On February 07, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) Director Karla Nemeth issued a memo to local public water agencies participating in the development and construction of the California WaterFix project, announcing the state’s intention to stage the project in two phases, rather than one, due to ‘economic realities’.
As NATJ reported in the Oct/Nov 2017 edition (p4), California’s public water agencies were voting on whether to endorse the project last fall. While many chose to advance WaterFix, several key agencies did not, including San Joaquin Valley’s Westlands Water District, which was expected to shoulder about a quarter of the project cost.
While the overall project scope remains as originally planned, under the new approach DWR now proposes to first focus on two intakes, with a total capacity of 6,000 cubic-feet per second (cfs), one tunnel, one intermediate forebay, and one pumping station – consistent with support expressed by Silicon Valley’s largest water agency the Santa Clara Valley Water District (which also rejected endorsement of funding for the full project scope last fall).
A second stage would consist of a third intake with 3,000 cfs capacity, a second tunnel, and a second pumping station, which would bring the total project capacity to 9,000 cfs. If funding for all elements of the currently-proposed WaterFix plan is not available when construction begins, stage two would proceed once additional funding commitments are made from supporting water agencies.
The overall cost of WaterFix has not changed, at an estimated $16.3 billion (2017 dollars). However, the cost of proceeding with the first stage option is estimated at $10.7 billion.
“Being prepared and having the option of a staged implementation of WaterFix is prudent, fiscally responsible and meets the needs of the public water agencies funding the project. It would allow work to begin on WaterFix as soon as all necessary environmental review and permits are complete, which is anticipated near the end of 2018,” said the memo.
Participating public water agencies are expected to bring actions to their respective boards this spring to finalize the necessary agreements and stand up the finance and construction Joint Powers Authorities. In addition, DWR will evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the staged implementation option and expect to issue a draft supplemental Environmental Impact Report in June 2018, with a final in October 2018.