Court Denies Department of Water Resources’s Attempt to Use Bonds to Fund Environmentally Destructive Delta Tunnel


January 17, 2024

Contact: Michael Blenner,


Court Denies Department of Water Resources’s Attempt to Use Bonds to Fund Environmentally Destructive Delta Tunnel


Sacramento, CA - Yesterday, the Sacramento County Superior Court denied the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) request for an order “validating” bond resolutions that would have financed the Delta Conveyance Project (Delta tunnel). The Court held that DWR exceeded its authority under Section 11260 of the Water Code when it adopted Bond Resolutions in August of 2020 to authorize the issuance of Bonds to pay for the construction of the project. 

The Delta tunnel is a $16 billion project proposal to build a tunnel that would divert freshwater flows from the Sacramento River and send the deliveries to water districts south of the Delta. This environmentally destructive project would further devastate underserved communities in the Delta, Tribes throughout Northern California, and local ecosystems. The Delta tunnel would also increase both property taxes and water rates in Southern California. Some Californians would pay for tunnel water without even receiving it, including in the San Gabriel Valley and Gateway cities, since they are in the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). These cities already have other sources of water independent of MWD.

In 2020, DWR adopted resolutions to authorize revenue bonds to finance costs associated with planning, design, environmental review, land acquisition, and construction of the Delta tunnel. DWR estimated the project would cost $16 billion, though an updated cost assessment has not been completed. Sierra Club California challenged the bond resolutions, and the court has held that DWR did not have the authority to issue the revenue bonds for the Delta tunnel. 

Statement from Bob Wright, Counsel for Sierra Club California in the case:

“This decision is wonderful news for residents and users of the imperiled Delta and also for the ratepayers and taxpayers who would have to pay billions of dollars for the construction of an environmentally destructive tunnel which would reduce freshwater flows through the Delta for export. 

DWR gave final approval to the Delta tunnel project in December, even though it has not specified when it will issue a cost-benefit study to inform ratepayers and taxpayers of the project’s financial cost. No one would choose to buy a house without knowing how much it would cost, or whether there are alternative options on the market.  DWR is directly harming the already imperiled Delta waters with one hand while deceiving ratepayers and taxpayers who would have to pay for the construction of the massive project with the other hand. We expect that because DWR lost this important case, it will try to use the appellate courts or the Legislature to help it in its efforts to advance the environmentally destructive Delta tunnel. Sierra Club California and our allies will continue to fight against this boondoggle project.”



Sierra Club California is the legislative and regulatory arm of Sierra Club’s 13 local chapters in California, representing half a million members and supporters.