REACTIONS to the release of the biological opinions for the California Water Fix project

Yesterday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service issued their biological opinions for the California Water Fix, finding that the Delta tunnels project would not jeopardize listed species.

Here is what agencies and stakeholders had to say, listed in alphabetical order:

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 biological opinions for the California WaterFix project:

“The release of the biological opinions is a major step toward a long-term solution to improve water conveyance infrastructure in the Delta. While there are many key decisions ahead to determine whether the WaterFix moves forward and how the project and related facilities will be operated, today’s action is a sign that state and federal agencies are working together to advance a viable project to address 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 encourage all state and federal partners and stakeholders to remain engaged and work together to implement long-term solutions for the Delta that work for the entire state.”

From Californians for Water Security:

Today, with the release of biological opinions (BiOps) from federal agencies responsible for the protection of species listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), Governor Jerry Brown’s California WaterFix clears a critical permitting threshold. After extensive environmental reviews that started under the Obama Administration, the new BiOps from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found the construction and operations of WaterFix would not jeopardize the future existence of ESA-listed species. …

Below are statements of support from selected members of the Californians for Water Security coalition:

“These BiOps represent critical permitting milestones for California WaterFix, bringing our state forward in the plan to protect the Delta ecosystem while securing our water supply. After years of exhaustive environmental review and changes, WaterFix and the Governor’s Eco-Restore program are the only viable solutions to protect species and our water supply from the ravaging effects of climate change.” – Dr. Jerry Meral, Director of California Water Program, Natural Heritage Institute

“We are encouraged that federal environmental agencies, under Presidents from both sides of the aisle, have provided the necessary environmental clearance to move this project forward. WaterFix is the responsible solution to secure our state’s water deliveries for communities, businesses and residents statewide. It’s time to move forward with upgrading our water infrastructure for future years with WaterFix.”- Allan Zaremberg, president, California Chamber of Commerce

“Thanks to this federal milestone toward permitting of California WaterFix, we are closer than ever to securing California’s water future with urgently needed infrastructure upgrades. We continue to support improving the reliability of statewide water deliveries and protecting supplies from earthquakes, floods and natural disasters with the Governor’s WaterFix, as well maintaining environmental protections for Delta wildlife.” – Robbie Hunter, president, California State Building and Construction Trades Council

“WaterFix is absolutely vital to every sector of our economy and quality of life. Our region receives 40 percent (40%) of our clean drinking water from the state water project and that water is at risk due to outdated infrastructure. The plan will help secure our water supply, while also achieving important environmental protections to ensure the health of the Delta.” – Mike Mielke, senior vice president, Environment & Energy, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

“WaterFix reflects Central Valley taxpayers’ interests by improving antiquated infrastructure and ensuring water reliability for our region’s homes, businesses, farms and habitats. It is a fiscally responsible investment to protect the water supply for our region. We cannot wait any longer to move this project forward and are pleased this important federal permitting milestone has been reached.” – Michael Turnipseed, executive director, Kern Taxpayers Association

“Seventy-five percent (75%) of Ventura County’s population relies heavily on our state’s antiquated water distribution system. Ventura County CoLAB is proud to stand with local residents, workers, farmers, and business owners in supporting California WaterFix to secure our regional water deliveries.” – Lynn Gray Jensen, executive director, Ventura County Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business

“This is a critical step forward in achieving a secure water future for Southern California and the entire state. The federal Biological Opinions are the culmination of extensive environmental reviews starting with the Obama Administration. The approvals are further validation of California WaterFix’s ability to provide water for our homes and families, while also protecting environment.” – Charles Wilson, executive director, Southern California Water Committee

“We strongly support the California WaterFix and commend the federal environmental advancements of the plan. WaterFix will safeguard water deliveries for two-thirds of California, as well as protect and create nearly one million jobs across the state.” – Michael Quigley, executive director, California Alliance for Jobs

From the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta:

The recent completion of the Biological Opinions for California WaterFix represents an important milestone in the historic effort to protect the Delta ecosystem and ensure water supply reliability for all Californians. Governor Brown unveiled the project alongside California EcoRestore in April 2015 and since then, the administration and project stakeholders have invested significant time and resources towards creating a comprehensive, sustainable and balanced Delta solution.

“After more than two years of design, review and public input it is encouraging to see a Delta conveyance solution moving forward,” said Michael Boccadoro, spokesperson for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta. “More than 25 million Californians and 7 million acres of irrigated farm land depend on a reliable water supply from the Delta, and modernizing the delivery system is the only way to ensure that.”

The unprecedented amount of precipitation received this year, following a historic drought, highlights the dire need for improved storage and water delivery infrastructure. As drought-stressed groundwater aquifers continue to recover, it is notable that this year’s abundant water supply could have provided even further recovery if modern delivery and storage infrastructure where in place.

“The Governor, policy makers and stakeholders must remain focused on continuing to move the WaterFix forward given the significant time and resources already invested in this proposal,” Boccadoro said. “The state’s economy and clean drinking water for all Californians depends on it.”

