News Worth Noting: State Water Board issues ruling on multiple issues related to California Water Fix proceedings; State Decision to Dump Salmon Opposed by Salmon Fishermen; $16 million in ag efficiency grants from the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP)

State Water Board issues ruling on multiple issues related to California Water Fix proceedings

By: Maven

The State Water Resources Control Board issued a ruling yesterday addressing numerous issues, but perhaps most notably, the motion to disqualify Board members Felicia Marcus and Tam Doduc from the proceedings, Metropolitan's request regarding participation in the upcoming hearing, and a separate request for another 60-day continuance.  Here are some of the interesting parts from the 11 page ruling:

On the motion to disqualify hearing officers …

On March 21, 2016, the San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Agency (SLDMWA) submitted a Motion for Disqualification of Hearing Officers Felicia Marcus and Tam Doduc, contending that they be recused because they had demonstrated bias by predetermining an issue concerning the “appropriate Delta flow criteria”.  The San Joaquin Tributaries Authority (SJTA) submitted a letter dated March 29, 2016, supporting SLDMWA’s motion, and also suggesting that Ms. Marcus be recused because ‘her prior tenure as Western Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) could create an appearance of bias and lack of impartiality.'

In its response, the State Water Board letter says both allegations lack merit.  In response to the charge of bias on flow criteria, they respond: “Our statement that the “appropriate Delta flow criteria” would be more stringent than petitioners’ existing obligations was made in a preliminary ruling on requests to delay this proceeding. The statement was intended to illuminate the distinction between “appropriate Delta flow criteria” and water quality objectives because that distinction is relevant to the timing issue. As we have since clarified, and contrary to SLDMWA’s assertion, we have not in fact made a final determination with respect to the stringency of the Delta flow criteria.”

The State Water Board also asserts that Board member Felicia Marcus's prior tenure at NRDC is not grounds for disqualification.  ” … a subjective appearance of bias is not grounds for disqualification. In addition, the circumstances do not prove actual bias or create an unacceptable risk of bias. It is not reasonable to infer that she is biased in favor of NRDC or is incapable of evaluating the hearing issues impartially because of her past affiliation with NRDC.”  Instead, they note that her varied experience including her time at the Delta Stewardship Council is “evidence of her substantial qualifications to serve as Chair of the State Water Board and Hearing Officer in this proceeding, not evidence of bias.”

Metropolitan Water District denied participation …

On March 8, 2016, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) filed a request to amend its Notice of Intent (NOI), seeking for the first time to participate as a party in the hearing. Their original notice of intent had stated that they intended to present policy statements only; but with the recent decisions on the scope of part 1 as well as the changing deadlines, they argued they could be significantly impacted by the outcome of the proceeding and were therefore looking to amend their notice of intent.

The State Water Board denied their request, saying they had not provided adequate justification for their failure to submit an NOI by the original deadline.  “Our decision to modify the scope of Part 1 to include impacts to human uses does not justify MWD’s failure to seek to participate as a party by the original deadline to submit an NOI because the scope of the hearing as a whole has not changed. As to “changing deadlines,” we are not persuaded by the argument that granting petitioners’ requests to delay the hearing, or the decision to change any other deadlines, has any bearing on MWD’s decision to seek to change its status as a hearing participant at this late date.”

Motion for continuance, multiple motions for dismissal …

The State Water Board has once again granted a 60-day continuance of the proceedings at the request of the Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation, but say it's unlikely to happen again:  “We are cognizant of the inconvenience to the parties and other hearing participants that will be caused by rescheduling the WaterFix petition hearing. However, we have concluded that this inconvenience is outweighed by the potential benefit to the parties if protests are resolved and the amount of time and financial resources needed to participate in the hearing is reduced as a result. That being said, we are unlikely to grant further requests for delay by the petitioners.”

In regards to the multiple motions for dismissal, and the request to hold a second pre-hearing conference, those have all been denied.  The hearing is now scheduled to begin on July 26.

