Congressmen raise concerns about San Joaquin flow objectives and lack of integration among Delta planning processes; agency officials respond

open_letter_with_arrow_around_it_9212Concerns about the State Water Board’s proposed San Joaquin River flow objectives, the BDCP’s effect on upstream water rights, and a lack of coordination between the three major Delta planning processes underway prompted Congressmen Denham, Costa, LaMalfa, Garamendi, Nunes, McClintock, and Valadao to write a letter to Governor Jerry Brown last month.  This week, agency officials responded to the congressmen on behalf of the Governor, saying that although their agencies have different repsonsibilities and their processes address different issues, the three planning processes are being integrated.

In a letter dated March 21, 2013,  the congressman express their concerns to the Governor that the proposed San Joaquin River flow objectives are threatening to redirect water supplies away from San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced Counties without any recognizable benefit.  The congressmen write:

“To be clear, we believe if the Board continues on its current path to shift responsibility for meeting Bay-Delta water quality to senior water right holders of the Bay-Delta, we suspect increased objections to the BDCP from water users.  The reason is simple.  When you came to Colusa in the Central Valley, you stated: “There are certain water rights that are historic and anything we can do with this Delta facility has to incorporate those water rights as iron-clad legal, statutory, and maybe even constitutional guarantee to ensure that they gain and not lose.” (2/6/13) We believed you and our constituents believed you.  We will hold you to your word and believe and Delta solution must protect upstream senior water rights, and these senior water rights cannot be threatened in a separate process initiated by the Board.”

The congressman say that the BDCP, the Delta Stewardship Council and the State Water Board processes are not integrated and are acting at odds with each other, calling the lack of a coherent and unified policy direction ‘alarming and evident.’

In response, Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird, Delta Stewardship Council Chair Phil Isenberg, and State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus have written a letter in response to the congressmen’s concerns, saying that although the agencies have different responsibilities, the processes are indeed coordinated:

“Given the varying purposes, statutory mandates, and procedural requirements applicable to the three planning processes, complying with these requirements in a single proceeding or process is not feasible.  But despite the different purposes of these planning efforts, the processes are proceeding in an integrated manner …

To the extent possible, each agency is coordinating with the others to develop and share technical information that may be used by an agency in its individual efforts.  We must emphasize, however, each agency has an independent obligation to act under its own statues and in keeping with the purposes of its own planning efforts.”

Responding specifically to their concerns over the San Joaquin River flow objectives, the agency officials note that the discussion in the draft SED document for the proposal is a worst case analysis of potential fallowing that assumes projected reductions in irrigation deliveries will result in a proportional reduction in irrigated acreage.  “Experience indicates that this is improbable.  Improved irrigation efficiencies, water transfers, conjunctive use, and other responses to reduced supplies are likely to substantially reduce the extent of any impact.”

Moreover, the letter points out, the draft documents are only an initial analysis step; the State Water Board’s ultimate decision will be informed by the public comments and based on the law and science.

As to their concerns that the State Water Board’s process could threaten upstream senior water right holders:

“The program of implementation in the Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan will be developed consistent with California law, including state law protecting senior water rights and the needs of areas and watersheds of origin.”


  • Click here for the March 21, 2013 letter from Congressmen Denham, Costa, LaMalfa, Garamendi, Nunes, McClintock, and Valadao
  • Click here for the April 30, 2013 letter responding to the congressmen from Secretary Laird, Chair Felicia Marcus, and Chair Phil Isenberg.
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