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Community, Ratepayer and Environmental Groups Oppose Governor Brown’s Twin-Tunnels Project That Would Raise Rates for Santa Clara Valley Water District Customers

Coalition calls on SCVWD Board of Directors to reject 15-year tax and rate hikes for project that brings no additional water to SCVWD customers

SAN JOSE, Calif.— Today Food & Water Watch, Restore the Delta, 350 Silicon Valley, the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley, the Environmental Water Caucus, First Generation Farmers and the Raging Grannies protested Governor Brown’s proposal to build massive twin tunnels as part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  The protest was held at a Santa Clara Valley Water District special workshop on the BDCP, where the SCVWD Board of Directors revealed that they would need to raise water bills and property taxes to help finance the BDCP, which features a 35-mile long, 40-foot wide twin-tunnels project estimated to cost from $25-$54 billion.

SCVWD’s 2012 Water Master Plan calls for reducing its purchases of imported water from the Delta by 10 percent and increasing its local water supply, regardless of whether the tunnels are built. Yet large corporate agribusinesses in Kern County and the Westlands Water District support the tunnels on the condition that they will secure massive amounts of water from the Delta for themselves and continue to be subsidized by taxpayers and ratepayers in the Santa Clara Valley Water District and in southern California.  

“This tunnel project would raise the water bills and property taxes of homeowners in the Santa Clara Valley to subsidize more water for large corporate agribusinesses in Kern County and the Westlands Water District,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Adam Scow. “The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors should protect its customers and reject this unfair tax hike.”

SCVWD estimated it would raise property taxes and water bills by $4-8 per month for over 15 years to spend $780 million on the tunnels, with the admission that there are numerous factors that could force these costs to be significantly higher. SCVWD’s cost estimate is based on the assumption that the construction cost of the tunnels is $13 billion, whereas more recent estimates show the cost would be over $17 billion in 2017 dollars, the year the project is slated for construction. Furthermore, with rising energy prices and potential cost overruns, SCVWD customers would likely face much higher rates than now projected to pay for the tunnels.

“This is a corporate water grab at the expense of Santa Clara Valley ratepayers,” said Joel Masser of the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley. “Because this plan will raise our rates and not give Santa Clara County any tangible benefits, the Board of Directors of the Santa Clara Valley Water District should oppose this ill-advised scheme.”

Environmental advocates noted that the tunnels, intended to continue the practice of exporting millions of acre feet of water from the Delta to the southwestern side of the San Joaquin Valley, would have a detrimental effect on the fragile ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay Delta estuary.

“Over the last ten years the Santa Clara Valley Water District has received on average 4.2 percent of the water exported from the Delta,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “Now Santa Clara Valley ratepayers are being asked to finance a significant part of a project that won’t bring them additional water, but will lead to the destruction of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary.”

To date, negotiation of the BDCP has taken place between a few water agencies and large, powerful corporate interests that represent oil and corporate agribusiness. A recent editorial by the San Jose Mercury News correctly asserts that the BDCP tunnels scheme “could be one of the biggest water grabs in state history” and that the questions of how much a conveyance should cost and who should foot the bill have not been answered.

Californians for a Fair Water Policy is a statewide coalition of ratepayers, environmentalists, farmers, businesses and fisherman are opposed to the tunnels project because of the severe negative impacts on California ratepayers, taxpayers, wild salmon and the San Francisco Bay Delta’s ecosystem. Learn more at

Contact: Anna Ghosh, 510-922-0075

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