REACTIONS: NGOs and water agencies respond to voluntary agreements

Earlier this week, the Newsom administration released a new framework for voluntary agreements that could implement an update to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan. Here is what organizations and water agencies are saying …

From Bob Irvin at American Rivers:

“The framework announced by Governor Newsom is a promising step to save the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta system. With the prospect of years of litigation over a new Bay-Delta Plan and potentially decades of water rights adjudications, the people and the fish and wildlife of the Central Valley and the Bay Delta can’t afford to wait while the ecosystem continues to decline. While there remain significant and complicated issues to be resolved, we believe the framework for Voluntary Agreements has a much better chance of significantly improving conditions on a meaningful timeline for the people, fish and wildlife of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta system.”

From Mike Wade at the California Farm Water Coalition:

We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom for his effort. While many details remain to be worked out, the governor hits at the heart of the matter and the reason the voluntary agreements are so worth the effort: The status-quo puts our water future at risk.

It’s very clear that what we’ve been doing doesn’t work for anyone. And more top-down regulation will only continue to breed endless lawsuits.

In contrast, the voluntary agreements offer a positive path forward in which all water users have a voice. And once completed, these agreements begin making things better immediately. Additional water is freed up for the environment, habitat restoration and other environmental projects get underway and water users get some assurance about how much water will be available.

There really is only one choice if you care about the future of California and that’s completion of the voluntary agreements.

From Rachel Zwillinger with Defenders of Wildlife:

“Defenders returned to the Voluntary Agreement process in early 2019 after Newsom administration officials promised conservation organizations that they would engage in an open and transparent process to craft a deal. Unfortunately, that promise was abandoned less than two years later with the release of a weak framework that was negotiated behind closed doors and without meaningful input from the conservation community.

“From what we can tell, this deal is built on quicksand instead of credible science. A key part of the Newsom proposal appears to focus on implementing the Trump administration’s rollbacks to critical Endangered Species Act protections for salmon and other species in the Bay-Delta.

“While this deal appears to have something in it for those who are embracing it, it fails to do the one thing it is supposed to do: protect the Bay Delta’s fish and water quality.

“When negotiating a deal, an essential ingredient of any successful compromise is that it meets existing environmental protection laws.  This deal will not and therefore will fail.”

From Maurice Hall at the Environmental Defense Fund:

Gov. Gavin Newsom released a framework today to move negotiations forward on a Central Valley water agreement involving water flows and habitat restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the rivers that feed it. The negotiations are part of a nearly decade-long effort to update the water quality control plan for the Delta.

“Reversing the long legacy of water overuse in the Central Valley and decline of Delta and Central Valley ecosystems is going to require unprecedented collaboration and compromise. Additional analysis is still needed and many hurdles still must be overcome before we can support a final agreement. That said, we are cautiously optimistic that the administration’s framework can become a solid step in a collaborative effort to build a more resilient future for California’s ecosystems and water supply.

EDF is willing to stay at the negotiating table for now in an attempt to reach comprehensive agreements that include strong enforcement provisions and sufficient water flow and habitat restoration. These elements will be critical to delivering long-overdue improvements for fish and wildlife in the Bay-Delta and Central Valley.”

From the Metropolitan Water District:

Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, issues the following statement on the Newsom administration’s announcement of a framework for voluntary agreements to provide additional science, habitat and environmental flows for the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds and Delta. The agreements would resolve a pending update of the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan before the State Water Resources Control Board.

This is a promising step that will result in additional water for the environment, habitat restoration and improved science, preparing California for a sustainable water future. While more work lies ahead, Metropolitan is committed to finding a workable solution. A shared, voluntary approach to balancing the beneficial uses of water from the Sierra is far better for California’s people and environment than years of litigation. Metropolitan commends the Newsom administration for seeking to move forward in a collaborative fashion.”

From the Northern California Water Association:

The Northern California Water Association appreciates the positive energy shown by the Governor yesterday in his commentary California must get past differences in water. Voluntary Agreements are the path forward.

The Northern California Water Association (NCWA) and water leaders throughout Northern California are fully committed to this collaborative approach and we appreciate the Governor and his state team advancing Voluntary Agreements as a new way forward for California. NCWA has been working closely with conservation organizations, water suppliers in other parts of the state, and both our state and federal partners to advance the science-based Voluntary Agreements as a more comprehensive, effective and immediate solution to the vexing challenges in California’s Bay-Delta watershed than the traditional regulatory approaches.

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From the Turlock Irrigation District, Modesto Irrigation District, and the San Francisco PUC:

Governor Newsom hasn’t wavered from his commitment to, and confidence in, the ongoing voluntary agreement process. The Governor and his Administration have brought a newfound sense of urgency and recognition of the need for collaborative water management.

The Tuolumne River Voluntary Agreement is an explicit example in this revolutionary approach as it seeks to balance water supplies to support thriving communities and fisheries, while striving to break the current paradigm of management through regulation and litigation.

Science remains the cornerstone of the Tuolumne River Voluntary Agreement. We’ve invested heavily in studying and truly understanding the Tuolumne River, the species and industries that depend on it and developed a realistic and sustainable plan. We are encouraged that the Voluntary Agreement we submitted over a year ago, based on Tuolumne River specific science, has held up to the public and scientific examination.

While we’re analyzing the State s recent update on the voluntary agreements framework and associated potential impacts to our communities, we remain active participants in the process.

We look forward to continuing momentum toward the successful advancement of these historic agreements.

From the State Water Contractors:

Today, under the leadership of the Newsom Administration, the State outlined a proposed framework for the Voluntary Agreements – an alternative to the regulatory approach proposed by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for the purpose of updating the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan. The framework released today is a critical step towards a collaborative approach that integrates flow and other habitat actions to improve the entire Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed.

The State Water Contractors have always supported a voluntary agreement approach to update the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan and are encouraged by the framework and the progress that has been made. With a Voluntary Agreement, a historic suite of integrated actions that go far beyond the SWRCB flow-only approach can begin immediately with near-term results. These actions will help to meet the needs of both the native fish species and the millions of Californians that rely on the same water every day to support their homes, farms and businesses.

“The framework is just that, a framework. The State’s vision for several of the more vexing issues associated with the Bay-Delta Plan update provide a solid foundation to continue discussions and hopefully, finalize the agreements,” said Jennifer Pierre, General Manager for the State Water Contractors. “It is critically important to harmonize other permits before the agreements are finalized. We look forward to working with the State team and other stakeholder groups who are equally committed to solving our ecosystem and water supply issues collaboratively. It is the only path to restoring fish and protecting water supply for all Californians.”




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