improperly operating the machine, or encountering sudden or unexpected changes in ground conditions. (p. 9-288, emphasis added.)

Two civil engineers testified in Part 2 of the Water Board’s WaterFix hearing that highly unfavorable and variable ground conditions can be expected in the Delta, and that there are significant risks from tunnel boring. San Joaquin County and the San Joaquin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District put on testimony by Josef Tootle, the Principal Geotechnical Engineer with ENGEO Incorporated, who has 20 years of experience with geotechnical design for projects in the Delta. Tootle testified that recent geotechnical exploration in the Delta by the University of Texas showed that

… the sediments underlying the Delta were both softer and more variable than the engineering consultant had expected. The sediments were in fact so variable that the University of Texas had difficulty interpreting the results at depths greater than 100 feet. (p. 9.)

Tootles’ testimony was corroborated by Chris Neudeck, the District engineer and Local Agency Representative for 26 of the Reclamation Districts in the Delta. Neudeck’s testimony related experience with two “near-misses” in tunnel boring in the Delta. The first was in boring of a 50 inch diameter sewer line for the City of Stockton Municipal Utilities Department beneath Shima Tract’s levee, and the second in boring a 72 inch diameter interconnect pipeline to Contra Costa Water District’s second Delta intake on Victoria Canal. While the WaterFix tunnels are much deeper, they are also much larger.

Tootle also testified that the preliminary engineering for the WaterFix project is inadequate because the geotechnical investigations to date do not meet accepted standards for preliminary engineering:

…the geotechnical site investigations to date do not meet the accepted standards for a project of any size, let alone a major project in the Delta. A registered civil engineer in the State of California who proceeded to detailed design using only the presently available data would likely be judged to not be acting in accordance with the generally accepted standard of care. And, without more detailed designs, the Petitioners’ assurances on multiple issues appear to be meaningless (p. 8.)

Tootle concluded that there is significant risk in tunneling under Delta levees, stating:

there can be little assurance (and Petitioners have provided none) that the ambitious tunneling activities at critical locations, such as under levees, will not result in serious injury to the integrity of the Delta’s complex levee system and other infrastructure essential to public safety and economic productivity in Delta communities (p. 7.)

Tom Williams, a PhD geologist who has consulted on tunnel and pipeline projects all over the world, raised similar concerns in testimony in Part 1 of the WaterFix hearing.about the inadequacy of DWR’s geotechnical site investigations, and the deferment of mitigations for risk to levees and other critical structures.

DWR’s 2010 internal, unreleased preliminary engineering report shows that independent reviewers of the tunnel design recommended that DWR move the tunnel alignment to the east to provide better ground conditions for constructing the tunnel shafts and boring the tunnels. The document shows that the recommendation was rejected because of cost considerations:

Relocating the tunnel to the eastern side of the Delta would put it outside the Conveyance Planning Area and would in all probability cause a delay in the environmental process. An eastern alignment for the tunnel would also be much longer and would cost between $1 billion and $1.5 billion more than the current alignment.

The document also states:

Not enough is known about the geology in the eastern alignment to say that it much better than the current alignment.

The 2010 recommendations of the independent reviewers to move the tunnel alignment to the east were not disclosed by DWR.

DWR’s construction schedule for the WaterFix, included in DWR’s Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement, may increase risks to the Delta levees from tunnel boring. The construction schedule assumes continuous boring of the Delta tunnels, with no breaks for winter months or for times of high water. The continuous construction schedule saves time and money by avoiding winter work stoppages, but at the cost of greatly increased impacts should the integrity of the Delta levees be compromised.

1 Tyler Island repairs during high water in January 2017

The WaterFix Final Draft Conceptual Engineering Report has a safety plan, but it just requires construction of ring levees around the tunnel shafts to protect the tunnels from flooding. There is no safety plan addressing risks to people on Delta islands in the event of a levee breach during tunnel construction.

The WaterFix Final EIR/EIS CEQA conclusion only addresses hazards to WaterFix construction workers and project structures, stating:

DWR has made conformance to geotechnical design recommendations and monitoring an environmental commitment (see Appendix 3B, Environmental Commitments, AMMs, and CMs). Hazards to workers and project structures would be controlled at safe levels and there would be no increased likelihood of loss of property, personal injury or death due to construction of Alternative 4A. The impact would be less than significant. No mitigation is required (p. 9-289.)

Chris Neudeck testified in the Water Board’s WaterFix hearing that the Department of Water Resources had never contacted the Delta Reclamation Districts he represents about monitoring of settlement of the levees during tunneling boring or mitigation of risks.

The Revised Final Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement between the Department of Water Resources and the WaterFix Design and Construction Joint Powers Authority includes a statement of compliance with all applicable laws:

In carrying out its obligations under this Agreement, the Authority and its agents shall comply with all applicable federal, State, or local laws existing during the term of this Agreement, including those pertaining to the use, storage, transportation and disposal of any hazardous substance as that term is defined in such applicable law. (p. 5.)

However, the WaterFix proponents are also seeking to exempt the permits issued for the WaterFix from judicial review. The Fiscal Year 2019 House Interior-EPA Appropriations Bill contains the following language:


SEC. 437. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Final Environmental Impact Report/Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan/California Water Fix (81 Fed. Reg. 96485 (Dec. 25 30, 2016)) and any resulting agency decision, record of decision, or similar determination shall hereafter not be subject to judicial review under any Federal or State law.

