VOL . 40 • ISS . 13 July 9 , 2021
Coalition Opposes Temporary Urgency Changes for Central Valley Water Project and State Water Project
S acramento – As endangered winter-run Chinook salmon perished before spawning below Keswick Dam , a coalition of environmental , fishing , and social justice organizations on June 4 filed a formal protest with state and federal water officials against the proposed “ Temporary Urgency Change Petition ” ( TUCP ) submitted by the California Department of Water Resources ( DWR ) and United States Bureau of Reclamation ( Reclamation ). The TUCP requests the State Water Resources Control Board to waive water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary . In their letter to water officials , the coalition , including Little Manila , Restore the Delta and Save California Salmon , explains the legal case for ‘ injury ” that will result from the waiver . On May 17 , the State Water Board received the petition to modify permits and license conditions of the State Water Project ( SWP ) and the federal Central Valley Project ( CVP ) included in State Water Board Decision 1641 . “ The Petitioners request changes to outflow requirements for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and agricultural water quality requirements on the Sacramento River from June through August 15 . These changes are expected to conserve water supplies in upstream reservoirs for later in the year and allow the Petitioners greater operational flexibility in response to the second consecutive year of critically dry conditions ,” according to the Water Board . Specifically , the TUCP requests temporary changes to conditions imposed pursuant to State Water Board Revised Decision 1641 that requires the Petitioners to meet specified flow and Water quality objectives established in the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan ( Bay-Delta Plan ). Unless renewed , the changes sought by a TUCP may remain in effect for 180 days . The Petitioners are expected to submit an additional TUCP later this summer that will propose changes during the fall time period . The May 17 TUCP seeks modifications to D-1641 requirements that apply from June through August 15 that , if approved , will : ( 1 ) change the minimum Net Delta Outflow Index ( NDOI ) in June and July from a monthly average of 4,000 cubic-feet per second ( cfs ) to an average of 3,000 cfs with a 14-day running average in June and a monthly average in July ( 7-day running average in July of no less than 2,000 cfs );
( 2 ) limit the combined maximum export rate in June and July to no greater than 1,500 cfs when Delta outflow is below 4,000 cfs , and allow the 1,500 cfs limit to be exceeded when the Petitioners are meeting Delta outflow requirements pursuant to D-1641 or for moving transfer water ; and ( 3 ) change the Western Delta agricultural salinity requirement at Emmaton to a compliance location at
… the State Water Board should correct its history by denying the current petition and reserving what little water is left to deliver ecosystem benefits for already overburdened California communities .”
Threemile Slough on the Sacramento River from June through August 15 . According to the Petitioners , these changes would allow management of reservoir releases on a pattern that conserves upstream storage for fish and wildlife protection and Delta salinity control while providing critical water supply needs . In response , the coalition sent their letter of protest to agencies . The coalition takes issue with the Petitioner ’ s statement that “ the proposed change will not result in injury to any other legal users of water ,” noting that this “ assumes incorrectly that the only important ‘ legal users of water ’ are ones with propertied water rights .” “ The phrase ‘ beneficial users of water ’ also has basis in state and federal water quality control law , therefore they are also legal users of water ,” the letter states . ‘ Beneficial users may or may not possess water rights , and may be anglers , recreators , waders , scientists , artists , poets , locally drinking water- dependent , or any person drawn to waters of the Delta for any reason . Petitioners ’ assumption that the actions of the projects under the TUCP will not harm other legal users of water is narrow and fatuous .” The letter advised the Water Board to revise the TUCP so it will better serve the public interest . “ The State Water Board has statutory water rights and constitutional authority over what becomes of Petitioners ’ supplies that remain . In the service of reasonable protection of public trust resources , sacred and native fish species , and Delta communities from water-borne and aerosol toxins from harmful algal blooms , the State Water Board should revise the TUCP so that it better comports with the public interest , reasonable and beneficial use of water , the public trust , and environmental justice and civil rights policies during drought ,” the groups wrote . Representatives of the three groups in the coalition issued the following statements in response to the TUCP : Matt Holmes , Little Manila : “ The current TUCP submitted by CA DWR and US BOR is perfectly consistent with a long history of valuing the interests of propertied water rights over those of impacted communities like ours in South Stockton . Once again , we see that the regulatory agencies who are supposed to represent all of our interests clearly care more about the economic impacts to a minority of disproportionately influential stakeholders over the public health and quality of life impacts visited on low-income communities of color . If they ever hope to acknowledge their obligation to protect communities like ours , the State Water Board should correct its history by denying the current petition and reserving what little water is left to deliver ecosystem benefits for already overburdened California communities .” Tim Stroshane , policy analyst , Restore the Delta : “ DWR and the Bureau released nearly a half-million acre-feet of water to wealthy senior water right holders who grow rice for export early this spring , rather than hold enough water in their lakes to protect salmon and prevent harmful algal blooms in the Delta this summer . More gifts of water to almond growers await release this summer unless the State Water Board steps in to correct this injustice and prevent cultural genocide against Northern California Indian Tribes and a public health calamity in the Delta .” Tom Stokely , co-director , Save California Salmon : “ The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources are again asking to be rewarded by poor management of the state ’ s major reservoirs . They emptied them during the good years and are now asking to get let off the hook by waiving water quality standards and killing salmon . The State Water Board should deny the petition or order DWR and USBR to stop releasing so much water for agriculture to save it for people and fish for another dry year .” The poor water management by the Department of Water Resources and
By Dan Bacher
“ The State Water Board issued its order before receiving all public input , including from our coalition ,” said Tim Stroshane , policy analyst with Restore the Delta .
the Bureau of Reclamation that Matt Holmes , Tim Stroshane and Tom Stokely point out is backed up by my short analysis of water exports out of the Delta for the past decade . In 8 out of the past 10 years , the combined water exports from the state and federal water projects have exceeded the 3 million acre feet annual export figure that many believe to be the maximum amount of water that can be exported from the Delta without destroying the ecosystem and harming fish species . In fact , 2011 was the all-time record export year with 6.67 million acre feet of water diverted from the Delta , followed closely behind by the 6.46 million acre feet exported in 2017 . 2018 saw 4.62 million acre feet exported from the Delta , while 2019 saw 5.3 million acre feet exported and 2020 saw 3.65 million acre feet exported : https :// viewperformance . deltacouncil . ca . gov / pm / water-exports . Then on June 27 , a coalition of Delta-based groups sent a formal petition for Reconsideration to the State Water Board opposing the Board ’ s June 1 order to relax water quality standards for Delta operations of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project . The Temporary Urgency Change Order ( TUCO ) was issued by the Water Board on June 1 , 2021 , according to a press release from the groups . “ The State Water Board issued its order before receiving all public input , including from our coalition ,” said Tim Stroshane , policy analyst with Restore the Delta . RTD was joined in the reconsideration request by Little Manila Rising and Save California Salmon . “ We insist they reconsider their order to take account of deliveries they made to northern California senior water right holders instead of holding water back for young salmon and to protect against Delta harmful algal blooms this summer . The only thing they seemed to feel was urgent was making sure rice and almond growers got their irrigation water this spring and summer .” The coalition ’ s petition reveals that 4.5 million acre-feet of water will be delivered to state and federal water contractors ( including about 10 percent for Central Valley wildlife refuges ), based on Water Board information . The Board ’ s action will only add another 3 percent in water savings to put toward protecting salmon and the Delta , “ a miserly allocation ,” said the petition for reconsideration .