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Uncertainty For Delta Tunnel Project As Key Water District Backs Out

Curtis Haynes

The Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant near Tracy, CA is the starting point for the California Aqueduct, which sends water to Southern California.

Curtis Haynes

A key water district says it won’t help pay for California’s $16 billion delta tunnels project. That raises questions for how the proposal to overhaul the state’s water system will move forward.

There are a few ways to read the ‘no’ vote from Fresno’s Westlands Water District. Some frame it as a blow against a massive state boondoggle. Others say it’s an opening bid -— a lot of agencies will consider helping fund the project, and Westlands might want to negotiate later on.

“There always is an option to downsize it, too,” says Ellen Hanak, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. “It is a project with two tunnels, so one possibility is to just do one of them instead of two.”

Skeptics argue that solution sacrifices some economies of scale. Still, there’s pressure to get the go-ahead to start construction soon. The tunnels have been a priority for Governor Jerry Brown, who is termed out after next year.

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