NEWS WORTH NOTING: Delta Conveyance DCA to vote on establishment of a Delta Stakeholder Committee; State Water Board adopts order to increase flows for Santa Ynez River; Congressional Democrats introduce bill to reverse Trump’s Endangered Species Act rollback

DCA Set to Vote on the Establishment of a New Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee

From the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority:

The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCA), an independent joint powers authority tasked with design and engineering work to support the state’s effort to modernize Delta conveyance, has posted the agenda packet for the September 19 Board of Directors meeting. During this week’s meeting, the DCA board will consider establishing a new Delta Stakeholder Engagement Committee.

Governor Newsom, the California Natural Resources Agency, the Department of Water Resources and the DCA are committed to meaningful, Delta-focused dialogue aimed to help inform project planning, reduce local impacts where possible and identify potential community benefits associated with new Delta conveyance.  In this spirit of transparency and collaboration, the DCA Stakeholder Engagement Committee would provide a forum for an exchange of information and ideas focused on design and engineering.

If the DCA board approves the committee, the application process will likely begin shortly thereafter.  The work of the committee would be an important part of creating a project that respects and incorporates Delta as a Place into planning and design.

For additional information, please contact:
Nazli Parvizi
Stakeholder Engagement
C: (917) 903-9761 | E: nazliparvizi@dcdca.org

State Water Board Adopts Order Protecting Endangered Steelhead and Senior Water Right Holders Impacted by the Cachuma Reservoir Project

From the State Water Board:

The State Water Resources Control Board today adopted an order for Cachuma Reservoir in Santa Barbara County to protect the endangered steelhead trout population and downstream senior water right holders.

The State Water Board action follows nearly 20 years of legal efforts to protect water right holders and address long-term declines in native fish populations in the Santa Ynez River.

“This order is an important step towards improving the condition of a struggling species, while continuing to develop the science and information needed to return the species to sustainable levels,” said State Water Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “I am hopeful that adoption of this order will inspire the parties to continue working collaboratively to resolve these long-standing water management challenges – challenges not unlike those found in other communities and watersheds throughout the state.”

The Order requires the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to increase flows on the Santa Ynez River below Bradbury Dam to provide additional habitat for steelhead and prevent its extinction. To minimize impacts on local water users, higher flows will be required only during wetter years.

Historically, the Santa Ynez River was a major spawning ground and nursery stream that supported the largest steelhead run in Southern California. Damming the river in 1953 stored runoff for the Santa Barbara area, but blocked off crucial spawning and rearing habitat and reduced the average annual run from 20,000 adult fish to fewer than 100 today.

Similar to salmon, steelhead trout spend much of their life in the sea before returning to the place of birth in a freshwater stream to spawn. Southern California steelhead, which include the population of the Santa Ynez River, have been federally listed as an endangered species since 1997 and are on the brink of extinction.

State law (Fish and Game Code section 5937) requires that dam owners keep fish species below the dam in good condition. In its evaluation of the project, the Board determined that the steelhead were not in good condition and required actions that will help preserve the species.

Providing higher flows during wet years may reduce storage in Cachuma Reservoir going into drier years and could result in decreased supply for areas served by the reservoir during future droughts if alternatives, such as water conservation, are not utilized. The Order requires that water supply managers for communities in the Santa Barbara area served by Cachuma Reservoir implement conservation measures to prepare for future dry periods.

According to the order, the Bureau of Reclamation is also required to:

  • Explore the potential for fish passage around the dam to provide access to additional habitat and present the findings within 24 months;
  • Consider additional measures to replenish the steelhead population; and
  • Study the effects of the increased flows on the fish.

If the flows fail to provide the anticipated benefit, or if the increased water supply results in impacts not identified in the final Environmental Impact Report, the instream flows will be reduced accordingly.

The State Water Board is responsible for issuing water rights permits and licenses and enforcing many of California’s water laws. The agency also has broad authority to establish minimum flows and implement other measures to protect fisheries and other public trust resources.

More information is available on the Cachuma Project page. A fact sheet is also available.

Chair Grijalva, Senator Udall Introduce Bill to Protect Endangered Species, Reverse Trump’s Changes That Will Add to Extinction Crisis

From the Natural Resources Committee Democrats:

Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, introduced legislation today to repeal all three Trump administration final rule changes to the Endangered Species Act, which taken together will fundamentally change the way we protect threatened and endangered species.

Under Trump’s rules, the administration can ignore long-term threats to wildlife from climate change and remove guaranteed protections to threatened species listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, essentially nullifying the protective value of a threatened listing.

The full text of the H.R. 4348 is available at https://bit.ly/2mjHB65.

“We are in the middle of an extinction crisis, and President Trump is bulldozing the most important tool we have to protect endangered species,” said Chair Grijalva. “If we want to protect species close to extinction, Congress has no choice but to act. Trump’s changes are handouts to special interests that want to keep lining their pockets regardless of the consequences. If we don’t stop the Trump administration’s short-sighted rollbacks, more wildlife habitats will be sacrificed to oil and gas development.”

“The Endangered Species Act has been a pillar of environmental protection in this nation for 40 years, without which our most iconic species— including the bald eagle, the gray whale, and the grizzly bear— would likely be extinct,” said Senator Udall. “The Trump administration’s new regulations intentionally cripple the ESA – another giveaway to industry that puts near-term profits ahead of our long-term national interest. The Trump effort to gut the Endangered Species Act turns a blind eye to the science that tells us we should be enhancing wildlife habitat protections not dismantling them at the behest of special interests, at a time when human activity threatens one million species with extinction and the United States is losing a football field worth of natural land every 30 seconds. Stopping this rollback of the Endangered Species Act is critical to restoring the best tools we have for protecting our precious plants and wildlife.”

