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Assemblyman Says Delta Water Tunnel Project Needs Legislature’s Vote

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A California lawmaker is slowing the flow on Gov. Jerry Browns’ twin-tunnel water project, questioning the costs and demanding more transparency.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) is not convinced the state’s plan to build the tunnels is a good one.

“The funding isn’t there, and the cost-benefit analysis isn’t there,” he said.

The state’s Department of Water Resources plans to tunnel water out of the Sacramento River, around the troubled Delta, then bring it to 25 million customers from the Bay Area on south.

Aside from an ongoing public-comment period, neither you nor lawmakers have an official say in whether the project moves forward.

DWR puts the cost at $25 billion, but that doesn’t factor in inflation and interest. Analysts say that could put the real cost at upwards of $60 billion.

“Look at what they said they Bay Bridge would cost and it’s 500 percent over,” Frazier said.

He’s proposed a bill that would prevent the state from starting construction projects unless the legislature approves it.

Bob Wright with the conservation group Friends of the River says it’s a great first step, but voters should have a say, too.

“They know it’s a money grab and a water grab for the very powerful, very wealthy special interests, and that’s why they’re trying to keep it away from the people and the legislature,” he said.

DWR refused to comment on Thursday, but said in a December interview that water agencies benefiting from the tunnels would pay for them.

But Frazier says there’s no guarantee taxpayers won’t be on the hook for any project cost overruns.

“We can’t work on assumptions,” he said. “We have to have hard numbers to be realistic.”

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