Decision on Bay-Delta Plan Update Postponed After Brown, Newsom Letter Urges Continuance

  • by Will Holbert
  • Nov 7, 2018
  • Water News

The State Water Resources Control Board today decided to postpone until Dec. 11 a vote on proposed amendments to the Bay-Delta Plan update for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta following a request in writing late Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov. Elect Gavin Newsom.

Brown and Elect Newsom urged State Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus to grant a short extension to allow progress on negotiations toward voluntary agreements.

“During this time, we pledge to actively and meaningfully engage to bring this vital matter to a successful closure,” the letter stated. “We agree that the need to improve our aquatic ecosystems is urgent. A lasting and well-thought-out solution will benefit all Californians and our environment.”

ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn applauded the letter and the decision to continue the vote.

“By requesting a postponement of the State Water Board’s decision, Gov. Brown and Gov. Elect Newsom recognize the hard work underway to arrive at a voluntary agreement on Bay-Delta flows,” Quinn said. “I wholeheartedly agree that voluntary agreements are far preferable to the alternative and ACWA strongly supports all parties agreeing to a path forward through collaboration. ACWA and other water suppliers throughout California have consistently urged the State to embrace comprehensive, integrated strategies for fishery management that we believe would be better for fisheries and water supply. Everyone involved wants an outcome that supports a healthy environment and a fully restored fishery.”

Also backing the letter’s call for a postponement, Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham testified before the State Water Board Wednesday morning. State Water Board Felicia Marcus expressed reluctance to postpone the decision, but said she wanted to give Brown and Newsom a chance to engage in the process through a short delay.

The revised version of the State Water Board’s draft released in July proposed 40 percent of unimpaired flows for February through June, with an allowed adaptive range between 30 to 50 percent for the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers through to the San Joaquin River. The proposed flow objectives are intended to increase the required flows left in rivers for the protection of fish and wildlife but would significantly reduce water available to water users in the Lower San Joaquin River Watershed.

In written comments to the State Water Board, ACWA suggested updating the plan to provide for specific timing and function of river flows to achieve scientifically-determined outcomes in consideration of multiple variables. Such variables include predation, food, and habitat availability, and to incorporate non-flow solutions that reconnect land and water to restore habitat and address the full life cycle of species needs. These “functional flows” and “non-flow measures” would contribute real benefits to ecosystem recovery while maintaining water supply reliability.

Voluntary agreements arrived at through collaboration between all stakeholders offer the best opportunity to successfully utilize an approach that uses all the tools available to water suppliers to achieve the coequal goals of ecosystem health and a reliable water supply. California’s agricultural and urban water managers are united in their vision for a future that includes a healthy economy as well as healthy ecosystems and fish populations.

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