The San Fernando City Council listened to arguments in favor and against a controversial project that is supposed to improve water delivery to Southern California.
Representatives from both the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), a regional water provider, and Restore the Delta, an environmental nonprofit, gave presentations at the Oct. 2 meeting about California WaterFix, a plan to build additional water intakes and tunnels at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
About 30 percent of Southern California’s water comes from this delta, which is pumped and transported via canals. The problem is this current levee system is deemed vulnerable to earthquakes and the pumps are causing rivers to flow in reverse, affecting native fish that are only found in that delta. MWD believes California WaterFix will stabilize the natural flow of rivers and secure a water supply in case levees fail in the event of an earthquake.
Restore the Delta argued the project would not only be more environmentally detrimental, but also inequitable to California residents since they would end up paying for the project while corporate interests benefit.
The city council was receptive to both presentations even though the California WaterFix project would minimally affect the city’s water supply — almost all of it comes from the city’s own wells. However, city officials still purchase water from MWD as needed (2014 was the last purchase), and Mayor Sylvia Ballin is one of the 38 MWD board members.
The MWD board is scheduled to vote on Oct. 10 whether to support California WaterFix, and agree to 26 percent of the cost of the project. Ballin will be on vacation during that time, but she is planning to call in and cast her vote.
“It was a good thing we heard both sides of the story,” Ballin said after the presentations. She said she started thinking more about this project and the state’s vulnerability after learning about of Puerto Rico’s recent water interruption after Hurricane Maria.
“A lot of water from the north [of California] is really flowing out into the ocean. That really, really concerns me,” she said.
“I don’t know if it’s one tunnel, two tunnels but having that water flow out into the ocean, when there is going to be this incredible need in southern California…I don’t know what the answer is but this is so big and so huge, and such a historic vote, and there is a lot of emotion tied to water.”
No action was taken, as it was mere a presentation for the council.
The council also received a presentation from Metro on the latest updates to the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project, which is looking to connect the northeast San Fernando Valley to Sherman Oaks with a bus rapid transit system or light-rail.
According to Metro, community feedback has shown a preference toward a light-rail system with 14 stations that would travel along Van Nuys Boulevard and San Fernando Road. One station is planned on Maclay Street and San Fernando Road.
The council was actually planning on approving a letter of support for this option; however, they decided to hold off on submitting any letters of support until after Metro’s presentation.
No final decision has been made and Metro is still welcoming public feedback.They have extended the public comment period until Oct., 30 and are inviting the community to share their thoughts in writing or at the next public meeting Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Van Nuys State Building Auditorium, located at 6150 Van Nuys Blvd.