For Immediate Release: June 12, 2013
Contact: Brenna Norton, Food & Water Watch, 323-843-8446
Conner Everts, Southern California Watershed Alliance, 310-804-6615
Southern California Campaign Launched to Stop Water Tunnel Tax
Los Angeles—Yesterday the Metropolitan Water District’s board of directors took the first step toward raising property taxes to pay for massive twin-tunnels 350 miles north of Los Angeles. The MWD board decided to suspend restrictions on property tax revenues as a first step towards funding the construction and financing of proposed 35-mile twin tunnels to divert the Sacramento River, estimated to cost between $20 and $50 billion. In addition to MWD, the tunnels are supported by Westlands Water District and Kern County Water Agency, both of which represent powerful agribusiness and oil interests demanding more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
“The Metropolitan Water District proved they are ready to raise taxes on Southern Californians to help pay for a wasteful and unfair tunnel project,” said Brenna Norton of Food & Water Watch. “Our tax dollars should be invested locally in fixing our aging water infrastructure and diversifying our water supply—not wasted on tunnels to take more water to corporate agribusiness and oil companies.”
While MWD claims they need the revenue for fiscal stability, the meeting revealed that MWD has actually been accumulating a budget surplus. “To add insult to injury, Metropolitan wants to sock us with another tax hike while they stockpile cash,” added Norton. “Southern Californians should be outraged by this undemocratic tax hike.”
Food & Water Watch and over two-dozen groups from across the political spectrum have formed Californians for a Fair Water Policy, a coalition dedicated to defeating the tunnels project because of its unfair and unnecessary costs to taxpayers and the environment. Since individual Southern California water users and taxpayers stand to pay the most and benefit the least from Governor Brown’s tunnels project, the coalition’s campaign will focus on educating Southern Californians about the “tunnel tax” – the financial burden that the tunnels project will place on urban water users and taxpayers, although the majority of any additional water that the tunnels would deliver would go to large agribusinesses and oil companies.
A study conducted by EcoNorthwest, an independent economic analysis firm, found that the tunnels project could cost over $50 billion and cost Los Angeles ratepayers up to $16 more per month for the next 40 years.
“Contrary to popular belief, Southern California does not need to import more water from the north,” said Conner Everts of the Southern California Watershed Alliance “Due to increased efficiency, Los Angeles uses less water today than in 1982, despite a population increase of over a million. In fact, LADWP’s water plan calls for reducing imported water purchases and developing local sources.”
Californians for a Fair Water Policy supports investing in smart, efficiency-centric projects to improve California’s water security and maintaining responsible levels of water exports from the Delta.
“We need to rebuild our crumbling local water and sewer infrastructure, clean groundwater aquifers, expand water recycling and rainwater catchment systems while increasing efficiency,” added Everts. “Not only would these measures secure our water supply, they would improve water quality, prevent pollution and create local long-term jobs.”
Californians for a Fair Water Policy is a statewide coalition of businesses, consumers, environmentalists, fishermen, farmers, Native Americans and community-based organizations who oppose spending more than $50 billion of taxpayer and ratepayer funds for the construction, financing, operation and environmental mitigation of new tunnels to export more water from the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary. Learn more at http://www.stopthetunnels.org.