Zone 7 postpones vote on local support for California WaterFix

Board decides to wait on final environmental report before taking action

Moved by pleas from constituents in a crowded meeting room, the Zone 7 Water Agency board Wednesday decided to postpone a vote on a resolution indicating local support for the California WaterFix until a final environmental report is complete.

The board voted 6-1 to wait until further environmental and financial impacts had been announced before voting, which is expected to be closer to September. Board member Bill Stevens voted against the measure, saying he preferred board members make their opinions public now.

"We are listening to you folks. We are," board president Sarah Palmer said.

The board room was packed -- with standing room only -- with about 50 people. Twenty-one people addressed the board, all urging them to vote against local support or to wait to vote until more information was revealed.

The resolution would have indicated symbolic support for the California WaterFix, a state project to build two large pipelines to move water from the California Delta to Southern California, dropping off water at various participating water agencies. Overall, the project is expected to cost $15 billion, and Zone 7 would have to pay about $8.5 million a year for its share.

While the resolution being considered didn't dedicate additional Zone 7 funds to the California WaterFix, it would have given the board's nod of approval that could suggest further support. Not all board members were ready to promise that support without clearer data.

"I can't vote for something in which we don't have all the information. I don't think that's responsible," board member Angela Ramirez Holmes said.

Zone 7, which sells water to Tri-Valley cities including Pleasanton, receives 80% of its water supply from the State Water Project, and the California WaterFix would tie in with that project.

At current estimates, Zone 7 would be expected to pay $8.5 million a year until 2028 if the board later agreed to pay its share of the project. That cost would dip to $6.5 million a year after about 2028 to cover regular maintenance, and the agency would pay that every year it receives water from the State Water Project.

While Zone 7 receives 80% of its water from the State Water Project, it is one of the smallest agencies -- using only 2% of the project's total outflows.

Overall, 50% of the California WaterFix is expected to be paid by agricultural groups, and the other half is expected to be paid by water retailers who participate in the State Water Project. No water agency boards have voted to support the California WaterFix yet, and it's unclear exactly how many groups will decide to buy into the project.

California WaterFix would increase the capacity to move more water to Zone 7 and other agencies in wet years, such as this year. Agency staff said some northern reservoirs have been forced to release water because the aging existing infrastructure isn't large enough to get water flowing to other cities fast enough.

Some board members expressed concern that while the California WaterFix may increase the amount of water Zone 7 receives during wet years, the amount of water allocated during drought years will probably be the same.

"The drought demonstrated that water won't be available all water years, with or without the tunnels," Holmes said.

However, Zone 7 staff noted having extra water during wet years means the agency can pump water back into the underground aquifer, which acts as regional storage and which can be tapped into during dry years.

"Capturing the big flows that are coming down is our last hope," board member Sandy Figuers said.

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12 people like this
Posted by AlamedaCountyNative
a resident of Foothill Farms
on Mar 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm

This is just the Peripheral Canal in sheeps clothing and has already been voted down at least once if not twice. LA County has more water wasters than any other county in Calif. Why should we give them water we don't have and pay $8.5 million a year to do it so Beverly Hills can fill their pools and wash their cars.17

Like this comment
Posted by Pete
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 17, 2016 at 6:22 pm

I wonder if our water has been tasted for lead.

14 people like this
Posted by Get Water Wise
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 18, 2016 at 5:15 pm

I was in attendance at the meeting. What struck me was to total disregard for the thoughts and concerns of the people when is
This matter was brought up. That Board took a straw poll before opening the meeting to the public and only 2 members - Holmes and Grayson expressed concerns and were willing to ask tough questions.

Bill Stevens needs to go - he is up for election in June he told the audience "I've already made up my mind and nothing you say will change it because I have been thinking about this for years and you (the audience) is a bunch of idiots if you don't see it like I do.

The manager was just as bad - remind that she is the same one who sweet talked the board into 15% raise for herself and the next month told the board what horrible financial shape zone 7 was in and recommended a 25 % water rate increase.

Furthermore there was NO notice given by zone 7 about what is the single most important water issue the state faces right now - thank God a few friends who are watching the zone tipped us off to it otherwise they would have taken the vote to support this boondoggle of a project

3 people like this
Posted by Robin Hood
a resident of Dublin
on Mar 20, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Thank you to Director Jim McGrail and Director Angela Ramirez Holms for their leadership in the Board meeting on March 16, 2016. All the other directors had already made their minds up to support this project before hearing what the residents think. The behavior of the Zone 7 directors was pathetic for a public agency. This meeting was a sham, going through the motions but doing what the General Manger and a few "good old boys" directors wanted. The Alameda County Grand Jury determined that Zone 7 was not transparent to the public last year and recommended Zone 7 televise their meetings for public viewing. After viewing this meeting I am glad they decided to take the recommendation. It was shocking to see a meeting so poorly run. Director Stevens temper seems to have gotten the best of him. I can only imagine what occurred before the meetings were televised. Elections are right around the corner. Please watch the Channel 29 broadcast of the March 16, 2016 meeting to see for yourself how these directors conducted themselves.

Like this comment
Posted by So Fed Up
a resident of Amador Estates
on Mar 21, 2016 at 8:26 pm

The arrogance of this agency is beyond belief.

I sure hope our City Council, which I trust will listen to the residents, takes up the tunnels and takes a strong oppose position. Doing so would send a strong message to Zone 7 - if they even care to listen to the people!

Like this comment
Posted by ???
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 21, 2016 at 8:35 pm

3 of the boards members are up for reelection in June. All 3 are running as well as 4 challengers. It's really important to do your homework on this race. The only way we are going to get change is with a new board!!!

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