Sacramento, CA – Governor Jerry Brown’s massive twin water tunnel project has hit another snag.
A federal audit from the US Department of the Interior inspector general’s office has determined the U.S. government – meaning American taxpayers — improperly contributed $84 million to cover roughly a third of the planning costs up to 2016. According to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the report, California water districts were supposed to bear the costs of the $16 billion water project.
As reported here, back in June federal wildlife officials gave their nod to the estimated 35-mile twin water tunnels on the Sacramento River, issuing statements that it would not likely jeopardize the continued existence of more than a dozen federally protected species in what is known to be the West Coast’s largest fresh-water estuary — nor destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.
Larger infrastructure projects and those that supply California farmers with water seem to also have apparent support by President Donald Trump and Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District along with other politically powerful water districts have been jockeying to assume bigger roles in financing, designing and constructing the project.
However, Central Valley water districts were supposed to pay 50 percent of the project costs but have ponied up less than 20 percent to date, according to the audit.
This afternoon, Fresno-based Westlands Water District, which holds long-term contracts for water supplied by the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project commented to AP of the audit’s finding that the Bureau of Reclamation acted improperly in tapping funding. General Manager Thomas Birmingham stated he knew of nothing about the arrangement that was inconsistent with state or federal law, maintaining that under federal law, water districts that would benefit from the tunnels would have to repay the taxpayer money only if the project is built.