Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior issued this press release:

This morning, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation Brenda Burman sent a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein and the California Delegation regarding the Central Valley Project (CVP) and Governor Newsom’s lawsuit, reiterating the Department’s full commitment to continue coordinated efforts to implement the 2019 biological opinions and to ensure a safe and reliable water source for the State of California. This letter follows Secretary Bernhardt’s letter to Senator Feinstein on April 28th.

HIGHLIGHTS – Bureau of Reclamation’s Letter sent to Senator Feinstein, May 6, 2020:

“On March 30, it released, for the first time, a new State Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for SWP operations, developed unilaterally with no coordination with the federal water project, no independent peer review, no consultation with the Federal regulatory agencies, and no opportunity for public participation.”

“The new ITP recklessly ignored new scientific understanding and reduced the water supplies available to hundreds of farms and rural communities and over 27 million people that receive water from the SWP.”

“Instead, however, the State has now chosen to embrace the tactics of litigious interest groups at the expense of families, farms, communities, and wildlife that the vast water system supports.  It is unclear whether the State fully comprehends the consequences of severing the CVP and SWP.”

“You have the Department’s full commitment that we will continue these coordinated efforts to implement the 2019 biological opinions and to ensure a safe and reliable water supply in the State. We will continue working to make sure families, farms, communities, and wildlife have the water they need to thrive.”

HIGHLIGHTS – Secretary Bernhardt’s Letter to Senator Feinstein, April 28, 2020:

“In your December 19th letter to Governor Newsom and me, you urged that ‘[t]here is only one way to avoid this potential crisis, and that is for the federal government and California to work together.’ Governor Newsom responded to your call by

  • filing a lawsuit on February 20th against the Department for supposed violations related to the 2019 biological opinions;
  • proceeding to have the State issue its own incidental take permit (ITP) on March 30th creating separate operating rules for the SWP, a document that is in direct conflict with the Federal permits; and
  • filing, by the State through Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a motion for a preliminary injunction and other pleadings on April 21st regarding the CVP.”

“Given the extensive collaboration between the Federal and State agencies in the development of the biological opinions, and the fact that these opinions are strongly grounded in the best available science, I believe the State’s recent actions and litigation are ill-founded and potentially unlawful.”

“The result of this, and any litigation related to this matter, will be further uncertainty for the water supplies of over 35 million people, including numerous economically disadvantaged communities, farms, groundwater sustainability and ecosystems dependent on these water sources.”

BACKGROUND

In a historic moment, Governor Newsom is playing politics with California’s water supply. Newsom developed the new State Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for SWP operations unilaterally with no coordination with the federal water project, no independent peer review, no consultation with the Federal regulatory agencies, and no opportunity for public participation. The new ITP recklessly ignored new scientific understanding and reduced the water supplies available to hundreds of farms and rural communities and over 27 million people that receive water from the SWP.

Due to these reckless actions, lawsuits have been filed against the State of California from water districts like the Metropolitan Water District and State Water Contractors (SWC) and numerous environmental groups.

A copy of the letter from Commissioner Burman is available here and Secretary Bernhardt’s letter here.

 

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