SWRCB adopts Delta flow criteria report, spin-cycle continues

The State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) Tuesday adopted a draft flow criteria report, leading some to herald its adoption as comprehensive and long overdue even as at least one Board member denied it’s more than a preliminary review.

Under legislation passed a year ago, the SWRCB was required to prepare the report within a year of passage of the Delta bills – too fast for a thorough study, say some. The report adopted was seen as scientific vindication by some environmental groups opposed to building an alternative conveyance facility (Peripheral Canal). It was received by others as incomplete and skewed due to its limited scope in only considering habitat and water quality needs.

Before adopting the report, the Board deleted an appendix that indicated draconian reductions by state and federal water contractors and upstream water users would be necessary for water quality and habitat in the Delta. The appendix was said to be too hastily assembled for adoption. Further studies will follow to determine proposed reductions.

What do you bet that the report will be heavily relied upon by folks advocating for more water to go through the Delta and provide additional fodder for the spin cycle? It can’t be a good thing for us in watersheds of origin, I’m thinking…

Read about it here:

From Indybay.orgState Board Adopts Flow Standards for Bay-Delta

The report, released in late July by board staff, calls for more water to be left in the Delta instead of diverting it through the giant state and federal pumps to corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and southern California cities… The report recommends that around 75 percent of the precipitation in the Delta watershed should be allowed to flow unimpeded to San Francisco Bay. The report’s findings mirror calls for more water made by fish biologists, other scientists, and state and federal wildlife officials who have studied the problem… The board just put the stake through the heart of the co-equal goals of restoration and water supply, as defined by increased exports out of the Delta,” said Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “The document says that to restore the Delta, you need to increase Delta flows.”

From The Contra Costa TimesDelta water users dismiss call for steep cutbacks:

“…Board member Arthur Baggett said the report was not the final word on how water will be divided between the environment and competing water users because it was put together quickly and without the formal processes the board uses to make water rights decisions… It’s not cross-examination; it’s not testimony under oath. We took the best available science,” Baggett said. “It’s a term paper.”

From The San Francisco Chronicle, Study: Cut in delta water use needed for fish

“…The document, issued by the five-member board after nine months of scientific study, determined that 75 percent of runoff from snowpack and rainfall would need to funnel through the delta to San Francisco Bay and the ocean in order to sustain the estuary’s most important wildlife and habitats, known in legal parlance as “public trust” resources.

Right now, about 50 percent of the state’s runoff flows through the delta all the way to the ocean. The other 50 percent goes to cities and farms. Raising the flow into the ocean from 50 percent to 75 percent would require taking away roughly half of what cities and farms now get, according to the report… “

“…’The board has finally put to rest the argument about whether the delta needs more water,’ said Cynthia Koehler, water legislative director with the Environmental Defense Fund. ‘You can’t divert 50 percent of the flows and think the fish and ecosystem are going to be just fine.’… Many of the largest water districts in California lambasted the report as one-sided and contended that higher delta flows and less pumping would devastate the economy and hurt farmers grappling with water cutbacks first stipulated by a federal judge in 2007 and fought over ever since.”

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