Brief background: The Department of Water Resources filed a consistency determination with the Delta Stewardship Council that the California Water Fix project was consistent with the Delta Plan. That consistency determination was then appealed by nine parties. In October, a public hearing was held where evidence was presented by both sides; subsequent to that, the Delta Stewardship Council staff issued a draft determination that not enough evidence existed in the record to support DWR’s determination that the California Water Fix was consistent with the Delta Plan, and staff recommends the Council remand the matter back to the Department of Water Resources. Today and tomorrow, the Council is holding a public workshop to discuss staff’s draft determination. (More information here and here.)
Natural Resources Secretary John Laird sends a letter to the Council …
Dear Chair Fiorini,
The 2009 legislative package that included the Delta Reform Act was the most comprehensive effort by state leaders in a half-century to protect the Delta and reform overall California water policy. The Act enshrined in state law the “coequal” goals of “providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.”
Legislators who worked on the bill and supported its passage understood the need for long-term conveyance improvements in the Delta. The legislation established the Delta Stewardship Council as a governance structure to act as a check to ensure conveyance improvements would be implemented in a way that furthers the coequal goals and respects the Delta’s unique cultural, recreational, natural resource and agricultural values.
It’s disappointing that the November 8 draft determinations prepared by Council staff fail to acknowledge the Legislature’s intended vision for addressing long-term conveyance improvements under the Delta Reform Act.
In fact, the draft determinations appear to demand a standard for substantial evidence that no conveyance project could ever meet – even one that has been subject to 12 years of analysis, study, negotiation, public engagement and collaboration.
The Legislature made it clear that improving the state’s water supply reliability is equally as important as protecting and restoring the Delta ecosystem. The WaterFix project is designed to do both. Draft determinations that dismiss water supply reliability undermine the Legislature’s intent and abrogate the Act’s coequal goals. I respectfully urge the Council to preserve the spirit of the Delta Reform Act and base its decision on the project’s consistency with that intent.
The State Water Contractors sends a much more detailed letter:
Dear Chair Fiorini:
The State Water Contractors disagree with the Delta Stewardship Council staff Determination Regarding Appeals of the Certification of Consistency by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) for California WaterFix (Draft Determination) suggesting that the California WaterFix project be remanded to DWR for further, unspecified changes. California WaterFix is a critical infrastructure project for California’s water supply reliability and one of the most exhaustively examined infrastructure projects in state history, given tens of thousands of pages of analysis and more than a million hours of dedicated staff time to advance this Delta infrastructure modernization process. We believe that the staff Draft Determination proposes new unspecified changes that are counter-productive to advancing the coequal goals and improving California’s water supply reliability, which impact our economy and are not supported by evidence in the record. Furthermore, as outlined below, we believe DWR certification of consistency was supported by substantial evidence and should be upheld. … ”
Their letter discusses and rebuts staff’s draft determination on the issues of reduced reliance on the Delta, sea level rise, water quality control plan criteria, and Delta land use impacts.
On behalf of the Southern California Water Coalition (SCWC), congratulations on your successful election as the new governor of the great state of California. As you prepare to take office and lead California toward a bright future, we are pleased to extend our support and stand ready to discuss with you California’s water needs and the state’s water resources.
Over the next couple of months, we’re available to meet with your transition team and any early appointees regarding key water issues, including water supply, conservation, water quality, ecosystem restoration and more. We’re also happy to organize key tours of Southern California water management facilities, operations and water districts.
The Southern California Water Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization comprised of leaders from business, cities, agricultural groups, labor unions, environmental organizations and water agencies. Our organization is dedicated to informing Southern Californians about their water — its critical importance to our daily lives and robust economy, and the increasing threats and challenges to our most precious and finite resource. Through strong leadership and collective expertise, SCWC and its members contribute ideas, resources and viable strategies to statewide water issues.
Given California’s limited water supplies, aging infrastructure and new climate realities, securing a safe, reliable and affordable water supply is more important now than ever. Here in Southern California, we pride ourselves on being leaders in water supply management and efficiency, and we are focused on driving innovative solutions that benefit all Californians, our economy and the environment. As you develop water policies and consider critical water infrastructure projects, such as California WaterFix, we look forward to working with you and your administration.
As you may be aware, we support California WaterFix as the best and most cost-effective long-term solution to securing a reliable and efficient water supply — a vital project for California’s future. After more than a decade of extensive technical, environmental and academic review, WaterFix is clearing key project milestones and advancing on the path to construction with resounding support from the California public and our coalition. Attached to this letter is a list of more than 300 organizations that stand united in support of WaterFix. Our coalition represents vastly diverse and prominent constituencies statewide from labor and business to public agencies, environmental, nonprofits and agriculture.
On behalf of our coalition, we look forward to engaging in a thoughtful dialogue about this project in the coming months. We look forward to building a relationship with you and your future administration as we partner to solve the state’s most pressing water challenges.