A new federal audit says the U.S. government improperly and illegally spent $84 million for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans to build two giant water tunnels to ship Northern California water to Southern California. This will not end well for California, despite Brown’s and the then-secretary of the Interior Department pledge of using no taxpayer funds in the tunnels plan.
The audit says that California water districts and not federal taxpayers were supposed to bear the costs of the $16 billion water project. The audit found that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engaged in a shell game, improperly subsidizing the irrigation districts’ share of planning costs.
The reclamation bureau “obtained this $50 million over a 7-year span by using a complex, obscure process that was not disclosed in the annual congressional budget justifications,” stated the report by the inspector general of the U.S. Interior Department.
“In the process,” the audit found, the reclamation bureau “also decided that the $50 million in appropriated funds was used for a non-reimbursable purpose, meaning the cost was absorbed by the federal government rather than being repaid by [Central Valley Project] water contractors.”
The inspector general says federal authorities also did not fully disclose to Congress or others that it was covering much of the cost of the project’s planning.