C-WIN President Carolee Krieger’s op-ed below (as sent) was printed on page 8 of the September 20, 2012 edition of the Montecito Journal. That edition of of the Montecito Journal can be found at: http://www.montecitojournal.net/archive/18/38/
Montecito Water District Ratepayers Beware
A new water project pushed by Governor Jerry Brown in combination with powerful corporate agriculture interests and real estate speculators threatens to cost Montecito citizens dearly. It is called the Peripheral Tunnels Project and is the latest reincarnation of a previous proposal called the “Peripheral Canal” which was on the ballot in 1982 and defeated by a two-to-one margin.
A short history lesson: Here in Santa Barbara, in 1991, before the State Water Project vote, voters were promised that it would cost $270 million to hook up to the State Water Project. The reality is that by the time we have paid off the bonds, we here in Santa Barbara will have paid $1.76 Billion to receive State Water. We were also promised the project was 97% reliable…the reality is that our 4 south coast water agencies have only received 36% of their total allocation either because it wasn’t there (common in droughts) or we didn’t need it because of reduced demand from constantly-increasing water rates.
The problem for Montecito stems from the fact that we owe a huge amount for our share of the Coastal Branch that was approved by the voters in 1991 and which hooked us into the State Water Project. For example, this year the Montecito Water District’s total budget was approximately $12.5 million… and $4.9 million of that went to pay for our share of the fixed costs for the Coastal Branch. And the Montecito Water District Didn’t order any State Water because we didn’t need the water and could save money by not having to pay for the charges to transport it.
So all of our water bills are high now but with the proposed Peripheral Tunnels Project, they get much, much worse. The Coastal Branch was the most recent large capital construction by the State water Project and it cost 6 ½ times more than we originally were told it would. We have a lot of trouble believing the cost figures that we are hearing from the state for this Proposed Peripheral Tunnels Project. Our economic experts have analyzed the range of numbers put out so far… from $20.6 billion to $68,98 billion (remember the $270 million we were promised in Santa Barbara that ballooned into $1.76 billion). So common sense tells us that this will be much more. But even at these relatively low figures, we here in Santa Barbara could be in debt for between $767 million to $5.12 billion for our share…and that is in addition to the $1.76 billion we are already paying for the Coastal Branch.
Before this boondoggle gets started, it isn’t too late to get out and save ourselves from this bankrupting additional debt. We need to call our water agency and register our concerns and urge our Board of Supervisors, who are the Santa Barbara contractor with the State Water Project, to withdraw from the Peripheral Tunnels Project. The tunnels project will not make our water more reliable; but it could bankrupt us with debt.
“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”