At the Monday, Feb. 12, meeting of Los Angeles County’s mammoth Metropolitan Water District, board members introduced a concept that might improve the feasibility of a Delta tunnels project.

They requested that staff begin financial analyses for a plan that would fund a larger portion of the tunnel project. The idea is to increase rates for their consumers while also selling unused water allocations to water districts in the Central Valley.

Since most Valley agencies, apart from the Kern County Water Agency, have opted out of paying for the project thus far, this latest proposal raises concerns of a Metropolitan-controlled system.

Would Metropolitan Raise Water Prices?

Some observers are nervous that the buybacks from Metropolitan would raise prices considerably.

“It would certainly raise a lot of concerns to have Metropolitan controlling the Delta tunnels.” — Doug Obegi

WaterFix critic Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a comment to the Sacramento Bee: “It would certainly raise a lot of concerns to have Metropolitan controlling the Delta tunnels.”

Essentially, the concern among those observers is the uncertainty that near-total control of the project by Metropolitan would bring. When it comes to water, uncertainties in terms of price and supply are rarely welcomed.

Twin Tunnels Might Be Back in Play

Supporters argue that the new plan would offer plenty of benefits.

Some believe that the funding framework could even restore the project to its original scope of two tunnels after Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration retooled the concept to include only one after funding from participating agencies proved scarce.

Metropolitan’s board voted in fall 2017 to pledge more than $4 billion – or about 25% of the required funding – for the tunnels.

The new Metropolitan proposal would contribute $6 billion or more to the project.

According to estimates, a single-tunnel plan would cost $11.1 billion, while a two-tunnel project would add $5.2 billion – bringing the total cost to $16.3 billion.

Supporters Praise Metropolitan’s Expertise

Some observers also note the benefits that could be gained from a Metropolitan-headed project.

Jeffrey Mount, a water expert with the Public Policy Institute of California, says that Metropolitan has a history of completing projects on time and under budget.

Jeffrey Mount, a water expert with the Public Policy Institute of California, told The Sacramento Bee that Metropolitan has a history of completing projects on time and under budget.

Since the plan is in the talking stage, it is unknown if the proposal will include one tunnel or two – or if Metropolitan will determine the plan to be wise at all.

To read the full story from The Sacramento Bee, click here: A ‘water grab’? Southern California water agency eyes possible control of Delta tunnels project

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