 

Read the full ruling here:  20160425_cwf_ruling

State Decision to Dump Salmon Opposed by Salmon Fishermen

Reversal of highly successful trucking program means fewer salmon will survive

From the Golden Gate Salmon Association:

GGSA LogoThe California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is abandoning a highly successful program that greatly increases salmon survival and is instead dumping valuable Feather River hatchery baby fall run salmon into a predator laden waterway starting Monday, April 25.  Most will die. The Golden Gate Salmon Association opposes the move and calls on CDFW to instead restore transport of these baby salmon via tanker trucks to safe release sites downstream of the danger zone.  Releasing baby salmon at safe sites in the western Delta and Bay greatly increases their survival and has kept the ocean fishery for both sport and commercial fishermen alive.  This practice has proven especially critical during the drought.  Without it, there almost certainly would not have been enough salmon to continue fishing.

In 2015, Feather River hatchery fish made up 76 percent of the hatchery fish taken by commercial salmon fishermen and 63 percent of those taken by sport fishermen.

“Just last month at a salmon information meeting CDFW presented evidence that trucked Feather River fish were the major contributor to salmon caught by sport and commercial fishermen in the 2015 ocean fishing season,” said GGSA chairman Roger Thomas.  Thomas is also president of the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association which represents charter boat owners and he holds a seat on the Salmon Stamp Committee.  “We can’t understand why they now want to take these fish away from us when we need them badly to stay in business.”

CDFW is reversing its proactive trucking practice because of theoretical concerns related to hatchery born salmon degrading the genetic purity of Central Valley fall run salmon and concern that trucked fish will lack the knowledge to keep them from straying into neighboring streams when they return from the ocean in two years.

Salmon fishermen puzzle over the stated attempt to establish a genetic distinction between Central Valley fall run salmon bred in hatcheries and other Central Valley fall run salmon that largely share identical genetics.  Hatcheries have functioned in the Central Valley for over 100 years and in that time hatchery born salmon have returned as adults and recolonized virtually every Central Valley stream and river that will still support salmon.

“Study after study demonstrates there’s no such thing as a master race of Central Valley fall run salmon.  All Central Valley fall run salmon show interbreeding with hatchery stocks going back over 100 years,” said GGSA board member Dick Pool.

Read the full statement by the Golden Gate Salmon Association here:  GGSA Press Release April 25

California Department of Food and Ag announces 129 projects totaling $16 million in grants from the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP)

From the California Department of Food and Ag:

cdfa_logo_v_300The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has selected 129 projects totaling $16 million for the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). SWEEP projects will result in on-farm greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and water savings.

“With more than 100 grants covering thousands of acres of California farmland, these projects represent real-world gains in water use efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This program provides an important incentive for our farmers and ranchers to accelerate the adoption of scientifically proven technologies and practices that make our state’s agricultural community more sustainable.”

The 2016 SWEEP funding arises from Budget Act of 2015, SB 101, (Chapter 321, Statues of 2015), which authorizes CDFA to “support greenhouse gas emission reductions through water and energy efficiency grants promoting water and energy savings.” SWEEP is funded through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund referred to as the “California Climate Investment” program. The program’s objective is to provide financial incentives for California agricultural operations to invest in irrigation systems and practices that reduce GHG emissions and save water.

The 129 selected projects will leverage an additional $9.7 million in private cost-share dollars. The funding will support GHG emission reductions through projects that include irrigation water-efficiency modifications like drip and microsprinkler systems, energy-efficient water pumps, soil moisture sensors and irrigation scheduling programs that apply water based on crop needs. Applications undergo a quantitative scientific and technical review for greenhouse gas reductions and water savings by academic experts with the University of California and California State University systems.

The program is implemented under the CDFA Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation and the Office of Grant Administration. Authority for such incentive programs comes through the Environmental Farming Act of 1995. The Act mandates that the Department establish and oversee an Environmental Farming Program to provide incentives to farmers whose practices promote the well-being of ecosystem and air quality.

More information on the SWEEP program can be found by visiting www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/sweep.

 

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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