From the Golden Gate Salmon Association:

The Golden Gate Salmon Association issued the following statement today in reaction to the release of the biological opinions related to the twin tunnels project. Executive Director John McManus issued the following statement:

“Salmon fishermen and women are opposed to this version of the tunnels because it’s designed so big that it will wipe out salmon, fishing families and fishing communities, and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Delta native wildlife.  The two 40 foot diameter tunnels are big enough to divert the entire Sacramento River at most times of the year.  The river and Delta downstream of the diversion intakes will basically become a stagnant cesspool if this thing is built as planned.  Californians have been denied a vote on whether we support the destruction of the SF Bay Delta, which isn’t democratic, for starters.

The reason this project is too big is because they’ve allowed the water users to design it with no balancing to protect the environment.  It’s as if they let the fox design the hen house.  Of course he’s going to design it so he can later clean it out.

They tell us, don’t worry about the size, we promise we won’t harm the salmon fishery yet look what they did during the drought when push came to shove.  The water users said just trust us but took the water needed by salmon and we lost two-year classes of salmon in 2014 and 2015.

We’re told that sea level rise means this thing must be built and yet the project planners haven’t even analyzed conditions they expect to operate the tunnels in beyond the scheduled opening date in 2031.”

From the Kern County Water Agency:

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services) issued Biological Opinions on California WaterFix (WaterFix) to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources.  The Biological Opinions are a clear statement from the Services that WaterFix is ready to move forward.  WaterFix is the State’s effort to protect endangered species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) while improving the quality and reliability of Delta water supplies relied on by more than 25 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Services issued the “non-jeopardy” opinions after more than 10 years of exhaustive study and changes to WaterFix that protect the Delta’s endangered species.  WaterFix would construct two tunnels under the Delta to move water supplies from the State’s reservoirs north of the Delta, to families, farms and businesses south of the Delta.  Moving water through the tunnels would help restore the direction of the Delta’s natural water flows for fish.

“The Biological Opinions represent thousands of hours of work and the best scientific thinking available to improve our water supplies” said Kern County Water Agency Board of Directors President Ted Page.  “By building the tunnels, Kern County’s water supplies will be more reliable over the long-term.  It’s the State’s most significant step forward on water supply improvement in decades. We thank the state and federal administrations for their extraordinary efforts in achieving this milestone for the WaterFix” said Page.

From the Metropolitan Water District:

Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement on the release of biological opinions for the state-federal California WaterFix project by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“Receiving the permit conditions to comply with the federal Endangered Species Act is an important milestone and brings the California WaterFix process one step closer to completion. This is an encouraging sign that California can modernize the heart of its water system in a manner that is good for both the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta environment and the state’s economy.

“For too long California’s water supplies have been at risk and subject to cutbacks. All the while, the Delta ecosystem has been failing. A better system is needed now and for the future to safeguard California’s drinking water and reduce conflicts with our native species. We appreciate the efforts of these federal agencies and the Brown administration to move California WaterFix forward.”

From Restore the Delta:

Today’s decision by the Trump Administration attempts to green light the controversial Delta Tunnels project.

The decision was quickly denounced by San Francisco Bay-Delta activists who say the “best available science” about endangered species who depend on a healthy Bay-Delta was not fully considered, and may have been politically manipulated.

The biological opinion approves an “Incidental Take Permit” that would give the project a permission to harm and even kill federally protected species in the building and operation of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed Delta Tunnels (also known as “California WaterFix.”)

“The science in this decision was cherry-picked and not representative of the true scope of harm to endangered species who depend on a healthy San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary for their survival,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. “We are pursuing legal remedies with our coalition.”

In April of this year, the findings of an Independent Review Panel found serious deficiencies in the Draft Biological Opinion.

“The Independent Review Panel report suggested that the biological opinion had serious flaws and that the Delta Tunnels will be terrible for Delta fish—those that live here year-round as well as those just passing through on their way to and from the Pacific Ocean,” said Tim Stroshane, Policy Analyst for Restore the Delta.

Yet the final decision by the Trump’s NOAA found “No Significant Impact” (FONSI). This is exactly the opposite from the conclusion made by the Independent Review Panel.

NOAA’s decision of no jeopardy comes despite the 12 percent reduction in salmon smolt due to reduced water flows through the Delta. Another 7 percent of salmon smolt are killed by faulty fish screens. Other threatened and endangered species continue to decline as more water is taken out of the Delta.

“What agencies have marketed as ‘adaptive management’ is basically trial and error management. They are saying, ‘Trust us to build it, we will figure out how to fix the harms we cause later.’ That just isn’t acceptable,” explained Stroshane.

From the Southern California Water Committee:

“This is a critical step forward in achieving a secure water future for Southern California and the entire state. The federal Biological Opinions are the culmination of extensive environmental reviews starting with the Obama Administration. The approvals are further validation of California WaterFix’s ability to provide water for our homes and families, while also protecting the environment.”

Charles Wilson, Executive Director, Southern California Water Committee

From the State Water Contractors:

“We’re standing at the doorstep of a decision that will secure California’s water supplies. These permits show that California WaterFix fully complies with the federal Endangered Species Act. This is a major step toward reaching a final consensus on the project. We’ve known for 60 years that we need to construct alternative conveyance in the Delta. California WaterFix offers the opportunity to update the State Water Project in a way that benefits both people and the environment. We look forward to the final decisions ahead of us.”

Jennifer Pierre, General Manager, State Water Contractors

Daily emailsSign up for daily email service and you’ll never miss a post!

Sign up for daily emails and get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. Breaking news alerts, too. Sign me up!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: