Water agencies prepare to fund $161 million in pre-construction costs for Delta Water Project

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HO Banks delta
An aerial view of the Harvey O. Banks Delta Pumping Plant, the first major plant designed and constructed within the California State Water Project. (California Dept. of Water Resources)

The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California says it has joined water agencies throughout the state in supporting the allocation of $161 million in planning costs for the Delta Water Project, intended to modernize the increasingly vulnerable infrastructure that delivers water supplies from the northern Sierras through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California.

MWD plans to fund 47.2 percent of the $340.7 million in planning costs estimated over the next four years, amounting to an estimated share of $160.8 million. “The information produced by the environmental review process is essential for Metropolitan’s board to make an informed decision on whether to support the project’s construction,” a Dec. 8 statement says. “A draft Environmental Impact Report is expected in mid-2022.”

The environmental planning and pre-construction costs for the project relate to making it resilient to climate extremes, sea level rise and earthquakes.

“It is critical that we do everything we can to make sure this vital water supply remains reliable,” MWD board Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray said in a Dec. 8 statement. “It not only provides nearly one third of the water used in Southern California, it is also one of our most affordable and highest quality supplies. This action helps ensure our communities can rely on this water for generations to come.”

The board’s vote ensures the project’s environmental review and planning phase will move forward. Fifteen other state water contractors also have voted to fund the planning process.

As proposed, the single-tunnel project would feature two intakes and a capacity of 6,000 cubic feet per-second, though other project alternatives are also being considered as part of the planning process.

“We’re already facing reduced water deliveries as a result of ecological challenges in the Delta. Without intervention, this critical supply faces other, growing threats, particularly from climate change,” MWD general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said.

“We need a modernized system in the Delta that can capture runoff from large storms when they happen, and move water into storage for times of drought. And we need a system that is more resilient to earthquakes. This next planning phase is critical to developing such a system.”

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