ACWA and Others Request Federal Regulatory Flexibility for Oroville Dam Repairs

In a March 1 letter to newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, ACWA and 20 other California water groups requested federal regulatory flexibility for state and local agencies as they work to repair Oroville Dam.

The letter highlights the need to move expeditiously to repair the spillways so flood risk may be lessened. The letter to Ross is in response to a Feb. 24 letter from officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In that letter, NMFS asks the FERC to enforce 12 recommendations intended to protect endangered fish species as the repairs to the dam proceed. One recommendation asks that flows from the dam be reduced as slowly as possible to protect fish.

In the letter to Ross, to which ACWA is one of 21 signatories, the California water districts assert that the NMFS recommendations would impose “unworkable, costly and unsafe fishery demands before the needs of the people of Butte, Yuba, and Sutter counties.”

“At a time when cooperation and flexibility are needed to accomplish a variety of economic, safety, infrastructure and biological needs, NMFS has chosen to throw up roadblocks instead,” the letter reads. “We respectfully ask for your assistance in ensuring that the federal agencies work collaboratively with the state and the water agencies to ensure proper management of our natural resources.”

The letter also asks that Ross “follow Governor Brown’s lead in suspending the application of CEQA to repair work at Oroville Dam by exempting from the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act all repair work at the dam, the spillways, and other facilities damaged during the February 2017 storm events, for the duration of this work.”