Letter: Coalition of environmental groups and others write Senators Feinstein and Boxer in opposition to proposed emergency drought legislation

letter mailboxA coalition of environmental organizations, environmental justice groups, fisheries groups and Native American tribes have written a letter to Senators Feinstein and Boxer, expressing their opposition to Feinstein’s emergency drought legislation, S 2198.  The letter says the legislation as written would only exacerbate the impacts on the environment and on salmon while failing to address the underlying cause of the water shortages.

The letter is supported by nearly forty organizations, including the Environmental Water Caucus, the Planning and Conservation League, AquAlliance, The Bay Institute, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Restore the Delta, among many others.

“Water shortages are caused by extraordinarily dry conditions, not environmental protections,” the letter points out, noting that these protections are already relaxed during dry years, with the biological opinions allowing some room for discretion.  They say the legislation isn’t needed as the agencies have already made and exceeded the operational decisions mandated by the provisions the legislation proposes.  However, if the legislation is enacted, those provisions would remain in place until the drought proclamation is lifted, which rarely is promptly, thereby dramatically lowering future environmental protections, the letter says.

The Bay-Delta environment is already in a precarious condition, with several species at significant risk of extinction. This condition is, in large part, the result of political interference in the previous Biological Opinions,” the letter states.  “We strongly object to congressional interference in the implementation of federal environmental requirements. Congress should encourage federal agencies to implement environmental protections based on the best-available science, rather than bind their hands.”

The letter urges the Senators to take a different path. They note the recent drought legislation passed by the State that is funding alternative supplies and addressing impacts to rural communities.  “This funding is directly addressing the cause and impacts of the drought,” they write.  “We urge you to pursue a similar package of federal appropriations.”

Read the letter here:  EnvironmentalCoalitionLetterFinal_5 16 14

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