Ag Today February 28, 2018

Southern California water agency could vote soon on whether to bankroll Delta tunnels

BY RYAN SABALOW, The Sacramento Bee, February 27, 2018 01:58 PM

Updated February 27, 2018 02:52 PM

Facing pressure from Gov. Jerry Brown, Southern California’s largest water agency could vote as soon as April on whether to take a majority stake in the twin-tunnels project Brown plans for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The fast-track timeline was disclosed Tuesday at a committee of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which heard a report from staff members about the benefits, risks and financing possibilities of the agency agreeing to pay the majority of the costs in a twin tunnels system.

Lacking the $16.7 billion needed to fund both tunnels at once, Brown’s administration earlier this month said it was going to phase in the project, starting with one tunnel for an estimated $11.1 billion. A second tunnel could get built years later if the rest of the dollars materialize.

In response, some of Metropolitan’s board members asked the agency’s staff to explore whether it made sense for Metropolitan to step up and pay for both tunnels at once, absorbing the share of costs that were supposed to come from farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, who balked after seeing how much their water rates would rise. Tuesday’s meeting provided the first glimpse of what officials had in mind.

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