Tunnel cost still on water users

Westlands Water District’s bond refunding documents contain a strange description of the financing for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. (See pg. 45 of this pdf).

That description says, in part: “Based upon the cost allocations contained in the Administrative Draft (of the BDCP) approximately 75 percent of the costs of the Isolated Facility (the tunnels) are expected to be funded by users of the Isolated Facility, including the District.”

Anyone who has followed this process closely knows that the water users, such as Westlands, are supposed to pay 100 percent of the cost of the tunnels themselves, though public money would be needed for the habitat restoration also associated with the BDCP.

I asked Westlands if there had been a change in the plan.

No, said General Manager Tom Birmingham, who acknowledged the┬ásentence is “a little confusing.”

What it refers to, he said, is that south-of-Delta federal water service contractors are “not expected to pay for costs associated with delivery of water to satisfy other Bureau of Reclamation obligations.”

What the investors are really interested in, Birmingham said, is the next sentence — the one that says Westlands’ expected share of the project would be about $2.4 billion.

He confirmed that the water users, or beneficiaries, are still expected to pay 100 percent of the tunnel costs.

“What we are going to do… is delete the first sentence and make reference to what is contained in the second sentence,” he said. “… Without clarification, I can understand why somebody would be confused by that statement.”

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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