Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Another Step Toward Agreement on California’s Water
By admin
Published 2 years ago on
November 16, 2022

Share

For at least a decade, off and on, state water managers and local water agencies have pursued the holy grail of a master agreement to improve the environmental health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta by increasing its water flows.

At any given moment, California’s water supply is a zero sum game. Therefore, increasing flows through the Delta to improve habitat for salmon and other species would require local water agencies, particularly those serving farmers, to take less from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries.

That’s not only a hard sell, but also could interfere with water rights, some of which stretch back to the 19th century. State officials have hoped that so-called “voluntary agreements” would forestall direct action that could touch off a legal donnybrook over those rights.

Dan Walters with a serious expression

Dan Walters

CalMatters

Opinion

However, many environmental groups have pushed for direct and mandatory restrictions on water diversions, saying they don’t trust agreements that lack the force of law and believe that water rights need to be reconfigured to match 21st century conditions, including the likelihood of semi-perpetual drought.

The pressure for agreements ramped up in 2018 when the state Water Resources Control Board published its draft of new regulations to protect the Delta, indicating that roughly 40% of natural river flows should make it to the Delta, and most into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Reaching that figure would require steep reductions in water diversions from rivers for farms and municipal users.

A few months later, newly inaugurated Gov. Gavin Newsom stressed the urgency of the situation in his first State of the State address, saying, “Our first task is to cross the finish line on real agreements to save the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. We must get this done — for the resilience of our mighty rivers, the stability of our agriculture sector, and the millions who depend on this water every day.”

Later that year, he vetoed a bill that would have adopted, wholesale, all of the environmental laws that existed in the federal government prior to Donald Trump’s election as president because the Trump administration had loosened up on water diversions. Had the bill become law, Newsom was warned, it would have short-circuited the drive for voluntary water agreements.

In 2020, Newsom’s Resources Agency released a framework for such agreements and earlier this year announced initial agreements with some major water interests that would forestall a legal clash.

However, there were holdouts, particularly agencies that draw water from the Tuolumne River, including the City and County of San Francisco, which owns Hetch Hetchy Dam on the Tuolumne and transports its water to the city via pipelines. Tuolumne water diverters filed a lawsuit challenging the water board’s right to impose diversion restriction and their offers for voluntary cutbacks were rejected as insufficient.

Last week, there was a breakthrough. San Francisco and two agricultural water agencies, the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, forged an agreement with the state to increase Tuolumne flows and enhance habitat.

“This collaborative approach holds the promise to do that (work) more quickly and holistically, while improving water reliability to communities, farms and businesses,” the state resources secretary, Wade Crowfoot, said in a statement.

Does that mean that the Delta water war is over? Not necessarily.

Environmentalists still don’t like the voluntary agreement approach and there still is another unresolved Delta issue: A Newsom-backed tunnel beneath the Delta to carry Sacramento River water to the head of the California Aqueduct near Tracy.

Tunnel opponents believe the flow-enhancing agreements are being sought merely to make the project, which would divert water from the Delta, more environmentally acceptable.

About the Author

Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. For more columns by Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.

Make Your Voice Heard

GV Wire encourages vigorous debate from people and organizations on local, state, and national issues. Submit your op-ed to rreed@gvwire.com for consideration. 

 

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

CA Home Prices Near $1 Million Average. What do Central Valley Homes Cost?

DON'T MISS

American Airlines Retreats After Blaming a 9-Year-Old for Not Seeing a Hidden Camera in a Lavatory

DON'T MISS

Explorers Find What They Believe Is World War II Ace Richard Bong’s Downed Plane in South Pacific

DON'T MISS

Giants Rally From a Big Deficit Again and Spoil a Solid Start by Paul Skenes in 7-6 Win Over Pirates

DON'T MISS

This Sweet Tradition Is Sure to Bring Out the Crowds at Fresno State’s Farm Market

DON'T MISS

Long-Term Mortgage Rates Ease for Third Straight Week, Dipping to Just Below 7%

DON'T MISS

General Sherman Passes Health Check but World’s Largest Trees Face Growing Climate Threats

DON'T MISS

Sheriff’s Memorial for Fallen Officers: In Valor There Is Hope

DON'T MISS

Charlie Colin, Founding Member of Train, Dies at 58 After Slipping in Shower

DON'T MISS

Cavaliers Fire Coach J.B. Bickerstaff Despite Making Second Round of Playoffs

UP NEXT

California Advances Legislation Cracking Down on Stolen Goods Resellers and Auto Theft

UP NEXT

Newsom Says No New Taxes, Yet His Budget Has Billions in New Levies on Businesses

UP NEXT

How the Beatles Empowered a Research Genius to Save Millions of Lives

UP NEXT

Use Your Library Card for Free Admission to Millerton Lake. For a Few More Weeks, Anyway.

UP NEXT

A Radical Lesson From El Salvador to Solve Fresno Housing & Homeless Crisis

UP NEXT

UC Academic Workers Strike in Solidarity with Pro-Palestinian Protesters

UP NEXT

How California’s Bursting Budget Morphed into a $45 Billion Deficit in Just Two Years

UP NEXT

Hydrogen vs. Electric Batteries: A Case For Fresno’s Transportation & Ag Future

UP NEXT

What Drives California’s Budget Decisions? A Lot of Politics, Not as Much Data

UP NEXT

Beverly Hills Billionaires’ Bid to Overturn Farmworker Protections Sparks Legal Battle

Giants Rally From a Big Deficit Again and Spoil a Solid Start by Paul Skenes in 7-6 Win Over Pirates

2 hours ago

This Sweet Tradition Is Sure to Bring Out the Crowds at Fresno State’s Farm Market

2 hours ago

Long-Term Mortgage Rates Ease for Third Straight Week, Dipping to Just Below 7%

2 hours ago

General Sherman Passes Health Check but World’s Largest Trees Face Growing Climate Threats

2 hours ago

Sheriff’s Memorial for Fallen Officers: In Valor There Is Hope

3 hours ago

Charlie Colin, Founding Member of Train, Dies at 58 After Slipping in Shower

4 hours ago

Cavaliers Fire Coach J.B. Bickerstaff Despite Making Second Round of Playoffs

5 hours ago

Carr Brothers Donate $250K to Valley Children’s Hospital

5 hours ago

Cal Chamber’s Job Killer List Shrinks, but Does Its Influence?

5 hours ago

Supreme Court Finds No Bias Against Black Voters in a South Carolina Congressional District

6 hours ago

CA Home Prices Near $1 Million Average. What do Central Valley Homes Cost?

Even in the face of high interest rates, buyers are still going after homes and statewide prices have reached record numbers. In April, the ...

29 mins ago

29 mins ago

CA Home Prices Near $1 Million Average. What do Central Valley Homes Cost?

1 hour ago

American Airlines Retreats After Blaming a 9-Year-Old for Not Seeing a Hidden Camera in a Lavatory

1 hour ago

Explorers Find What They Believe Is World War II Ace Richard Bong’s Downed Plane in South Pacific

2 hours ago

Giants Rally From a Big Deficit Again and Spoil a Solid Start by Paul Skenes in 7-6 Win Over Pirates

2 hours ago

This Sweet Tradition Is Sure to Bring Out the Crowds at Fresno State’s Farm Market

2 hours ago

Long-Term Mortgage Rates Ease for Third Straight Week, Dipping to Just Below 7%

2 hours ago

General Sherman Passes Health Check but World’s Largest Trees Face Growing Climate Threats

3 hours ago

Sheriff’s Memorial for Fallen Officers: In Valor There Is Hope

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend