State Water Board Approves Bay-Delta Plan, Encourages Further Collaboration

  • by Will Holbert
  • Dec 12, 2018
  • Water News

The State Water Resources Control Board today approved an amendment to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan update for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta that sets a range of unimpaired flows, while also embracing the potential for voluntary agreements.

“Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth and Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham delivered a powerful and persuasive framework that can achieve benefits that were clearly mapped out with a robust timeline,” said ACWA Executive Director Dave Eggerton. “The challenge before us now is how to preserve the spirit of collaboration between all parties in this voluntary agreement and work toward an outcome that meets the coequal goals in state law of improving the Bay-Delta ecosystem and water supply reliability and doesn’t end in the courts.”

State Water Board member Dorene D’Adamo cast the sole dissenting vote toward adopting the plan amendment.

The revised version of the State Water Board’s Bay-Delta Plan will now, when implemented through an initial phase, mandate 40% of unimpaired flows for February through June, with an allowed adaptive range between 30% to 50% for the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers through to the San Joaquin River. While increasing flows for the protection of the Delta ecosystem and salmon runs, the amendment will drastically reduce water available to water users in the Lower San Joaquin River Watershed. However, the State Water Board did demonstrate continued support for ongoing work toward a voluntary agreement on the Tuolumne River.

The proposed voluntary agreements as outlined by Nemeth and Bonham would direct water flows with habitat restoration and funding on seven Delta tributaries, except for the Stanislaus and Merced rivers. The 14 signatories are prepared to commit to an overall investment of $1.7 billion into habitat restoration and other measures to help struggling fisheries, as well as agree to dedicate 700,000 acre-feet for boosting river flows along with funding scientific research for further ecosystem improvements.

The cooperative agreement was drafted as framework for further work following a written request by Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom to the State Water Board to postpone a Nov. 7 decision and give ongoing negotiations on voluntary agreements an opportunity to succeed as a faster, less contentious and more durable outcome.

State Water Board Chairwoman Felecia Marcus said the vote should not preclude progress toward finalizing voluntary agreements and urged participants to continue their collaborative work.

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