REACTIONS: Governor Brown, water agencies, and organizations react to the release of the California WaterFix final environmental documents

Today, the California Natural Resources Agency posted the final EIR/EIS for the California Water Fix project.  Here are reactions, starting with the official press release from the Natural Resources Agency, Governor Brown’s statement, and then organizations and interest groups listed in alphabetical order.  (I will continue to add to this post if anymore statements come in.)

From the California Natural Resources Agency:

Following hundreds of public meetings and thousands of public comments, California today released the final, refined environmental documents for WaterFix, an essential effort to modernize the State’s water infrastructure.

“WaterFix will secure water supplies for 25 million Californians and prepare for a future marked by rising seas, seismic threats and more extreme weather,” said Mark Cowin, Director of the California Department of Water Resources. “After years of scientific study and analysis, we have found the best solution for protecting both the Delta’s ecosystem and a vital water supply for California.”

The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) describe environmental impacts that could arise from modernizing California’s infrastructure and includes measures to avoid or minimize those impacts. The document analyzed 18 project alternatives, including the status quo, and ultimately concluded that WaterFix, known as Alternative 4A, was the best option for both increasing water supply reliability and addressing current Delta ecosystem concerns while minimizing environmental impact. WaterFix was chosen because of its ability to provide a reliable source of clean water while minimizing unnatural flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that harm native fish and habitat. More than 100 alternatives were also considered in the development of the WaterFix EIR/EIS and screened out for lack of feasibility or public benefit.

WaterFix is the State’s plan to upgrade infrastructure in the estuary where two major rivers – the Sacramento and San Joaquin – meet before flowing to San Francisco Bay. The Delta provides critical habitat for wildlife, including several endangered or threatened species of native fish. The State’s two biggest water projects, the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, deliver water that passes through the Delta. Together, the two projects deliver water to 25 million people across California. Water project operations in the south Delta are increasingly curtailed to protect listed fish species. WaterFix aims to reduce that conflict so that water supplies are stabilized and harmful reverse flows are reduced. The project consists of three new intakes in the northern Delta and two 35-mile-long tunnels to transport water to the existing pumping plants in the south Delta. New intakes and tunnels would also help guard water supplies against saltwater intrusion as sea levels rise and in the event of an earthquake or storm powerful enough to destroy levees in the low-lying Delta.

The product of 10 years of study, analysis, and public input, California WaterFix is a key element of the Brown Administration’s five-year plan to build more reliable, resilient water systems and to restore important ecosystems. The basic elements of WaterFix were chosen in order to satisfy the 2009 Delta Reform Act, which established the co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem. The 2009 law directed State agencies to analyze a reasonable range of Delta conveyance alternatives, including various routes and carrying capacities.

Now that the EIR/EIS is completed, Biological Opinions are expected to be finalized in early 2017, clearing the way for final environmental clearances, completion of other necessary agreements, and construction beginning as soon as 2018.

Today’s final EIR/EIS was refined after more than 300 days of public review and 600 public meetings throughout the State about the draft versions. It includes responses to and revisions based on more than 30,000 public comments. The final environmental documents are available at http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/FinalEIREIS.aspx

From Governor Jerry Brown:

“Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued the following statement regarding today’s release of final environmental documents for WaterFix, California’s effort to modernize the state’s water infrastructure:

“This project has been subjected to 10 years of detailed analysis and more environmental review than any other project in the history of the world. It is absolutely essential if California is to maintain a reliable water supply.”

From the Association of California Water Agencies:

Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Executive Director Timothy Quinn issued the following statement today regarding the release of final environmental documents for the California WaterFix project.

“The release of these documents is another positive step toward a long-term solution to improve water conveyance infrastructure in the Delta. They reflect refinements made after extensive public and scientific input to help develop a viable project that can address both water supply and ecosystem problems and improve the overall resiliency of our state’s water supply system.

“ACWA supports a long-term Delta solution as a key element of the comprehensive strategy outlined in Governor Brown’s California Water Action Plan. All elements of that plan – including investments in surface and groundwater storage, sustainable groundwater management, ongoing improvements in water-use efficiency and development of a more effective water market – must move ahead to create a more resilient water system that can meet today’s challenges and those on the horizon.

“We are glad to see this milestone for the WaterFix and encourage all interested parties – including our federal partners – to remain engaged and work together to implement long-term solutions for the Delta.”

