Delta waterfix

Over the last few weeks, several significant developments related to the California WaterFix project have occurred, not the least of which was the formal creation of the Delta Conveyance and Design Construction Authority (DCA). 

A joint exercise of powers agreement between the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the DCA gives the the DCA responsibility to staff, design, contract, construct and finance the California WaterFix project. The DCA is comprised of three water agencies; the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD), which is also from Southern California, and the Zone 7 Water Agency, a Bay Area water agency serving 220,000 people in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore.  

“This agreement signals a key step toward implementation of WaterFix, and this partnership represents a true collaboration in the best interests of California,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in a DWR press release. “We look forward to working with the DCA to finalize permitting and design and to safely and efficiently build WaterFix.”

According to a DWR statement, the DCA will pool the expertise and resources available from DWR, public water agencies and consultants to safely and transparently design, construct and deliver the project on time and budget, in accordance with approved DWR specifications.

“The formation of the DCA represents a milestone in years of collaboration and begins the process of ensuring that Santa Clara County will be able to get a clean and safe water supply while protecting the environment,” said Tony Estremera, SCVWD director and newly named president of the DCA board, in a released statement. “Further, the Santa Clara Valley Water District will lead the charge as we move ahead with the important work of improving water supply reliability for our county and the state. I look forward to the challenge of implementing this project, as the Santa Clara Valley Water District and our partners commit to continuing this work through transparent public processes.”

Throughout the planning and construction of WaterFix, DCA’s work will be overseen by another agency with the DWR – the Delta Conveyance Office (DCO). Through the DCO, the State of California will retain authority and oversight of WaterFix regulatory obligations, environmental mitigation and quality assurance. Should the project ever be completed and operational, the responsibility for the day-to-day operation will revert to the DWR. 

If Estremera had a honeymoon phase in his new role as president of the DCA board, it didn’t last long. During the group’s first meeting in Sacramento on May 17, the board was criticized for failing to provide proper notice of the meeting time and location. 

“The DCA is off to a start we could have predicted,” said Restore the Delta policy analyst Tim Stroshane. “Your project has a regional scale of effects, yet you failed completely to notify the affected public in the Delta region that you are meeting here today. Restore the Delta let its members know through our usual email, website and social-media channels. You’re welcome.”

Additionally five county supervisors who make up the Delta Counties Coalition – Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties – took the opportunity to lambast the Waterfix project for reasons including its $17 billion cost, the failure of the project to provide any new water and the likely disruption to the Delta communities during the multiyear construction phase.

“Some have called the WaterFix a diabolical plan, bold and presumptuous,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Diane Burgis. “The Delta is a special and unique place. It is the largest estuary west of the Mississippi river and home to many historical legacy communities and towns, a thriving agricultural economy, diverse geography and many natural resources. Those of us who are directly impacted are being locked out.”

The arguments against the project appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. 

“We look forward to a nice long, long period of construction,” said Estremera at the conclusion of the meeting.

The next DCA meeting is scheduled for June 21, at 2 p.m., at the Sacramento Public Library Galleria.