The Right Choice for the Bay-Delta Ecosystem and Water Supply Reliability

  • by Dave Eggerton
  • Dec 11, 2018
  • Voices on Water

Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov. Elect Gavin Newsom exhibited exceptional leadership Nov. 6 by engaging in the process for the update of the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan. They suggested time be provided to allow ongoing negotiations of voluntary agreements to progress as a path forward in resolving challenges within the Bay-Delta.

While the state and nation were understandably consumed by election news, a letter by Brown and Newsom urged the State Water Resources Control Board, which met the following day, to postpone taking up the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan Update until this week, on Dec. 12. As Brown and Newsom wrote in requesting an extension a “lasting and well-thought-out solution will benefit all Californians and our environment.” These voluntary agreements are currently under development between cities, farmers, water agencies, state agencies and environmental groups.

As the two leaders pointed out, these voluntary agreements could result in a faster, less contentious and more durable outcome that is preferable to a lengthy administrative process and the inevitable ensuing lawsuits.

The voluntary agreements would employ innovative strategies to improve the Delta ecosystem that show great potential. This work is, and has been, underway for many years and is delivering successful results measured in healthier fish populations. For example, seasonally recreating the historic floodplain through collaboration with growers demonstrates the benefit of measures such as habitat restoration. There are additional habitat restoration projects that can start in early 2019, building on the potential of habitat restoration projects already underway, such as the Department of Water Resources’ Dutch Slough Tidal Restoration Project – the largest current project of its kind in the Delta.

My understanding is that the negotiations are progressing.  We applaud Governor Brown and Lieutenant Governor Newsom for their engagement, which has encouraged the discussions to move forward. With water being needed for multiple uses such as the ecosystem, urban supply and agricultural irrigation, there is much at stake.  It is vital that negotiations toward voluntary agreements are successful and that the State Water Board accepts the resulting agreements. That outcome would go a long way toward meeting the coequal goal in state law of improving the Bay-Delta ecosystem and improving water supply reliability.

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