California Governor Proposes New Plan for Managing Water

Feb 5, 2020 at 2:25pm

AP News, by Adam Beam

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s governor revealed a plan on Tuesday that would keep more water in the fragile San Joaquin River Delta while restoring 60,000 acres of habitat for endangered species and generating more than $5 billion in new funding for environmental improvements.

The framework announced Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom is a unique approach to managing the state’s scarce water resources. Historically, California has governed water usage by issuing rules — rules that are often challenged in court by farmers or environmental groups.

Those lawsuits can drag on for years and prevent programs designed to boost sagging salmon populations and other threatened species that live in the delta. 

nstead of issuing new rules, for the past year the Newsom administration has been negotiating with water agencies to come up with “voluntary agreements” between the two sides with “partnership and oversight from environmental groups.”

“Today, my Administration is proposing a path forward, one that will move past the old water binaries and set us up for a secure and prosperous water future,” Newsom wrote in an op-ed announcing the framework.

But some environmental groups were skeptical. Last year, the Trump administration announced new rules that would take more water out of the delta. The Newsom administration said it would sue the federal government over those rules, but so far it has not done so.

Also, John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association said, the framework did not address temperature controls for the river at the time of year when salmon need cold water to survive.

“There are definitely worrisome signals coming from today’s announcement,” McManus said,

Wade Crowfoot, secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency, said the state is still negotiating with the federal government and can still file a lawsuit if their concerns are not addressed. He stressed the goal is to continue working with federal agencies to resolve the issue.

The agreements would be in place for the next 15 years. But they are not finished yet. Both sides still have to finish policy and legal issues. Plus, the State Water board must conduct a third-party scientific review.

Read more of the full original article here.