State Refuses Public Records Act Request on WaterFix Costs

On April 10, 2017, NRDC formally submitted a request for documents regarding cost allocation for WaterFix to the California Department of Water Resources, pursuant to the California Public Records Act. We sought documents and records about how DWR and the state and federal water contractors proposed to pay for WaterFix, believing that the public has a right to know who will be stuck paying for this boondoggle. Even as MWD and other agencies began debating whether to commit to pay for the tunnels, DWR failed to provide us with any public documents. We continued to wait.

On Friday, more than 4 months after we filed our request, the State finally disclosed a total of 21 documents in response to our request for public records. Most of these were non substantive emails about meetings with the contractors and the Bureau of Reclamation, and a few substantive documents (which we’ll discuss later this week).

But perhaps more important is the fact that the State refused to share other records that were relevant to our Public Records Act request. They refused to share documents or records that had been shared with State Water Project contractors regarding cost allocation for WaterFix. The email from DWR’s general counsel stated that, “Records exist but have not been produced based on applicable confidentiality agreements.” I’ve asked for a copy of these confidentiality agreements, but have not received them from DWR.  But I’m not aware of any basis in law for concluding that DWR can execute confidentiality agreements to hide documents from the public, which otherwise must be disclosed per the Public Records Act. In other words, DWR appears to be violating the law.

So the State wants water agencies across the state to agree to pay tens of billions of dollars for WaterFix, they don’t have a draft financing agreement for those water agencies and the public to review, and they don’t want the public to see documents about how they have discussed paying for WaterFix.

What is DWR hiding? And why is DWR hiding this information from the public?

About the Authors

Doug Obegi

Director, California River Restoration, Water Division, Nature Program

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