From the Building Industry Association of Southern California:

Responses from organizations representing thousands of business and labor groups, water agencies, family farmers, environmentalists, and others came today after the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the Governor’s California WaterFix which was sent out by the Department of Water Resources (DWR).

The groups voiced their strong support for moving this project forward as quickly as possible and said that updating California’s aging water infrastructure through WaterFix is critical to protecting water security for two-thirds of Californians.

The CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California, Inc. (BIASC), Mike Balsamo, was one of the many to respond to today’s release of the final environmental impact report.

“California WaterFix is a long-term solution to our state’s water infrastructure problems, and we’re encouraged by today’s milestone. California’s homes, businesses and statewide economy depend on a safe, reliable water supply,” said Mike Balsalmo.  “We can and should do more to protect those water supplies by advancing this important project.”

According to DWR, the final EIR is released after more than 300 days of public review and 600 public meetings throughout the State considering the draft versions. It includes responses and revisions based on more than 30,000 public comments. The documents released today include review of 18 project alternatives, including the status quo, concluding that the WaterFix is the only viable plan to protect our state’s water supply and the environment.

DWR also reported considering hundreds of alternatives in the development of the WaterFix that were screened out due to lack of feasibility or public benefit. The WaterFix was chosen in order to satisfy the 2009 Delta Reform Act, which established the co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.

From the Californians for Water Security:

With today’s release of the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the Governor’s California WaterFix by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), organizations representing thousands of business and labor groups, water agencies, family farmers, environmentalists and others voiced their strong support for moving this project forward as quickly as possible. These groups say that updating California’s aging water infrastructure through WaterFix is critical to protecting water security for two-thirds of Californians.

“Combined with the Governor’s Eco Restore program, the Delta pipelines will do a tremendous job of both protecting California’s water supply system against climate change and sea level rise, and restoring the Delta ecosystem.  The pipelines can help correct problems caused by too much water flowing in an unnatural direction across the Delta, and Eco Restore will provide necessary habitat restoration, reviving threatened California salmon and other species,” said Dr. Gerald Meral, California Water Director, Natural Heritage Institute. 

“Like two-thirds of our state, our region is highly-dependent upon this infrastructure to protect our quality of life and our local economy,” said Scott Quady, Board President, Calleguas MWD.  “We’re glad to see the plan moving forward to protect water supplies for 25 million people, millions of businesses and hundreds of thousands of acres of productive farm land throughout California.”

According to DWR, the final EIR is released after more than 300 days of public review and 600 public meetings throughout the State considering the draft versions. It includes responses and revisions based on more than 40,000 public comments. The documents released today include review of 18 project alternatives, including the status quo, concluding that the WaterFix is the only viable plan to protect our state’s water supply and the environment.

DWR also reported considering hundreds of alternatives in the development of the WaterFix that were screened out due to lack of feasibility or public benefit.  The WaterFix was chosen in order to satisfy the 2009 Delta Reform Act, which established the co-equal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.

Businesses and labor groups across California say this project needs to move forward as quickly as possible.

Robbie Hunter, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, representing 400,000 workers across the state: “Protecting our water supplies requires real solutions and timely action. The California WaterFix is the only viable long-term solution to secure our state’s water supplies for generations to come.”

Allan Zaremberg, California Chamber of Commerce: “The release of the final environmental documents represents a major milestone forward and the culmination of nearly 10 years of analysis and improvement. This is the right plan for California. It’s time to move forward.”

Roger Isom, California Cotton Growers Association: “The association represents all of the cotton growers in California, and our members produce 100% of California’s total annual production.  The California WaterFix will improve our outdated infrastructure and secure precious water supplies so that farmers can continue to provide this vital commodity while preserving thousands of jobs.”

Gary Toebben, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce: “The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, representing the interests of more than 235,000 businesses in L.A. County, supports the California WaterFix because the success of our Los Angeles economy will be determined by our water security and reliability in the years to come. This plan is vital to protect our region’s water supplies.”

Kris Rosa, Silicon Valley Leadership Group: “The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, representing more than 400 of the Silicon Valley’s most respected employers, supports the California WaterFix because the water provided to our region and the state through this system is vital to our economy. Santa Clara County receives much of our clean drinking water from this source, and we must work to ensure the safety of this vital water supply.”

Michael Quigley, CA Alliance for Jobs: “We represent more than 2,000 heavy construction companies and 80,000 union construction workers from Kern County to the Oregon border and strongly support the California WaterFix. This project will protect and create nearly one million jobs across California.”

