Brown's water tunnel job claims generating controversy

Brown's water tunnel job claims generating controversy
A woman walks on a dock in the delta near Stockton. The state's proposal calls for two enormous tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that would deliver water to Central Valley farmers, L.A. and other cities. (Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times)

A bold, $25-billion plan to ship more water to Southern California could create tens of thousands of new jobs a year for decades, a Brown administration study says. And even though the plan is at least two years from possible final approval, it is generating plenty of controversy.

The proposal, which still needs to be endorsed by federal and state wildlife agencies, calls for two enormous tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that would deliver water to Central Valley farmers, Los Angeles and other cities.


The study's author, Dave Sunding, a UC Berkeley agricultural and resource economist, predicts that construction of what is called the Bay-Delta Conservation Project would create an average of about 15,500 jobs a year over a decade of construction and habitat restoration.

Once built, the project to make water supplies more reliable would spur an additional estimated 19,600 jobs a year over 50 years, he said.

"In the short, medium and long range, the Bay Delta Conservation would provide economic benefits to California," said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the Department of Water Resources. "The plan is essentially an insurance policy against species extinction and inadequate water supplies."

Although the construction jobs estimate seems reasonable, the larger figure is "ridiculous," said Jeffrey A. Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. "It's based on a fictional scenario."

Brown's water plan is too expensive and unsustainable, opponents said. It could harm fishing, boating and farming in the environmentally delicate Delta and "ignores the risk that water won't be available for the massive tunnels," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of the group Restore the Delta.

Illegal contractors sweep

A governmental task force, including investigators from district attorney's offices in Los Angeles and five other urban counties, has just completed a major sweep through major urban areas, issuing more than 60 citations and stop-work orders to unlicensed and uninsured building contractors.

Many people don't realize that their homes and assets could be at risk if people working on their properties don't have contractors' licenses or carry workers' compensation insurance, the California Department of Insurance warned.

Homeowners have an obligation to check licenses and insurance policies before hiring someone to do repairs, officials said. Failure to do so could invalidate owners' insurance coverage.

The sweep also involved state agencies including the Department of Insurance, Contractors State License Board, the Department of Industrial Relations, the Franchise Tax Board and the Employment Development Department.

"This fraudulent activity hurts legitimate businesses that play by the rules," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "The coordinated effort of this multiagency task force is an ongoing effort to level the playing field."

Twitter: @MarcLifsher