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County Water Authority votes to support $17B ‘WaterFix’ proposal

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors Thursday unanimously voted to support current plans for California WaterFix, the state’s $17 billion proposal to address water supply constraints in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta.

The board’s backing is contingent on a financing plan that fairly allocates project costs to San Diego County taxpayers, according to the Water Authority. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the sole source of Bay-Delta water for the San Diego region, is responsible for such allocations.

The board’s updated policy principles also promote independent oversight of project finances and construction progress, as well was continued state ownership and operation of the State Water Project, including WaterFix facilities.

“Critical funding questions still must be answered, and today’s vote helps us work with project proponents to address them equitably,” board Chairman Mark Muir said. “Using our updated policy guidelines, we’ll continue working to protect the interests of local water ratepayers as details emerge.”

The MWD board voted in July to spend nearly $11 billion on the WaterFix project, which will divert water from the Sacramento River as it enters the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and carry it to existing federal and state pumping stations in the southern part of the delta through a pair of 35- mile tunnels.

MWD had originally agreed to contribute $4.3 billion to the $17 billion project, but the state announced in February that it was still short on funding and planned to proceed instead with a one-tunnel version of the project. That prompted MWD to increase its contribution to $10.8 billion, providing the remaining funding needed to build the full two-tunnel project.

If MWD recoups its WaterFix costs as water supply charges, the Water Authority would be responsible for $73 million as retail water agencies continue to implement local supply projects that reduce Water Authority purchases from MWD, according to the Water Authority.

Local costs could rise to $1.8 billion if MWD instead allocates WaterFix costs entirely on transportation charges, because the Water Authority is the only agency that uses MWD’s transportation system to transport large volumes of independent water supplies, according to the Water Authority.