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Public Responses


Increasing Flows

Jul 11, 2018

From the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA):

Timothy Quinn, executive director of the statewide Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), issued the following statement today in response to the State Water Resources Control Board’s release of draft final documents for the Bay-Delta Plan for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta, as well as a framework document for the Sacramento River and Delta. The documents were released Friday.

“ACWA recognizes that the State Water Board is wrestling with an enormously difficult problem that has bedeviled California resource managers for decades. ACWA and several water suppliers from throughout California previously urged the State to move in a new direction, embracing comprehensive, integrated strategies for fishery management that we believe would be better for fisheries and water supply. However, the substance of the latest draft is the same as the original proposal that raised so much controversy. If we don’t find a way to better implement the state’s core value of advancing both the environment and water supply, California will be missing a critically important opportunity.”

The revised version of the State Water Board’s draft continues to propose 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, ACWA had 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 so-called “functional flows” and “non-flow measures” would contribute real benefits to ecosystem recovery while maintaining water supply reliability.

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.  The State Water Board’s approach fails to ensure adequate habitat and other important functions critical to species survival. Instead, it will lead to widespread fallowing of vital agriculture land, affect drinking water supplies and hydro power generation, undercut groundwater sustainability goals  and make more difficult the implementation of other priority water issues in the Brown Administration’s California Water Action Plan.

From the Golden Gate Salmon Association:

Water Board Announcement Leaves Little Surplus Water for Tunnels, New Reservoirs: Calls for more water to rebuild salmon runs and fishing jobs

On July 6 the State Water Resources Control Board announced water diversions from Central Valley rivers will need to be reduced in order to save the Bay-Delta from ecological collapse.  This announcement has sobering consequences for future large water diversion projects.  Among these, the twin Delta tunnels and any expensive above ground reservoir projects that would rely on new diversions.

The water board announced it will seek about 55 percent of unimpaired flows from the Sacramento Valley.  This requires a significant reduction in diversions that is expected to provide around two million acre feet of additional flow through the Delta and Bay each year.  Steep declines in salmon populations in recent years are a stark reminder that diversions have gotten beyond what nature can sustain. Recent outbreaks of toxic blue green algae in the Delta are another sure sign that over-diversion of the rivers has left the Delta little more than a stagnant cesspool in some years.

The water board’s announcement is certain to reduce the amount of water that the Delta twin tunnels could legally divert. While the cost to build the tunnels remains the same, the volume of water available for delivery will decline. Clearly, this announcement demonstrates that the current proposal is economically infeasible and that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) should reevaluate the project.

“The fantasy that a $17 billion dollar investment in the tunnels would lead to more water diversions died with the July 6 water board announcement”, said GGSA director Mike Aughney. “From a business perspective, the twin tunnels project is a dog.”

“GGSA has always held that the state Dept. of Water Resources and MWD should wait until the State Board adopted new flow requirements before finalizing the tunnels project,” said GGSA president, John McManus. “The State Board announcement shows why that is still the right path forward..”

In addition, those hoping to divert more Sacramento River water upstream into new, expensive reservoirs, like the Sites proposal, are now facing far more constraints on when they can divert. Although the water board’s announcement is not yet a legal limit on diversions, it’s a strong signal to water users to plan for a future where the rivers will carry more natural flow.

“The science is clear.  Baby salmon don’t survive to the ocean without river water to carry them there,” said GGSA director David Zeff.  “Salmon fishing communities don’t survive either which why we’re glad to see the state board’s announcement pointing to a new, more responsible direction.”

The Golden Gate Salmon Association (www.goldengatesalmonassociation.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fisherman, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GGSA’s mission is to protect and restore California’s largest salmon producing habitat comprised of the Central Valley river’s that feed the Bay-Delta ecosystem and the communities that rely on salmon as a long-term, sustainable, commercial, recreational and cultural resource.

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in annual economic activity and $700 million in economic activity and jobs Oregon in a normal season. The industry employs tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This is a huge economic bloc made up of commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, tackle shops and marine stores, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and the salmon fishing industry at large.