Documents released to the Planning and Conservation League via a public records act request this week reveal details of the “No Harm Agreement” between the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation (the Bureau) regarding California WaterFix. In addition, a “Letter of Dismissal,” a document demanding that specific water districts and local government agencies abandon their case-in-chiefs opposing WaterFix before the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), was also included in the document release, but not previously reported in media accounts of what was transpiring in the water deal cut between the Brown and Trump administrations. Both documents can be read here and here.
It is worth noting that the “Letter of Dismissal,” which states DWR’s expectations of specific parties to withdraw from WaterFix hearings, does not indicate that the listed parties have agreed to the terms asserted by the Department of Water Resources within the letter itself.
Restore the Delta’s Executive Director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, noted:
“The ‘Letter of Dismissal’ by DWR’s Karla Nemeth addressed to specific parties participating in the WaterFix hearings reads like a “surrender Dorothy” demand – absolute in its insistence without any indication of interest in cooperation by the listed parties. It seems like Governor Brown’s final grand water bargain is an attempt to bully protesting parties into capitulation, and a presentation of alternative facts in side deals that do not match up with what is transpiring before the SWRCB regarding the future of the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary.”
While the “No Harm Agreement” reads on the surface simply as a deal cut between DWR (the junior water rights holder) and the Bureau of Reclamation (the senior water rights holder), details contradict DWR’s case-in-chief before the State Water Resources Control for the WaterFix tunnels, calling the accuracy of the assumptions in the “No Harm Agreement” into question.
In the fourth paragraph under Explanatory Recitals, the agreement states: DWR and Reclamation submitted the joint petition to add points of diversion for the State Water Project “SWP” and Central Valley Project “CVP” to the California State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) for the California WaterFix (“CWF Change Petition”).
Yet, in their case-in-chief before the SWRCB, DWR and the Bureau have petitioned for a change-in-the-point of diversion permit to begin construction of the Delta tunnels, not an addition for points of diversion. An addition of diversion points for the SWP and the CVP would require the Brown and Trump administrations to seek new water rights from the Delta and would have required a different case presentation with different facts to the SWRCB. DWR’s argument has been that they already obtained the water rights for the project, despite proposing that the intakes should be located in new places with the Delta. RTD and other parties made the case that DWR’s permit to continue adding diversion capability to the State Water Project expired in December 2009, which DWR never refuted.
Restore the Delta’s Policy Analyst, Tim Stroshane, said:
“The ‘No Harm Agreement’ reveals the Bureau asserting its seniority in the Delta to protect its water contractors’ deliveries from overreach by DWR’s Tunnels operations (assuming the project is built). These agreements undermine DWR’s case before the Water Board that they’re proceeding arm-in-arm with the Bureau on this project, when the agreements reveal that Reclamation and its CVP contractors view the Tunnels project with fear and hostility. There may not be any rush to surrender as DWR hopes. I sense desperation on the part of the Governor here, for which he may or may not have good Latin phrases. It would be nice for all others to celebrate the holidays instead and let this die on the vine.”
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