Julian Canete, CalAsian Pacific Chamber of Commerce: “CalAsian Chamber represents the interest of the over 600,000 API-owned businesses in California, which generate over $200 billion in annual revenue and employ more than 1 million Californians. Our organization supports the California WaterFix because this project will protect our clean water supplies from salt water contamination and improve the Delta ecosystem by bringing back more natural flows to protect fish and wildlife.”

David Grau, Ventura County Taxpayers Association: “We believe the CA WaterFix best serves taxpayers’ interests by securing reliable water supplies at an affordable rate. Currently, 75% of Ventura County’s population relies heavily on our state’s antiquated water distribution system, and this percentage could actually increase to virtually 100% as adjacent communities struggling with extreme drought conditions, including the cities of Ventura and Ojai, may take their state water allocations for the first time in history. The 25 million California residents reliant on this unfinished, mid-20th century system deserve better and as a state we can and must do better to stabilize this critical water supply!”

Joseph Cruz, California State Council of Laborers:  “Representing 65,000 union members working in the heavy construction industry across the state, the California State Council of Laborers is proud to support the California WaterFix and its goal of helping meet California’s long-term water supply needs.  By moving our water underground and using gravity instead of depending on dirt levees, WaterFix will be a more reliable system that can protect water supplies from major earthquakes, floods and climate change.”

Bryan Starr, Orange County Business Council: “The Orange County Business Council, representing 300 of the state’s largest employers, and more than 250,000 employees across Southern California supports the California WaterFix because it is vital to our economy to protect this essential water source.  Water reliability is absolutely paramount to the sustainability of California’s economy.  Any period of time, if ever brief, of water delivery system failure will have catastrophic impacts on California’s economy.  The CA WaterFix is absolutely necessary to prevent system failure!”

From the Kern County Water Agency:

Note: This press release refers to the increased State Water Project allocation, and not really the release of the tunnels, although they reiterate support for the WaterFix project.  If they release another statement addressing that, I will add it underneath this one. -Maven

Today, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that the State Water Project (SWP) water allocation increased from 20 to 45 percent of contracted amounts.  The initial allocation (20 percent) was boosted in less than a month due to December storms increasing reservoir levels.  This means about 450,000 acre-feet (af) of SWP water will be available to Kern County in 2017—compared to the contracted amount of about 1,000,000 af.

“We are extremely appreciative of the California Department of Water Resources’ diligence in analyzing updated hydrologic conditions and increasing the SWP allocation to 45 percent,” said Kern County Water Agency (Agency) Board of Directors President Ted Page.  “Last year, the allocation didn’t reach 45 percent until March, so we are hopeful this year’s upward trend will continue.”

While California is on track for a wet year, multiple wet years are desperately needed to replenish the state’s groundwater and reservoir storage.  Unfortunately, even in wet years, it is extremely unlikely to reach a 100 percent allocation, due to restrictions on the SWP imposed by the federal government.  Furthermore, the Agency and its participant local water districts are contractually obligated to make the full payment for their SWP allocation, whether they receive the water or not.

“It’s like paying the full mortgage on your house but having the bank say you can only use some of the rooms.  What California desperately needs is a comprehensive solution to the state’s longstanding water crisis, which could come from the California WaterFix efforts,” added Page.

The Agency is part of a diverse coalition of California water agencies that have invested more than $240 million to develop California WaterFix—a prudent, realistic, science-driven and achievable approach to fixing California’s aging water delivery system, protecting its economy and ensuring related public safety.

This approach includes a tremendous amount of public review and comment.  It covers five main areas: water security, climate change adaptation, environmental protection, seismic safety, and affordability.

From the Los Angeles County Business Federation:

Statement by Founding CEO Tracy Hernandez:

“Whether we are building shelter for the homeless, running restaurants, repairing broken bones, or designing satellites and driverless cars, So Cal businesses need water to function and thrive. Today our water supplies are at risk, but we are one step closer to a more reliable water future with California WaterFix. We urge regional, state and federal leaders to advance this critical project and protect the businesses and workers who grow our economy, provide jobs and support local communities.

From the Metropolitan Water District:

Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement on today’s release of the final environmental impact report/statement for the ongoing California WaterFix process.