Appendix C of the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement contains a long list of permits that will be obtained by the WaterFix Design and Construction Joint Powers Authority, including certification under section 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act, and under Rivers and Harbors Act section 408 by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | May 10, 2018

WaterFix hearing: chief tunnels engineer on sea level rise

Metropolitan Water District’s Chief Engineer, John Bednarski, testified in the WaterFix hearing on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 about the WaterFix facilities design and construction. Mr. Bednarski addressed numerous issues raised in testimony by California Water Research’s principal scientist, Deirdre Des Jardins on the inadequacy of the sea level rise analysis for the WaterFix tunnel design.

The WaterFix Final Conceptual Engineering report states that the WaterFix facilities are being designed for  an 18 inches of change in high water levels in the North Delta.   As reported by California Water Research, the WaterFix EIR/EIS discloses that underestimating sea level rise in the design of the WaterFix facilities could result in harmful impacts such as flooding.

Liberty Island, flooded in 1998

Mr. Bednarski testified on cross-examination that he believed that 55 inches of sea level rise at the Golden Gate translated to 18 inches of sea level rise at the Delta tunnel intakes at Hood. This was based on a 2009 Technical Memo by Phillip Mineart . Cross-examination by California Water Research on the Technical Memo that Mr. Bednarski was relying on showed the following:

  1. The increase in mean high water elevation at Freeport and other locations in the Delta with 55 inches of sea level rise at the Golden Gate was predicted by the technical memo to be 54 inches

  1. The change in predicted 200 year flood elevation was dominated by river flows, so was less, but varied throughout the Delta.
  2. The analysis of 200 year flood elevation was based on very simplistic analysis (Manning’s equation) from the Delta Risk Management Strategy that assumed that the Delta channels would be unchanged by sea level rise.
  3. The DRMS analysis had been criticized by one of the Independent Science Panel reviewers as very simplistic and inadequate even for the Delta Risk Management Strategy.

It is difficult to believe that a $17 billion project has had ten years of engineering design without doing an adequate analysis of the effects of sea level rise on water levels in the Delta.

Bednarski testified on cross-examination that they would be addressing sea level rise in the next engineering revision.

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 John Varela opposed the project, citing the overall risks of the project, including the risks of cost escalation.

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.

Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | May 7, 2018

WaterFix: Impacts on the historic town of Locke

According to the Locke Foundation, in 1990, when the town of Locke was designated a National Historic Landmark, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior stated:

Founded in 1915, Locke is the largest and most intact surviving example of an historic rural Chinese-American community in the United States, including more than 50 commercial and residential buildings and covering approximately 14 acres along the east bank of the Sacramento River, south of the city of Sacramento. Locke is the only such community remaining in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which was a particularly important area of rural Chinese settlement.

1 Locke in 1920 Source: Locke Foundation

Locke historian James Motlow is the author of Bitter Melon, a compilation of historical photographs and oral histories of Locke. Motlow testified in the WaterFix Water Right Change Petition Hearing:

In 1882 the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the only law in American history that specifically forbade the immigration of people based exclusively on race. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was one of the few western sites where Chinese escaped violence, though not the impact of this law. Many came to the town of Locke. Locke was established in 1915 on land rented from the estate of Sacramento furniture dealer George Locke. Almost one hundred years later, after fighting for it for decades, the residents of Locke were finally able to own the land beneath their homes. Today, Locke is a place where the past is actively remembered. It is a kind of living museum, where thousands come every year to experience a vital history that is as relevant today as it was a century ago. Groups from a variety of historical and cultural organizations sponsor tours of Locke almost every week of the year.

2 Locke Main Street Source: National Park Service

Motlow testified that routing 24 hour a day construction traffic for the WaterFix on Highway 160 would make it impossible for people to enjoy cultural tours of Locke and would ultimately destroy the town by closing down the local businesses.

3Locke Memorial Garden Source: North Delta Cares

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act required analysis of WaterFix construction impacts on Locke and Walnut Grove. As explained in the WaterFix Final EIR/EIS, the NHPA requires that the lead agencies:

  • Identify an area of potential effects, and within these limits, identify historic properties.
  • Assess adverse effects.
  • Resolve adverse effects (typically through treatment, avoidance, preservation, or other mechanisms identified by the lead agency in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer and interested parties).

But as documented in 2015 comments by the County of Sacramento on the WaterFix Partially Recirculated Draft EIR/EIS, DWR did not follow the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act. The comments stated:

The RDEIR/SDEIS lacks an analysis of the effects of Federal undertakings on historic properties. The Project has not been evaluated at the programmatic level or at the project level. The RDEIR/SDEIS is deficient because analysis of cultural resource impacts has been deferred; instead, analysis is proposed as a mitigation measure. It is impossible to understand the impacts of the preferred project or select an environmentally superior alternative because the necessary evidence, analysis and determinations for all project alternatives have been impermissibly deferred.


Posted by: Deirdre Des Jardins | May 7, 2018

WaterFix: Construction Noise Impacts

Save the California Delta Alliance explains how noise impacts of the WaterFix project construction on the towns of Hood and Clarksburg are underestimated in the CEQA environmental documents.

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