Feinstein and Costa Urge Gov. Brown to Declare State Drought Emergency

Feinstein and Costa Urge Gov. Brown to Declare State Drought Emergency

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jim Costa (D-16) on Dec. 9 sent a joint letter to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to declare a statewide drought emergency that would activate the state’s emergency plan and permit some relaxation of state regulations concerning water.

The letter cited the recent announcement by officials with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) that they expect in 2014 to deliver the historically lowest initial allocation of water from the State Water Project – 5%. The letter references the initial allocation estimate as evidence that the state needs to take emergency action regarding water.

“While it is early in the 2014 water year and therefore projections on allocations are conservative,” the letter reads, “what is clear is that we have had two years of dry conditions that have depleted our reservoirs and depleted carryover storage to historically low levels not seen since 1977.

“Without this carryover storage, the flexibility built into the system to respond to hydrologic conditions and regulatory constraints is critically diminished, with severe impacts to many Californians. This is going to be a very challenging water year for California and a potentially catastrophic year for the Central Valley in particular,” the letter continues.

The letter cites the emergency drought declaration made by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009, which allowed state and federal officials to exercise additional authorities to address the ongoing drought conditions. Those authorities included activating the State Emergency Plan and “permitting relaxation and suspensions of some state statutes and regulations.”

Other activities implemented in 2009 as a result of the proclamation included promoting water conservation, implementing expedited water transfer procedures and providing status reports on the state’s water conditions.

“This declaration would send a strong signal that state and federal agencies must provide maximum discretion in decisions that could have an impact on water supplies,” the letter states.

Feinstein and Costa also stated in the letter that Brown and members of his administration have “shown great leadership in bringing parties together to solve the complex water challenges that have plagued California for decades.”

“From the efforts with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to the Statewide Water Action Plan, it is clear that you and your agencies understand the critical nature that secure and reliable water supplies bring to California,” the letter reads.

The letter also requests that the California Drought Contingency Plan be updated to include new options and technologies to address the drought and also that the State Water Action Plan have a “greater emphasis on this year’s needs.”

A copy of the letter is available here.

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2013-12-09 LTR.DF and Costa to Gov Brown re Drought Declaration.pdf1.64 MB