Local water officials have endorsed a plan to fix the system which delivers water to the Santa Clarita Valley from Northern California at a cost to mom-and-pop SCV ratepayer of $20 a month.
The project hammered out by state officials these past 10 years to repair the water conveyance system is called the California WaterFix. It used to be called the Bay Delta Conservation Project.
Members of the Castaic Lake Water Agency board unanimously approved a recommendation Wednesday to back the WaterFix project which calls for an extensive overhaul of the water delivery system.
In an effort to make a more informed decision before they voted, board members heard from other stakeholders.
And, while representatives of four different agencies representing the state, county and other interests offered differing views on what was needed to repair the San Jaoquin Delta, all agreed that the Delta is fragile and needs fixing if Southern California is to continue receiving a reliable supply of water from Northern California.
Half of the water consumed in the SCV comes from Northern California via the CLWA, the other half comes from local groundwater wells.
“Each and every State Water Project contractor supports this project,” Jennifer Pierre, spokeswoman for the State Water Contractors told the CLWA board.
“This project has been under planning for a decade with some of the brightest minds working together,” she said. “And, this project has the potential to secure supply reliability.”
What it means for SCV ratepayers is that fixing the water delivery infrastructure – even at a cost per household of an extra $20 a month – ensures water will be brought here from Northern California across the San Joaquin Delta.
Stephen N. Arakawa, representing the state’s largest group contracting with the state to receive water under the terms of the State Water Project – the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California which serves all of Los Angeles – said the “Met” has already committed to helping fund the WaterFix project.
“We need to fix the Delta,” Arakawa told The CLWA board, noting four crucial factors affecting the future of the Delta.
Risks to the Delta include: rising sea levels, a continual drop in the land called subsidence, seismic activity and declining fish stocks.
Before hearing from other agencies on the topic, the board was given a recommendation to support the California WaterFix program.
The CLWA is SCV’s water wholesaler and one of 29 agencies contracting with the state to receive water from Northern California.
Pierre reminded the CLWA board that eight of the 29 agencies had already voted in favor of endorsing the WaterFix programs.
Board members heard from each speaker that the project will cost a total of $17 billion dollars, with an average yearly operating cost of between $1 billion to $1.5 billion.
California WaterFix and Eco Restore – formerly known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan – was proposed by Governor Jerry Brown.
It involves building twin tunnels over 30 miles, each 40 feet in diameter and buried 150 feet underground.
Funding for the project, however, comes from SCV ratepayers and taxpayers across the state.
Specifically, local funding for WaterFix would come out of the CLWA-set property tax rate which currently pays for the State Water Project.
CLWA staffers estimate the cost of the project – for an average $500,000 per SCV home – would be about $20 per month.
The average SCV family already looking at double digit water rate increases over the next three years, would pay an additional $240 a year.
To do nothing, CLWA officials argue, would end up costing SCV residents more in the long run.
Building and implementing the project would “significantly reduce the vulnerability of the Agency’s State Water Project water supply to Delta levee failures,” Dirk Marks, the agency’s water resources manager, wrote in memo to the CLWA board.
“Without the WaterFix it is likely that the reliability of the State Water Project will continue to decline from its existing 60 percent,” Marks wrote in his memo.
What he means is that the fragile and crumbling condition of the San Joaquin Delta through which Northern California water is delivered will continue to deteriorate if nothing is done to fix it. And, if nothing is done, SCV will likely get less water than the 60 percent amount already allocated to the SCV.
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