Protesting a Pipe Dream for More Water

Protesting a Pipe Dream for More Water Article by: Nick DiCroce, October 31, 2013

Santa Ynez Valley News

Solvang means "sunny fields" in Danish, and that's an apt description for our community.

Our economy is happily balanced between viticulture and tourism, and both thrive in our benign and salubrious climate.

But Solvang needs more than abundant sunshine and caravans of visitors to thrive. We also need water. And that's the rub. Our water supplies always have been dicey. That means we have to husband our water resources carefully. And for the most part, we do that.

Unfortunately, our city officials have allowed themselves to be snookered by a boondoggle known as the Twin Tunnels. This scheme, pushed by the state Department of Water Resources, would shunt water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta south via a pair of gigantic tunnels.

The Brown administration touts the tunnels as a panacea to our water ills. But it will not augment our supplies by a single drop, and it will saddle us and our children and grandchildren with ruinous debt.

We have an opportunity to bring this white elephant to heel on Nov. 5, when the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors convenes for an informational hearing on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the authorizing document for the Twin Tunnels. The meeting will be held on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara at 9 a.m. We urge all Solvang residents to attend.

There are profound environmental downsides to the Twin Tunnels, but even these are trumped by the disastrous fiscal impacts of the project.

When the construction, maintenance and debt-service costs are folded in, the Twin Tunnels could pencil out at more than $60 billon. Unhappily, we've had experience with DWR's glowing promises before, and we're still paying for our credulity.

In 1991, after a much-hyped campaign by DWR, Central Coast voters approved construction of the Coastal Branch, a subsidiary canal to the State Water Project. DWR pledged the project would greatly improve water security for local residents, and the price tag cited by the agency seemed reasonable enough — $270 million.

But by the time the project was completed in 1998, construction costs alone were $595 million.

When debt service and maintenance costs are tallied, the bill for the Coastal Branch will hit $1.76 billion — more than six times DWR's original estimate. As a result, water rates in Solvang have skyrocketed since the 1990s.

The pressure to build the Twin Tunnels is accelerating, with DWR dumping massive amounts of taxpayer money into an aggressive promotional campaign. But as things stand, the Twin Tunnels promise to deliver more red ink than water. No cost/benefit analysis has been conducted. No details have been released citing the source for the billions of dollars needed for the project.

And here's the ultimate irony - there isn't enough water in the state to fill the Twin Tunnels. California's water resources are oversubscribed by a factor of five. In other words, every gallon of the state's available developed water has five claimants. A new water conveyance system, no matter how ambitious, can't change that fact.

The Central Coast Water Authority - a proxy for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors — supports the BDCP. This is misguided. We have to show our officials that citizen opposition to the Twin Tunnels is deep and wide.

So, please tell our city officials to abandon their support of the Twin Tunnels. And show up at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 5 to voice your opposition to the project, loud and clear.

Nick Di Croce retired from a senior management position at the Toyota Corp. in 1998, and since that time he has been involved in California water policy issues. The Environmental Water Caucus was formed in 1991. Its headquarters is in Oakland.

Twin TunnelsC-WINComment