Carolee Krieger, a longtime critic of State Water, predicted that if Gov. Jerry Brown succeeds in building two massive tunnels underneath the San Francisco Bay Delta to carry water from Northern California to the south, the average water bill for South Coast water consumers could increase by $24 a month to as much as $160. Worse, she charged, the new hydraulic infrastructure would not solve the reliability issues that have plagued the State Water Project for decades. Brown, who famously explained, “I want to get shit done,” when unveiling his plans, contends the new tunnels would increase the reliability of water deliveries while sparing the fragile ecosystem of the Bay Delta from the violence inflicted by the giant turbines needed to move vast quantities of H2O.
Krieger, who heads the California Water Impact Network, countered that Santa Barbara voters were assured it would cost them no more than $270 million to hook up to the State Water system in 1991, when, in fact, the total price tag, she claimed, was $1.7 billion. Likewise, she said, Santa Barbara voters were assured they’d be entitled to full delivery of their water allotments 97 percent of the time; the reality, she contended, was 36 percent.
Ray Stokes, second in command of the Central Coast Water Agency (CCWA), insisted the impact of the new tunnels would not be as dire as Krieger predicted. He estimated the new system would cost area water agencies $10 million extra a year. But because CCWA’s revenue bonds will be paid off in 2021, the impact to ratepayers will be less dramatic. Such reckoning did little, however, to assuage the concerns of the four South Coast water agencies importing State Water. At a meeting this March, the four agencies voted against paying their pro rata costs of the planning studies needed to give birth to the governor’s proposal. Krieger, meanwhile, will take her report to three of the four water districts later in August in hopes of fomenting an insurrection among the agencies that will have to pay for the governor’s plans.