March 2, 2018 – -The ongoing controversy over the Delta tunnels project took a new twist this week as over a dozen California cities, water agencies and environmentalists sued the state late Tuesday, alleging that state regulators have been secretly plotting and discussing a contentious $16 billion water project.

The petitioners, led by Sacramento and San Joaquin counties, have uncovered public records that they claim prove that State Water Resources Board staffers discussed technical reviews and other documents regarding the California WaterFix with the project’s lead agencies.

“Evidence revealed in response to a recent request under the Public Records Act demonstrates deliberate obstruction, and possible collusion by the Department of Water Resources, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and [water board staff],” the complaint filed in Sacramento Superior Court states.

The lawsuit attempts to halt the water board’s months-long hearing on whether to allow DWR and Reclamation to divert water from the Sacramento River at the north end of the Delta – a critical element of the tunnels project.

The water board must assess and sign off on the project’s environmental review before construction can finally begin on the decades-old project. It finished the first phase of the permit review and is currently holding hearings on the project’s impact on fish and wildlife.

More than 50 cities, counties, water suppliers and environmental groups have officially opposed the state’s permit application and the WaterFix as a whole.

The project calls for two 35-mile tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The tunnels would funnel water around the delta to the state’s southernmost farmers and cities, including Los Angeles. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has signed off on the project and hopes to begin construction by the end of 2018.