Original cosponsors of the bill include ESA Caucus co-chairs Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.):

“Huge numbers of key species face unprecedented threats, and we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to protect them,” said Rep. Beyer. “The Trump Administration’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act are designed to benefit special interests, not the thousands of animal and plant species in the United States at risk of extinction due to habitat loss. With this legislation we are taking a major step to preserve biodiversity and protect imperiled wildlife.”

“The Endangered Species Act is among the most effective ever passed. For more than 40 years, we have come together in bipartisan fashion to protect species critical to maintaining the balance of our wildlife,” said Rep. Dingell. “The Administration’s efforts to weaken Endangered Species protections are taking us in the wrong direction. We must work together to uphold and build upon the successes of the Endangered Species Act.”

Grijalva has been a steadfast champion of the ESA and a vocal critic of President Trump’s effort to undermine the successful law. The Trump administration’s erosion of the ESA makes it more difficult to protect and recover threatened and endangered species and gives industry a free pass to destroy the environment.

The ESA is a remarkably successful law: 99% of species listed under the ESA have not gone extinct, and the ESA continues to enjoy bipartisan support across the country. Members of the public submitted hundreds of thousands of comments decrying Trump’s proposed changes during a public comment period earlier this year.

Additional original cosponsors include Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D- D.C.), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Harris), Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The legislation is supported by a broad coalition of organizations.

“The American people were horrified by the Trump administration’s efforts to destroy the Endangered Species Act, so it’s heartening to see such strong pushback from Congress. This legislation should be passed as soon as possible so the cruel attacks on wildlife by President Trump can be tossed into the dust heap of history.” – Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Now is not the time to ignore science and gamble away the nation’s natural history and heritage over some misguided anti-Endangered Species Act agenda. Climate change and a wave of other threats are wiping out species across the globe right now. This critical legislation would rightfully revoke the Trump administration’s reckless rollback of our most important law for protecting our most imperiled species.” – Nora Apter, Deputy Director of Federal Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council.

“In the face of an extinction crisis, the Trump administration is shredding protections and shoving vulnerable wildlife closer to the cliff. Today, leaders in the House of Representatives have introduced a bill that rejects those destructive actions and protects the Endangered Species Act, the last safety net for many imperiled species.” – Marjorie Mulhall, Legislative Director for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans, Earthjustice.

“With numerous species in the United States teetering at the edge of extinction, it’s more important than ever that we safeguard the Endangered Species Act. Yet last month, at the behest of corporate interests, the Trump administration weakened it instead. This crucial legislation reverses those changes and restores one of our nation’s key animal protection laws.” – Stephen Wells, Executive Director, Animal Legal Defense Fund.

“With the world in the grip of a biodiversity crisis, this is the worst possible time to hamstring the Endangered Species Act with reckless and irresponsible rule changes. America needs congressional leaders to step up and ensure that America’s endangered species get the strong, science-based protections they need to survive, and with the PAW and FIN ACT, we see the leadership and restored legislative protections that our imperiled wildlife deserve.” –  Erik Molvar, Executive Director, Western Watersheds Project.

“The ‘Trump Extinction Plan’ finalized last month makes it harder to protect our nation’s imperiled wildlife, such as the monarch butterfly, sea turtles, and wolverines.  We know Americans strongly support wildlife and the Endangered Species Act, and we are heartened to see that support reflected in the bills introduced today in Congress.” – Leda Huta, Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition.

“Consideration of economic impacts in listing decisions would undermine the Endangered Species Act, which is recognized as the world’s leading policy framework for protecting and recovering endangered and threatened species, such as gorillas, elephants, tigers and snow leopards. The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society applauds the leadership of Chairman Grijalva in introducing the PAWS and FIN Act to ensure that the hallmark standard for listing and delisting decisions is based upon the best available scientific information.” – Kelly Keenan Aylward, Washington Director, Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Chairman Grijalva, Congressman Beyer, and Congresswoman Dingell’s PAW and FIN Act is a timely response to the administration’s attempt to drastically undermine this crucial conservation law. The Trump administration’s regulatory changes are designed to make it easier for industry to steamroll past Endangered Species Act protections afforded to imperiled species and their habitats. It’s wildlife on the brink of extinction – not industry – that needs help, and this bill sets those priorities straight.” – Cathy Liss, President, Animal Welfare Institute.

“We thank Rep. Grijalva for his leadership in addressing the increasing challenges of climate change and its effects on wildlife. Restoring the nation’s most effective tool for saving wildlife from extinction is absolutely vital, especially as world scientists warn of mass extinction. We encourage fast passage of this important safety net for our nation’s imperiled species.” – Kirin Kennedy Deputy Legislative Director Sierra Club.

“The National Parks Conservation Association applauds legislation introduced today that defends the Endangered Species Act from ongoing attacks by the Trump administration. As the climate crisis unfolds, the administration is busy prioritizing near-term industrial development over long-term protections for America’s fish and wildlife. NPCA is committed to advancing this legislation in Congress while continuing to fight the Trump administration’s attack on threatened and endangered species in the courts.” – Bart Melton, Wildlife Program Director, National Parks Conservation Association

“The extinction crisis is a real and present threat to the ecosystems we depend on. This legislation would guarantee that our most powerful environmental law—the Endangered Species Act—remains a strong protector of the most vulnerable species on our planet.” – Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate, WildEarth Guardians.

“Keeping the ESA strong is critical if we are to ensure the survival of our most beloved species that are so important to our ecological and cultural heritage. We applaud Sen. Udall and Rep. Grijalva for taking action against the USFWS’s egregious rules to cut Endangered Species Act protections for our most vulnerable and vital species.” – Sara Amundson, President, Humane Society Legislative Fund.

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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.

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