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Local governments and Delta water agencies file twin tunnels lawsuit
August 21, 2017
Today, representatives from Contra Costa County, San Joaquin County, Solano County, Yolo County, Contra Costa County Water Agency, Central Delta Water Agency, South Delta Water Agency and Local Agencies of the North Delta filed a lawsuit in the Sacramento County Superior Court challenging the Department of Water Resources' flawed approval of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the California WaterFix project, commonly known as the "Twin Tunnels."
Representatives of the agencies that filed the lawsuit provided the following statements:
“Contra Costa County has long been a protector of the Delta and this California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenge should not come as a surprise. Like many other Bay Delta stakeholders, we have identified major flaws with the WaterFix proposal, significant impacts to water quality and the ecosystem, and continue to urge consideration of other more viable alternatives. What is surprising is the continued panicked rush by the state to push for a project that does not pencil out. Clearly, the enormous project costs and the lack of new water will have exporters walking away,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.
“This EIR process was always rigged in favor of the misnamed California WaterFix. The truth never mattered and pertinent facts were ignored because the state had already predetermined the selection of the twin tunnels. This lawsuit should provide some accountability by the state to accurately disclose negative impacts of the project, genuinely examine viable alternatives that will avoid environmental harm and legitimately give the public and affected agencies the opportunity to review and comment on anticipated and significant tunnel impacts,” said San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn.
“The Tunnels project threatens the Delta’s water quality and agricultural heritage, but the lead agencies have still not fully disclosed or mitigated the project’s significant, negative impacts on Solano County and the Delta region. The environmental review that we’re challenging today simply fails the basic legal requirement to inform decision makers and the public about the true impacts of the project, but at least one thing is clear: the Tunnels represent a major missed opportunity to find a real solution for the challenges facing the Delta and the state,” said Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson.
“The WaterFix poses serious and unacceptable risks to the Delta environment, economy, and way of life. This lawsuit asserts that the state’s analysis of those risks is deficient and fails to afford full and proper consideration of other viable alternatives. The state cannot simply paper over the fears of Delta communities and farmers. Yolo County has a responsibility to protect the values of the Delta, the ongoing viability of its many small local agencies and reclamation districts, and communities like Clarksburg that are ground zero for a project of unprecedented cost, scale, and uncertainty,” stated Yolo County Supervisor Oscar Villegas.
“The environmental review for the WaterFix has substantial flaws and the entire process has been corrupted by Federal and state predetermination of the outcome prior to initiation of the environmental review process,” said Central Delta Water Agency representative, Dante Nomellini.
"Challenging the state's CEQA document was an easy decision considering the massive unmitigated impacts to the Delta's residents, fish and water quality. Despite a decade or more of development, the Twin Tunnels proposal is still unable to capture any new water when flows through the Delta are at their highest because there is no new storage south of the Delta. What’s clear is the WaterFix fails to achieve the co-equal goals of securing a more reliable water supply while restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem and protecting the Delta as a place,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis on behalf of the Contra Costa County Water Agency.
“The ongoing WaterFix hearings being conducted by the state Water Resources Control Board have revealed that with the tunnel project in operation, there will be time when the salinity in the southern Delta will increase two-fold or more, and at times when the salinity standard is already being violated. South Delta Water Agency has no choice but to oppose a project designed to injure local diverters," said John Herrick, an attorney representing South Delta Water Agency.
“For ten years we’ve been fighting to get the tunnels’ proponents to look jointly for better solutions that don’t destroy the Delta. They didn’t listen and now we’re turning to the courts to enforce critical environmental protections to save the Delta and Delta communities,” noted Osha Meserve, counsel for the Local Agencies of the North Delta.
“As farmers growing wine grapes and producing wine, we rely on adequate fresh water flows from the Sacramento River as we all have for the last 165 years. The tunnels threaten family farms throughout the Delta, along with its fish, wildlife, and all its environmental values,” concluded Clarksburg farmer, Mark Wilson.
Lawsuits challenging the Department of Water Resources’ approval of the proposed project have been filed in the Superior Courts of several California counties. Because of the large number of lawsuits expected, the parties anticipate an effort to coordinate them in a single venue, which could take several months. The petition can be found here.