Delta Tunnels opponents file third lawsuit

Save the California Delta Alliance (STCDA), The Press:

Save the California Delta Alliance (STCDA) has filed its third lawsuit to stop the Delta Twin Tunnels, Sept. 15, in Sacramento Superior Court.

The Delta Tunnels project, sometimes called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) or California WaterFix, would divert water from the Sacramento River near Hood and carry it underground in twin 40-foot-diameter tunnels, 40 miles south to the export pumps near Tracy. STCDA, known for its “Stop the Tunnels” signs and T-shirts seen all over Discovery Bay, has been fighting the tunnel project for almost 11 years.

The lawsuit attacks the tunnels financing and the governor’s purported plan to sell $15 billion worth of state-issued revenue bonds to pay for the project.

STCDA filed its first lawsuit against the tunnels in June 2013 and won the case last summer.

“The first one dealt the governor a blow by forcing him to change his strategy for permitting,” said STCDA attorney Michael Brodsky.

The second lawsuit, filed Aug. 21 this year, challenges the project’s environmental impact report.

“That one will take a while,” said Brodsky. “The governor will use delay tactics and try to start tunnel construction before we can get in front of a judge. He already filed a petition last week to delay the trial indefinitely.”

Brown would need eight different permits from four different state and federal agencies to get the project through. According to Jan McCleery, STCDA board president, only one permit has so far been granted from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“The clock is ticking, and as far as I know, the major candidates to succeed Brown as governor have announced that they are against the tunnels,” McCleery added.

In the new lawsuit, known as a “validation action,” STCDA has teamed up with the South Delta Water Agency, also a foe of the governor’s plan. South Delta serves farmers to the south of Discovery Bay by providing irrigation water pumped from Middle River.

STCDA’s most recent court filings attack the state’s authority to sell $15 billion worth of revenue bonds to pay for the tunnel project.

“That is a staggering amount of money,” said McCleery.

Brodsky said the bond issuance was unlawful.

“We have a good shot to win this one, if we can just get in front of a judge to make our case,” said Brodsky.

STCDA and South Delta will go before Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Brown with their claims that the bonds are unlawful, Nov. 17.

“Invalidating the bonds won’t necessarily stop the tunnels,” said McCleery. “The lawsuit only seeks to invalidate state-issued bonds. The water contractors, including Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Westlands Water District, could still sell their own bonds to finance the tunnels.” (Full article here)