CCWD Perspective from General Manager
CCWD’s Perspective on its Settlement Related to the California WaterFix
By Jerry Brown, CCWD General Manager
April 11, 2016
Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) recently announced a settlement agreement related to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, now known as the California Water Fix (CWF), aka “the twin tunnels.”
It is a long and detailed agreement with lots of legal terms, so we wanted to provide a snapshot view for our customers about why we came to this agreement, what is in the agreement and where we go from here.
CCWD’s primary mission is, and has always been, to deliver a high quality and reliable supply of water to our customers in an environmentally responsible manner. And it’s this goal that drives all of our work, including coming to this agreement with DWR.
With the state and project proponents continuing to move the CWF forward, CCWD had three options to legally ensure our customers are protected:
- negotiate (and determine our own fate);
- proceed with our water rights protest (and let the State Board determine our fate); or
- sue under the California Environmental Quality Act (and let the courts decide our fate).
We chose a negotiated agreement fully protective of our customer’s investments over protracted and expensive lawsuits.
Our concerns surrounding the CWF have centered heavily on ensuring high quality drinking water and supply, as well as how the project would be paid for. CCWD has been actively engaged since the state’s actions began in 2006. View our engagement timeline.
The good news is that DWR has heard part of our concerns and was open to mutually determining how to address our drinking water quality concerns. As a result, we are proud to have reached an agreement that provides legally binding and enforceable steps to mitigate any water quality impacts to CCWD if the CWF is built. While the terms of the settlement agreement were negotiated in confidential meetings, the substance of the discussions only included the concerns that have been publicly raised for many years. The concerns about how the tunnels are paid for are not included in this agreement and CCWD will continue to act diligently on our customers behalf on this issue.
Our agreement has two parts – the first protects CCWD facilities during tunnel construction where the tunnels would cross under a CCWD pipeline near two of CCWD’s Delta water supply intakes.
The second part of this agreement will ensure that should there be any water quality degradation at the CCWD’s Delta intakes or Los Vaqueros Reservoir from operation of the tunnels, a portion of CCWD’s water will be conveyed to CCWD’s system from a higher quality source. The redirecting of a portion of CCWD’s supplies from northern intakes will not cause impacts on the Delta and CCWD will not receive any additional water under this agreement. This ensures the Delta environment and other legal water users are not harmed.
Any costs associated with this agreement, including the construction, operation, and upkeep will be paid for 100% by DWR. This agreement will not cause a rate increase to our customers.
It is important to note that CCWD is not a proponent of the CWF and CCWD is not dependent in any way on the project. What we do have is a binding agreement, or insurance policy, should the tunnel project happen that safeguards CCWD’s supply and assures its quality for the people we serve.
CCWD is not abandoning the Delta. CCWD will continue to use its facilities in the Delta and maintains its ability to engage on Delta water quality and broader Delta issues, and will continue to fully engage on concerns with the CWF impacts related to CCWD’s federal water supply contract. This settlement addresses impacts on our facilities and operation which are unique to CCWD.
The CWF is still an active proposal, and only time will tell if it is implemented.
However, we could not roll the dice on this low probability/ high cost risk when a legally binding and enforceable agreement was achievable.
The stakes were too high to make a gamble on the tunnels not moving forward when you consider that we serve drinking water to 500,000 people and have invested over $1 billion.