“This historic milestone completes the process of identifying the preferred project to modernize the state water system, reduce environmental conflicts and increase water supply reliability for California. After more than 10 years of planning, analysis and debate, the time for decisions is finally in sight. The pending transmittal of draft biological opinions to the state Independent Science Board will start the review process to produce state and federal permits detailing how California WaterFix will operate in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

“We need a future water system that can capture sufficient supplies when storms reach Northern California. This critical mission cannot be performed by anything smaller than what is proposed. This final proposal reflects a project downsizing of 40 percent from what public water agencies had originally identified, a tough but necessary compromise with the wildlife regulatory agencies.

“Once we have more information about proposed operations and financial cost sharing among the participating agencies in hand, Metropolitan next year will be ready to make an investment decision on California WaterFix. We are grateful for all the efforts by Gov. Brown’s administration to get to this critical junction. We look forward to continuing to work with top career staffers of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, who are making progress on the permit applications for the incoming federal administration.”

From Restore the Delta:

Today, the Delta Tunnels Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) was released online.

As we mentioned yesterday, this document is not a green light for the Delta Tunnels but rather should be understood as the submission of homework by sponsoring agencies (California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) to be evaluated by state and federal regulators who will determine if proposal can meet environmental and water quality standards under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A feat no previous version of the proposal has achieved.

Whenever Governor Brown wants to make a bold pronouncement on the Delta Tunnels proposal, he turns to his loyal stenographer Dan Morain, editorial page editor at the Sacramento Bee. As he does again today in this story, “Jerry Brown plunges ahead on twin tunnels.”

Here is the reaction to this story by Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta:

“Governor Jerry Brown told the Sacramento Bee that Delta Tunnels proposal is based on the best scientific thinking. That is simply not true. He left out that fish do worse with the tunnels, and that millions of Delta residents will be left with degraded water that will not meet Clean Water Act standards.

“The Governor failed to remember the dangers for Delta residents associated with the project, from toxic algal blooms, to increased boron and selenium in drinking water, to greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 600,000 new cars on the road each year from construction.

“This forgetting on Governor Brown’s part is reckless and dangerous as he makes his appeal to President-elect Trump to support the project. Governor Brown is supporting a project that will leave Stockton, California, a majority-minority city, and other Delta environmental justice communities with degraded water — all for the benefit of rich water exporters in the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California, and Silicon Valley. Shame on Governor Brown. What dishonest pandering!”

From the State Water Contractors:

The California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today released the Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement for California WaterFix, culminating more than ten years of extensive research, planning and review of solutions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

State and federal agencies carefully analyzed 18 projects in great detail through the EIR process. California WaterFix emerged as the most responsible, viable and economically feasible solution – widely supported throughout the state and balancing the needs of people and the environment.

“After years of analysis and significant compromise, we are on the brink of a successful solution for the Delta,” said Terry Erlewine, general manager of the State Water Contractors. “Because a handful of storms can determine the supply outlook for an entire year, we need a flexible water system that can reliably capture water during those peak storm periods of high flows.”

Challenges in the Delta have intensified as outdated infrastructure, environmental impacts, climate change, pollution and other factors threaten both water supplies and an important ecosystem. The preferred project would modernize the water delivery system by constructing new intakes in the northern Delta and two tunnels to move the supplies underneath rather than through the fragile Delta, helping to protect endangered fish species from entrainment into project pumps.

Twenty-six million people, businesses and farms depend on the State Water Project and Central Valley Project for clean, reliable water supplies. By utilizing tunnels that carry water under the Delta, rather than through it, California can realize benefits ranging from drinking water security to climate change protection, instead of depending on an aged levee system highly susceptible to both rising sea levels and collapse during earthquakes.

“This is a critical milestone that brings us that much closer to a healthier Delta and more reliable water supplies,” added Erlewine. “The current system doesn’t work, and it’s time to move forward.”

From the Southern California Water Committee:

The California Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation today released a jointly produced Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement for California WaterFix, the project designed to modernize our state’s primary water delivery system, secure fresh water supplies and protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“Today marks a significant step toward protecting our state’s water supply. Southern California Water Committee joins organizations throughout the region and state, including business, local government, agriculture, and water, in support of advancing this plan as a long-term solution to ensuring millions of people have reliable access to fresh water,” said Charles Wilson, Executive Director of Southern California Water Committee. “With the ever-present threat of seismic disaster on our horizon, the need for decisive action is greater than ever, and California WaterFix proposes a modern, new system capable of protecting one of our most important water sources.”

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