Ag Today May 3, 2018

Santa Clara Valley Water District delays $650 million vote on Brown’s Delta tunnels project

By PAUL ROGERS | and JASON GREEN | | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2018 at 11:13 pm | UPDATED: May 3, 2018 at 2:58 pm

After a five-hour packed public hearing, the board of Silicon Valley’s largest water provider postponed a decision on whether to provide up to $650 million toward a $17 billion plan to build two giant tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to move water south.

Although it appeared there might be four votes on the seven-member Santa Clara Valley Water District board in favor of Gov. Jerry Brown’s so-called WaterFix project, board members late Wednesday night were divided and continued the issue until Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. In October the board unanimously voted against the plan over environmental concerns and potential higher costs for customers who would see little benefit from the project.

At least three said that given the risk that ratepayers will bear the brunt of likely cost overruns on a project of such a large size, they needed more time to read and understand hundreds of pages of staff reports and draft contracts, some of which were presented to them only 24 hours earlier by district staff members urging them to approve the plans.

“What’s the rush?” said Dick Santos, chairman of the water district board. “In my opinion, we need to sit down as a group and really discuss these things. This is too fast.”

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