SACRAMENTO – A bipartisan majority of state legislators on Wednesday approved a financial audit of the controversial Twin Tunnels project.
The audit was requested by legislators representing the San Joaquin Delta, led by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and State Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis. Their request followed revelations of questionable spending and accounting practices by at least one water contractor that would benefit from the project, and the announcement that the U.S. Dept. of the Interior’s Inspector General is auditing the federal Bureau of Reclamation’s financial support of the Twin Tunnels project.
The audit passed the Joint Legislative Audit Committee by a vote of 9-2.
“This demonstrates that there is a possibility for consensus on California water policy. Today, that consensus was that any projects, regardless of whether they require voter approval, should be undertaken with full transparency and accountability, with a sound, legal plan for how they will be financed without their costs being shifted illegally,” Eggman said following the result.
Eggman and Wolk, who are both long-standing opponents of the Twin Tunnels project, said that even those who might support the project should be asking stronger questions about how it is being funded.
“The Legislature removed its own authority to approve the multi-billion dollar WaterFix project, which would build two massive tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This is one of the largest construction projects that the state of California has ever undertaken. We must have transparency and accountability regarding funding,” said Wolk, who chairs the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation. “We need to know that the beneficiaries of this project will pay for it, even as those costs go up with time. Otherwise, beneficiaries will look for alternative funding sources, including public bond funds, general funds, or local property taxes. And that would be unacceptable.”
The audit will be carried out by the California State Auditor, starting in April 2017, and will take about 3,000 work hours, or about seven months, to complete.