April 13, 2018 – -The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted this week to take a majority stake in the $16.7 billion twin-tunnels project, a fiercely controversial plan proposed by Gov. Brown as a way of protecting the water supply for more than 25 million Southern California and Bay Area residents. Metropolitan’s historic breakthrough vote put the tunnels on the brink of full funding after years of struggle.
The project is strongly opposed by most environmentalists, Delta landowners and Sacramento-area elected officials. Wary of the cost, most San Joaquin Valley farmers have not wanted to contribute to the project, which left a gap of about $5.6 billion.
Metropolitan agreed Tuesday to bankroll the farmers’ share, putting its total contribution to the project at $10.8 billion. The Southern California agency hopes to sell some of the tunnels’ capacity to the farmers to recoup its additional investment.
“In 15 years, our ratepayers won’t be left holding the bag,” said Board Chairman Randy Record. “They’ll be holding a really valuable piece of infrastructure.”
But speaking in opposition, vice chairman John W. Murray Jr., a Los Angeles representative, said it was folly “to take on the risk and the burden and the responsibility … with no assurance that at this point the Central Valley (agricultural) agencies are going to contribute.”
The vote was 61-39 percent under Metropolitan’s unusual voting system, which is weighted by assessed property values. San Diego and Los Angeles’ board members voted against the project, but were overcome by a group led by directors from Orange County and elsewhere.