California WaterFix Implementation Prompts Organizational Adjustments at DWR


The Delta

Aerial view of waterways in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. (September 16, 2009/DWR)

California WaterFix marked several key milestones last year and in recent months, including the completion of the State's environmental review process, productive collaboration on cost allocation among the State Water Contractors, and the advancement of promising implementation and financing options. Final permitting for WaterFix is on the horizon and implementation is imminent.

To embark on this important next step, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) will adjust its organizational structure to ensure an efficient and effective construction program that protects the State's interests by managing risk and controlling costs.

First among these adjustments was the February 20, 2018 appointment of Gary Lippner as Deputy Director of Delta Conveyance who manages the Delta Conveyance Office (DCO). Gary will provide policy and management direction to help ensure the reliability of available water supply, mitigate impacts of Delta Conveyance on the environment, and address the effects of climate change on existing and future Delta and State Water Project (SWP) infrastructure.

Having successfully completed its mission, the Delta Conveyance Facilities Design and Construction Enterprise (DCE), formed in 2014 to complete the Bay Delta Conservation Plan planning process, will now sunset. The DCE represented a new way for DWR to partner with public water agencies in pursuit of the common goal of securing a more reliable water supply for California. This partnership was highly successful and resulted in the WaterFix program we pursue today.

Through the DCO and under Gary's management, the State of California will retain authority and oversight of WaterFix regulatory obligations, environmental mitigation and quality assurance. The DCO will oversee the work of a soon-to-be-formed Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Joint Powers Authority (DCA)---a public agency that will be charged with design and construction of the WaterFix facilities according to DWR's specifications.

As we implement our oversight duties, the DCO will be committed to transparency to the public and DWR. It will be our responsibility to build confidence in the WaterFix program, and our new partnership with the DCA, by providing helpful, timely and easily accessible information and reports.

Based on an extensive review of several other large infrastructure projects around the world, DWR recommends creating a partnership organization that is uniquely capable of staffing, designing, contracting, constructing and financing WaterFix. Through teamwork with the DCA we will implement a modern, innovative, efficient, and cost­ effective way to complete one of the largest infrastructure projects in the world in a manner that is in the best interests of both the State and the public water agencies funding the project.

The DCA will be staffed by individuals from DWR, public water agencies and consultants. Multiple opportunities for DWR staff to participate in this historic project have developed. Participation could be either in DWR's oversight role through the DCO or in the design and construction via the DCA. DWR believes that this partnership with the public water agencies is essential to safely designing and constructing WaterFix while prudently managing risk. We intend to build an organization that becomes an industry model for the safe delivery of large water infrastructure projects on time and budget.

This next phase will be new and challenging for WaterFix and DWR; however, ensuring a reliable water supply in the nation's most populous state is one of our mandates. WaterFix is about updating aging infrastructure that will protect water supplies from earthquakes, sea level rise and storms.  The project will provide a means to address long-term environmental issues in the Delta. WaterFix is absolutely essential to our ability to provide reliable water throughout the State, and to support local efforts to evolve alternative and new water supplies.

DWR has an impressive history of doing important work for the people of California and can take pride in its commitment to environmental sustainability, native species protection, and water supply reliability. WaterFix is an effective, prudent, and overdue infrastructure upgrade that is widely supported, and needed by the State.

I look forward to taking these exciting next steps with you.

Signed by Karla A. Nemeth

DWR Director