A Report On The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Meeting Held On Aug. 22, 2017 - By Rod Kirk
If you did not attend the SCVWD board meeting on August 22, 2017, you missed a good one! The clock is at about 11:30pm for yay or nay decisions for the various water districts to vote on whether they want to participate in the Delta Tunnels Project (WaterFix).
The event started with a nice showing of people at 5pm to carry protest signs to show to incoming and passersby. A packed boardroom began the meeting at 6pm with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. After a few meeting formalities were taken care of and after several public comments on unrelated issues were completed, the show began. The "staff" (in-house department group that works behind the scenes to interpret and document all things related to the WaterFix project) began with a presentation which presented their view of the project.
In my opinion, the information presented by the staff was a mixture of facts and crafted data. Listening to the staff present I could not bring myself to thinking that they were completely neutral fact finders. I thought the information in their presentation, the way they presented, and their response to questions revealed a mission to sway the board into approving the Delta Tunnels project more than not. More on this later.
The collective thoughts by those who oppose the Delta Tunnels were communicated to the Board and can be summarized as followed:
- Violates the mandates of the 2009 Delta Reform Act
- Does more harm to the fisheries in the estuary
- Reduces the fresh water slushing action required for a healthy estuary
- 17Bill$ project has no caps and nothing said about cost overruns which will inevitably occur
- The economic models lack complete info on the overlay of water metrics, participation, and other metrics
- Project will not make more water available; it is said to mostly decrease risks
- The SF Bay Delta will suffer further destruction
- The two tunnels were created to mitigate risk if one tunnel were to fail, the other could be used. Big price tag for redundancy.
- The touted seismic risks are extremely exagerated. During the Delta levees 100 year life, no earthquake has done significant damage
- Who is going to pay the bills if some water agencies do not opt in or if some bail out later. The affect on the ratepayer?
- No complete, understandable, and believable ratepayer model has been produced to indicate true ratepayer costs
- The consensus agreement is that a plan that spends ratepayer money on regional water projects is a much better return on money
I had my opportunity to speak my mind to the board and presented them with my ideas. A hardcopy of what I said is available here. In addition to my participation, the meeting was well attended by numerous individuals as well as a good showing from the Sierra Club, Restore The Delta, and Healthy Alternatives to Pesticides.
When the Staff got to the slide in their presentation where they showed that there will be two components of participation (one headed by SWP - State and would be mandatory and the other headed by CVP - Federal which would be voluntary), the place lit up! Was this the first time the board was informed of this? The board was grappling with this. What happens if we opt out? Will we be denied water? One thing seemed for certain; the board wanted to fully understand what were the ramifications of opting in or out. The disturbing indication here is that we are at the 11th hour before the vote of approval and there are still many details that need to be ironed out. Why wasn't these and other points made known a year ago? Is somebody doling out data in a controlled manner in order to influence the results? Staff presentations available here.
All in all it was a good session with the Board asking many questions, as well as hearing a lot of comments from concerned ratepayers and opponents of the project.
The next board meeting will be on August 25th. The Delta Counties Coalition will present on Alternatives to the California WaterFix. Following that, September 12 will be another important board meeting which I hope many of you can attend.
About The Author
Rod Kirk, a San Francisco Bay area native, has held various Electrical Engineering positions in numerous companies in the areas of data storage, networks, and motion control. He has a degree from San Jose State University and an Energy Management certificate from De Anza College. Rod is currently providing Technical Writing and documentataion services for emerging companies.