NEWS WORTH NOTING: New governor brings hope for a new partnership on the Merced River; Sierra Nevada Conservancy awards over $26 million for forest health projects; Lawsuits target Trump’s war on transparency at EPA, Interior Department
New Governor Brings Hope for a New Partnership on the Merced River
An open letter to Governor Newsom from the Merced Irrigation District Board of Directors
We, the Board of Directors of the Merced Irrigation District (MID), want to commend Governor Newsom for his recent changes in appointments to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). We believe those changes, together with other key appointments he has made in his administration, provide a new and much-needed opportunity to take a step back from the contentious last decade we have been living through in the water community. We have an opportunity to make real progress for Merced River salmon and water quality improvements in California.
As part of starting fresh with this new opportunity, we want to provide the Governor and the new appointees throughout his administration with some facts as to why, from our perspective, MID was unable to reach a framework for settlement with the State prior to the SWRCB’s adoption of their Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan and SED. Quite simply – MID was being asked for far more water than any other party, on an equity or statistical basis, without any valid justification, support or documentation. The State never provided any documentation or data to support their water demands, and the state also never acknowledged the lack of equity in relation to our watershed yield and water storage ability compared to the settlements on other rivers and systems being embraced by the state negotiators.
Sierra Nevada Conservancy awards over $26 million for forest health projects; receives $2 million grant to improve forest health and fire resilience
From the Sierra Nevada Conservancy:
Sierra Nevada Conservancy Governing Board awards over $26 million for forest health projects
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) Governing Board recently authorized over $26 million in funds for 35 projects that will reduce wildfire risk, protect water supply, and restore forest and watershed health in the Sierra Nevada region. The projects awarded support the goals and objectives of the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program, a large‑scale restoration program designed to improve ecosystem and community resilience in the Sierra Nevada. This program is coordinated by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and implemented through a strong network of state and federal agencies, local government, and tribal, private, and nonprofit partners.
“Building resilience in the Sierra Nevada is our primary focus, and the funding authorized by our board demonstrates the SNC’s commitment to increasing the pace and scale of restoration across the region,” says Angela Avery, Executive Officer for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. “We’re proud to be supporting these projects and the partners who will be implementing them on the ground.”
Funding for these projects come from Proposition 1, The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014; Proposition 68, The California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018; the Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Fund; Fire Settlement Funds; and the California Climate Investments program. Funding awards were made by the SNC Governing Board at the quarterly board meeting on March 7, 2019 in Cameron Park, CA.
Lawsuits Target Trump’s War on Transparency at EPA, Interior Department
From the Center for Biological Diversity:
The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a pair of lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Freedom of Information Act by failing to make records available to the public. The lawsuits, filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., coincide with national Sunshine Week.
Under President Donald Trump, the agencies have weakened their FOIA responsibilities and routinely delayed or denied access to public records.
The Center has submitted a series of FOIA requests to better understand how the agencies are responding to such requests but has not received any responses. The Center is seeking documents that explain the policies and instructions informing records management practices, as well as the EPA’s list of pending public records requests.
“Trump’s agencies are notorious for their lack of transparency, but the EPA and Interior Department FOIA practices and policies are among the worst,” said Meg Townsend, the Center’s open government attorney. “It’s unacceptable. These officials are supposed to protect human health, wildlife and our environment, but they’re busy hiding critical information from the American people.”
In October the Center obtained a guidance document from the Fish and Wildlife Service that aimed to keep the public in the dark about how endangered species decisions are made. That memo recommended that the Service limit the information released to the public about government actions that impact species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Then, in December, the Interior Department proposed rule changes that would hinder public access to records on agency actions that impact wildlife and public lands. The Interior Department’s proposed rule would expand the discretion of agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service to reject records requests made through the Freedom of Information Act by classifying them as “unreasonably burdensome” and by politicizing the FOIA process within the agency.
The Center submitted comments on the proposed changes, but the Interior Department has not confirmed when it will publish the final rule.
“We’re fighting Trump’s anti-science, pro-secrecy agenda because it impacts all aspects of government,” said Townsend. “Without access to public records, we lose our ability to hold our government accountable to its own environmental protection laws.”
Sunshine Week is a national initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy. Sunshine Week occurs annually around March 16, National Freedom of Information Day.
This Sunshine Week, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform plans to hold a hearing regarding the Freedom of Information Act under the Trump administration on Wednesday, March 13.
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About News Worth Noting: News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations. News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms. If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.