Borgeas Criticizes Latest Water Diversion By Regulators
Sacramento, CA — Water control and supply-related politics are percolating again.
On Thursday, Mother Lode lawmaker Senator Andreas Borgeas criticized the latest move under Governor Gavin Newsom’s Administration by Department of Water Resources (DWR) regulators to divert water away the State Water Project (SWP) for species protection.
It involves DWR’s obtainment on Tuesday of an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) from the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) that will govern water delivery within the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta “to minimize, avoid and fully mitigate impacts to threatened or endangered species as a result of SWP operations.”
The permit specifically covers four species covered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA): Delta smelt, longfin smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon and spring-run Chinook salmon.
In past years, DWR used a consistency determination from DFW based on federal biological opinions issued by federal regulators. However, in 2018, as federal agencies were working to update those documents, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum to greatly accelerate their completion.
Subsequently, the state agencies announced last February they would for the first time pursue a separate state permit to ensure SWP’s compliance with CESA. By pursuing a separate permit, the agencies would be able to avoid relying on federal permits. They also reasoned that they could establish protection rules using transparent, science-based guidelines.
Fish Vs. Food Security?
DWR Director Karla A. Nemeth and CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham explained the move as an enabling balance for water operations to support communities while protecting fish and wildlife, including by dedicating water for Delta outflows during critical drier periods.
Borgeas calls the action part of an emerging inconsistency in state priorities, especially during the current COVID-19 emergency. “It’s difficult to imagine how we can simultaneously decrease water allocations, in the midst of a pandemic, when food supply and security are among our paramount concerns, he states.
“Farmers and workers are stepping up to meet the high food demands across our state and nation. We cannot expect food producers, particularly in the Central Valley, to keep growing our nation’s food without the necessary water resources. We should be increasing water allocations, not taking water away from those who need it.”
State Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove also voiced sharply critical concerns. “I have worked alongside the Governor throughout the COVID-19 crisis to support efforts to mitigate the effects of this pandemic. However, I will not stand idly by while his actions put America’s food security in jeopardy. The Governor has disregarded our food producers, workers and families by proposing to restrict water flows to a region which supplies one of America’s most essential needs – food.”
The Water Board, which among other activities, will be reviewing current water supplies at its meeting next Tuesday, postponed another likely hot topic: proposing a draft resolution permanently requiring water and utility districts to submit monthly conservation and production reports as they did during the most recent extended drought.
Part of the rationale as stated in an overview of a previous agenda is due to the many variables and uncertainties related to water supplies. According to the board’s revised agenda, the matter has been moved to the board’s April 21 meeting agenda.