Flawed Delta Tunnels Project Takes Big Financial and Legal Hit

by Katy Grimes at californiaglobe.com

The controversial Delta Conveyance Project, which would install a massive tunnel to move water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, took a major financial and legal hit this week, after a Sacramento County judge ruled California can’t issue bonds to fund the project, Courthouse News reported.

In 2019, shortly after taking office, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he did not support former Gov. Jerry Brown’s $19 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the San Joaquin River Delta. He said he was a one-tunnel guy. “In his first State of the State speech, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he will significantly refashion former Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet projects, including the mismanaged High Speed Rail project, and the Delta Tunnels project will be downsized to one tunnel,” the Globe reported.

Gov. Newsom continues to opt for the Delta Tunnel(s), despite that California voters passed more than $30 billion in water bonds to build additional water storage and two new reservoirs, which would accomplish more water delivery to Southern California without destroying the Delta, its inhabitants, and its prime farmland. Only recently has Newsom acknowledged the need for the Sites Reservoir.

In July 2022, Newsom resurrected the massive tunnel project – with only one tunnel, which many say will still destroy the Delta.

In Sierra Club et al., v. California Department of Water ResourcesSacramento County Superior Court Judge Kenneth C. Mennemeier issued a narrow ruling Tuesday about the bonds for the Delta project, finding that the California Department of Water Resources’ definition of the “delta program” isn’t linked to the Feather River Project.

“A bureaucratic connection between the two is essential for the bonds, the judge ruled in the case Sierra Club v. California Department of Water Resources.”

The Department of Water Resources attempted to tie the bond resolutions to a purported “Delta Program.” The Judge disagreed, stating:

In plain words, the problem with DWR’s definition of the “Delta Program” is that its
definition is untethered to the objectives, purposes, and effects of the Feather River Project unit
of the CVPA.