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Governor Jerry Brown’s ‘WaterFix’ Is Another Corporate Subsidy

Bad for the environment, bad for the public.

On Monday, August 14th at 2 pm, the Metropolitan Water District board will meet in their headquarters at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to determine the future of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels Project, euphemistically known as California’s “WaterFix.” This project has been in the works for decades, and has already been defeated outright once, in 1982 during Brown’s second term as governor, and again shelved in 2015. The most expensive water project in California history, the official budget is nearly $17 billion, but independent analyses have estimated the total cost of construction, financing, and overhead to run closer to $67 billion.

The proposed project would build two 35-mile tunnels, each large enough to fit a Boeing 747 excluding wings and landing gears, and reroute water from the Sacramento River south past the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. Water for the Central Valley and Southern California is currently pumped out of the Delta, and this project would bypass the Delta completely, pumping water directly from the Sacramento River into the California Aqueduct. Ostensibly this would stabilize water delivery, as pump stations at the head of the aqueduct are periodically shut down because they reverse the water flow around the Delta and the altered currents draw endangered California Chinook Salmon to their deaths en masse. Brown further justifies the Delta Tunnels on environmental grounds, in that the the aqueduct pumping station would no longer reverse the flow of the river.

Left out is the fact that the Sacramento River would no longer be flowing freely into the Delta either, which would threaten not one but two endangered fish species, Chinook Salmon and the Delta Smelt — a small fish exclusive to the California Delta and nearly extinct.

The environmental impact of the proposed project is devastating, plain and simple. It would not be unfair to call it a crime against nature. If you’re still skeptical, the Trump administration is fully behind the Delta Tunnels: “On Monday [June 29, 2017], the Donald Trump administration released a no-jeopardy finding in their biological opinions regarding the construction of the Delta Tunnels, claiming that the California WaterFix ‘will not jeopardize threatened or endangered species or adversely modify their critical habitat.’”

This alone should be enough to halt the project, but let’s take a look at the economics and get really mad.

The tunnels project is funded entirely by taxpayers, but that won’t stop LADWP from passing their increased costs on to customers. ECONorthwest, a planning and financial consulting firm, estimated that in a low-cost scenario LADWP customers would pay an extra $86/year and $393/year in a high-cost scenario — for the next 40 years.

Your unborn children and grandchildren will be paying for these tunnels.

So if not you and if not the environment, who benefits? Allow me to introduce you to Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of Paramount Farms and described as the Koch brothers of California water. As reported in Mother Jones, Steward and Lynda use more water than every home in Los Angeles combined. The Delta Tunnels project, meanwhile, “has always primarily been a scheme to send massive amounts of water to corporate agribusinesses on the west side of the Central Valley. These powerful agribusinesses, including Stewart Resnick’s Paramount Farms and growers in the Westlands Water District, have planted excessive amounts of water-thirsty almonds and pistachios, most of which are exported overseas and need massive amounts of water to succeed in the hot and dry climate of the west side.

The Resnicks’ main employee, sorry, ally in Washington is Senator Diane Feinstein, who successfully pressed the Obama administration “to spend $750,000 for a sweeping re-examination of the science behind the entire Delta environmental protection plan.” Here in California, the Resnicks are also reliable contributors to Jerry Brown: “On November 11, 2009, Resnick and his wife, Lynda, the co-owner of the giant Paramount Farms and Roll Corporation, wrote four checks totalling $50,000 for the Brown campaign.” This after a total of $271,990 in campaign contributions to Schwarzenegger, ensuring the bipartisan continuity of Chinatown-style corruption in California’s water and agriculture industries.

And that’s just agriculture. Let’s not forget the role water plays in fracking, another of Jerry Brown’s pet industries.

So, what can you do? First, call your state senator and your state assembly person, your city council person, the governor, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — which is disgustingly, shamelessly cheerleading the Delta Tunnels. Their direct email for the project is email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Second, if you live in Los Angeles, show up to the Metropolitan Water District meeting this coming Monday, the 14th at 2:00pm (700 N Alameda St Los Angeles, CA 90012). Food & Water Watch will be there at 1:00pm for general information and to prepare residents to make public comments. See you there.