This week, leaders of the Santa Clara Valley and Alameda County water districts said they had no interest in helping the developer of a huge, controversial Redwood City project, DMBAssociates of Arizona, acquire water for 12,000 new homes from Bakersfield-based Nickel Family LLC. The water districts' opposition casts fresh doubt on the viability of the project and the prospect of the water transfer, since their cooperation is integral to the deal.
California law requires developments with more than 500 homes to secure water supplies before proceeding with construction. The Nickel Family has agreed to sell the needed water to DMB, but the arrangement would involve a complicated system of water transfers that would likely require either the Alameda or Santa Clara water district to act as a middle&discHyphen;man in the deal.
By urbanizing an area that is probably best suited to wetlands, the project would create new congestion issues for the 11th-largest metropolitan area in the nation. Potential sea-level rise is another concern, given the low elevation of the proposed mega-development.
The arrangement raises a different set of concerns on this end: Namely, the implications of transferring water that has traditionally been the lifeblood of Central Valley farms -- and Central Valley economics -- to new, distant homes, especially on the heels of a drought that brought the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to its knees.
The irony of transferring 2.7 billion gallons of Kern County water per year for 70 years to Northern California, even as the state wrestles with the funding and logistics of a water conveyance system to benefit the parched south, is hard to miss.
The sale is perfectly legal, based on our arcane system of water rights. Its logic, from a broader perspective, is another matter entirely.