More Water Agencies Join Agreement to Improve the Health of Rivers and Landscapes

  • by ACWA Staff
  • Nov 14, 2022
  • Water News

Water agencies that rely on the Tuolumne River watershed are the most recent signatories to an agreement to provide water flows and new habitat to help improve conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta watershed, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) announced Nov. 10.

The three Tuolumne River signatories – San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), Turlock Irrigation District (TID) and Modesto Irrigation District (MID) – signed onto a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, agreement last week. They join dozens of local agencies that have signed the MOU, which stems from years-long negotiations surrounding Voluntary Agreements, or VAs, strongly supported by ACWA.

The broader MOU outlines terms for an eight-year program that would provide substantial new flows for the environment to help recover salmon and other native fish.

“We’ve always been willing to do our part to further protect natural habitats, including in times of drought. Now we have a framework agreement that strikes the right balance. It safeguards the water supply for 2.7 million Bay Area residents and businesses while continuing the SFPUC’s track record of strong environmental stewardship,” SFPUC General Manager Dennis Herrera stated in a CNRA news release. “This agreement provides a framework for improving environmental conditions on the lower Tuolumne River and beyond to benefit native fish species. It includes more water for the river and $64 million in habitat improvement projects over eight years. It also provides a path forward to address outstanding legal issues with the State. We’re looking forward to implementing it with our partners.”

Signing the MOU allows the Tuolumne River parties to participate in small workgroups with other water agencies and state agencies charged with working out the voluntary agreement implementation details, including both flow and non-flow measures, according to a joint MID and TID news release. The agencies will review the Tuolumne River term sheet in upcoming Board meetings. Any final voluntary agreement will be presented to and approved by the districts’ boards of directors, according to the release.

“We are pleased that our multi-year effort to find a path forward based on sound-science is taking a significant step forward today,” TID General Manager Michelle Reimers stated in the CNRA news release. “Although not the final step in VA process, signing the MOU acknowledges that parties have come to an agreement on the major items including flow and non-flow measures, with some technical details to be finalized. We are looking forward to collaborating with the state and other water agencies to finalize an agreement that will provide water supply reliability to our community while enhancing the ecosystem.”

MID General Manager Ed Franciosa was also quoted in the CNRA news release.

“We have invested heavily in studying and truly understanding the Tuolumne River, the species and industries that depend on it and developing a realistic and sustainable voluntary agreement,” he said. “By signing the MOU, we seek to balance water supplies for the benefit and continued success of our urban and ag communities and our environment, while striving to break the paradigm of management through regulation and litigation.”

Contra Costa Water District signed onto the agreement in September, as did the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors earlier this year.

“Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) supplies Delta water to residents and businesses in Contra Costa County and we closely manage our operations to ensure reliability and protect water quality,” CCWD Board President Ernesto A. Avila said. “The status quo in the Delta is unsustainable and we are committed to working with the state to expedite the current efforts to improve the health of the Bay-Delta and protect the communities we serve.”

 

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