Jill Duerig, Interim Executive Director of the California WaterFix JPA, will be leaving her position for retirement.

Duerig led Zone 7 Water Agency as its General manager for 10 years, retiring in the spring of 2018. Afterward, she signed a contract to become Interim Executive Director of the Delta Conveyance and Construction Authority, which uses the acronym DCA.

The DCA is a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between the State Water Contractors (SWC), an association of 29 water providers that buy water from the state, and the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Zone 7, one of the SWC members, distributes water to the Valley’s four water retailers.

The JPA was formed to enable the SWC to communicate its vision of the WaterFix to the DWR. It addresses the construction of the Twin Tunnels, and the “hardware” that is intended to carry water from Lake Oroville northwest of the Delta, and bring it in a bypass around the Delta, and down to a southern Delta Forebay, where it will be sent down an aqueduct to users, including Zone 7.

That Delta bypass is intended to enable the DWR to have less conflict at certain times of the year with spawning protected fish and with sensitive plant species. It will allow DWR to pump water more frequently than it can now, which would help water districts take more water and store it in their reservoirs and underground basins for dry times of the year.

In a sense, the JPA serves as an oversight committee to make sure that the project is delivered on time. A separate entity, the Delta Conveyance Finance Authority (DCFA), works on WaterFix finances.

Duerig said that she wanted to serve in the interim post only while the new JPA was establishing its structure. Now that DCA has hired Kathryn Mallon as its permanent Executive Director, Duerig is leaving. In order to help with Mallon’s transition, she will make herself available on a private contract basis, according to Zone 7 Water Agency Director Sarah Palmer. Palmer also serves as a director on the DCA board.

Current Zone 7 General Manager Valerie Pryor is a member of the DCFA board.

Participation by Palmer and Duerig in the DCA, and Pryor’s DCFA board membership reflect the importance of the WaterFix to Zone 7. The agency, which obtains 80% of its water from Lake Oroville north of the Delta, voted 5-2 in 2017 to support it, the first to do so.

The two board opponents did not state their objection to the project itself, but thought that a small agency like Zone 7 should wait to see how many of the larger agencies would get behind the project.

The board majority backed the WaterFix because Zone 7 will be using Lake Oroville water from north of the Delta for approximately one-half of its future needs, despite what other water supply sources might be developed.

The WaterFix has been controversial because the Twin Tunnels were included in the project by former Gov. Jerry Brown. He wanted to have a second tunnel to provide more capacity when needed, and as a spare during maintenance of the first tunnel or damage to it from an earthquake. However, Delta farmers and environmentalists said the tunnels would not allow enough fresh water to flow into the Delta to protect the habitat of threatened fish and plant species.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in his State of the State speech that he will drop one of the tunnels to save money. Brown estimated that the Twin Tunnels would cost $17 billion.

During the earlier years of the WaterFix, from 2006 to 2010, Zone 7 provided administrative help for the project, which then was called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). Zone 7 staff, including Duerig, participated in some of the early meetings. One staff member, Karla Nemeth, attended meetings, and later became Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointee to head the Department of Water Resources, a position she currently holds.

Mallon, the new DCA Executive Director, is a registered civil engineer, with 30 years of planning, design and construction experience, according to a news release from DCA.

Between 2014 and 2018, Mallon managed all aspects of the planing, design and construction of Bloomberg LP European headquarters in London, directing more than 140 construction and 40 professional service contracts.

As for specific water infrastructure projects, Mallon has supervised 500 employees in a 10-year, $14 billion water and wastewater capital construction program for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.