As state slashes budget, director for proposed Delta tunnel earns twice as much as the governor

By: Scott Thomas AndersonSacramento News & Review • June 24, 2020,

Some water contractors, expected to reimburse the state for tunnel project, now object in light of the recession

While the COVID-19 pandemic has blown a $54 billion hole in California’s budget—threatening education and safety programs and forcing 234,000 state employees to take unpaid furloughs—the state’s spending on a proposed massive tunnel project in the Delta hasn’t slowed.

Documents obtained by SN&R reveal that the director of the joint powers authority leading that effort, under the supervision and current financing of the state Department of Water Resources, is getting paid $47,000 every month—twice as much as Gov. Gavin Newsom and significantly more than President Trump.

DWR says that the money to pay Kathryn Mallon, executive director of the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority, will eventually be reimbursed by water contractors in Central and Southern California.

But will it? As of this month, at least four of those contractors made it clear that they don’t want to foot the bill for Mallon’s agency during the pandemic. 

Mallon was hired to run the authority in February 2019. Its task is to transform the controversial and now-defunct twin tunnels project into a viable single tunnel that can transfer the Delta’s bounty of fresh water to agribusinesses and municipalities in the south.

Critics, however, say that the tunnel will harm the Delta’s ecosystem, destroy its farming communities and lead to widespread eminent domain seizures.

Documents show that Mallon and the authority’s staff are trying to finish most of the tunnel’s design by August so its required environmental review can get underway.