SAN JOSE— Today, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors voted 4-3 to participate in the California WaterFix project, the state’s proposed plan to improve the infrastructure that carries water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This vote is in line with the board’s Oct. 17 vote which offered conditional support to the project and asked that the state consider a lower-cost, scaled-down and phased project.
However, the circumstances surrounding the WaterFix have since changed substantially. Last month, the Metropolitan Water District decided to fund the unsubscribed Central Valley Project portion of the WaterFix in addition to its State Water Project share. Metropolitan’s support reduced the financial risk to the Santa Clara Valley, but it also took a one-tunnel project or a phased project off the table.
The Central Valley Project is a federal water transportation and supply system; the State Water Project is its California counterpart. The Santa Clara Valley Water District contracts with both systems to receive water imported through the Delta.
“The board’s vote today means that Santa Clara County will have a better chance of sustaining its imported water supply in the face of earthquakes, climate change and sea-level rise that threaten the Delta,” said Director Tony Estremera, one of the authors of the Guiding Principles that the board adopted in October to provide a framework for the board’s decision-making process. “Protecting water supplies for homes and businesses in Silicon Valley is a top priority, and we’re still working to get the best deal for the residents and businesses here. This is just the first step in a long effort to secure our water supplies.”
“We have a tremendous amount of negotiations to do to make sure that the taxpayers have good representation that is equitable,” said Chair of the Board Richard P. Santos.
The board’s vote encompassed 14 actions (Attachment 2.1-F) to support and participate in the WaterFix project; adopt the findings of the California Environmental Quality Act review; and authorize the CEO to negotiate terms and execute agreements. Their vote also directed staff to continue participating in discussions, negotiations and evaluations on water transfers, water supply alternatives and storage opportunities related to WaterFix and to bring terms and conditions back to the board for consideration. It adds consideration of a payment assistance program for low-income seniors and a per-acre-foot surcharge on water delivered through the project to be used for environmental and restoration efforts.
These actions are necessary to protect our water supply. The Delta is vulnerable to sea-level rise, climate change and flooding. The levees that make up the state’s water distribution system there are 50 years old and made mostly of dirt. Experts warn that a moderate-sized earthquake could collapse this system and put our water supply at risk.
The California WaterFix is a $17 billion project to bring water from north of the Delta underground through two parallel tunnels to users south of the Delta, including Santa Clara County. The project is expected to cost the water district $650 million for design and construction costs.