Yesterday, Secretary Jewell issued a Secretarial order, directing a number of things, including directing federal fish agencies to finish their work on the biological opinions for the California Water Fix by March of this year.
From Californians for Water Security:
From Robin Swanson, on behalf of Californians for Water Security:
“Our broad coalition of businesses, labor, family farmers, public safety and civil justice leaders applauds the Obama Administration and Interior Secretary Jewel for pushing to accelerate federal environmental reviews of California WaterFix. It is a good signal and we look forward to continuing to work with the current Administration as well as the new Trump Administration.
“In the past few weeks, we have made critical strides moving this project forward. The final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was released on December 22, reflecting more than 300 days of public review, 600 public meetings throughout the State, and responses and revisions based on more than 40,000 public comments, concluding that WaterFix is the only viable plan to protect our state’s water supply and the environment.
“There is key momentum behind California WaterFix, the absolutely critical and broadly supported project to secure water deliveries statewide. The current heavy rains demonstrate that we need a better infrastructure system to move and store water when we have it. It’s time to move forward. Our water security can’t wait.”
From the California Water Alliance:
The California Water Alliance (CalWA) today released the following statement in response to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s issuance of a Secretarial Order to implement drought-relief provisions contained in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nations Act, passed in December:
“The California Water Alliance (CalWA) applauds the prompt implementation by the Obama Administration and Department of Interior of most of the California drought-relief provisions contained in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nations (WIIN) Act,” said Aubrey Bettencourt, Executive Director of CalWA.
“Secretary Sally Jewell’s order signals positive change in Interior’s position regarding the WIIN drought-relief and water-supply provisions,” continued Bettencourt.
“It is encouraging to see that Interior Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor and California Governor Jerry Brown have overcome their objections voiced during Congressional hearings on the measure and are now embracing the legislation,” she continued.
Harm to Californians and to the state’s natural resources and wildlife from the epic drought that began in 2012 has been pervasive and life-changing. In passing WIIN, Congress recognized the drought has impacted the poor, minorities, farmworkers, farmers, industry, rural and urban communities, the state’s forests and rivers, and its wildlife, birds and fish.
“With Secretary Jewell’s order, relief is finally on the way, and with continued commitment, real solutions to California’s water crisis will be developed,” said Bettencourt.
“The six steps outlined by Secretary Jewell in her order appear promising, and we hope that they will result in rapid momentum that can be sustained once President-Elect Donald Trump appoints a new Secretary of the Interior to oversee implementation of the legislation,” Bettencourt concluded.
From Congressman John Garamendi:
“This is an outrageous attempt by the Secretary of the Interior to direct a scientific outcome. It’s unconscionable. I would have expected this from the Trump Administration, not the Obama Administration. The $15 billion twin tunnels are a financially and environmentally disastrous boondoggle that will suck the Delta dry, ravage its ecosystem, and destroy local fisheries, agriculture, and recreation. I strongly disagree with the Obama Administration’s decision to give this disaster of a project an expedited environmental review in the hopes of advancing construction timelines. A thorough review will show that this plan will not add a drop of new water and will destroy the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. They should never be built, and I will oppose them every step of the way.”
From Restore the Delta:
Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued a Secretarial Order directing the Department of the Interior and its bureaus to “take timely actions to help address the effects of drought and climate change on California’s water supply and imperiled wildlife.”
On the issue of the Delta Tunnels, Jewell directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to, “…Draft Biological Opinion in January 2017 and a final Draft Biological Opinion by March 2017 after incorporating the results of independent scientific peer reviews. A final Biological Opinion is to be issued by April 2017.”
In a press release by the Department of the Interior, Governor Jerry Brown said: “Today’s action tracks closely with the state’s multi-pronged Water Action Plan and commits the federal government to a timely review of the California WaterFix project. This state-federal partnership is what’s needed to improve water reliability for residents and farmers and protect vulnerable ecosystems.”
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta responded:
“Secretary Jewell’s Action Plan really does not change much for us in terms of the timeline. We understood that the final biological opinion would be out in the late spring. Governor Brown’s comment, however, seems a bit desperate, as if he is trying to push the tunnels through as a completed project before President-elect Trump is in charge.”