Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
California Has New Plan for the Delta but Faces Same Conflicts Over Water
By admin
Published 6 months ago on
October 8, 2023

Share

California’s water warriors have a new arena for their perpetual conflict over the allocation of the state’s ever-evolving supply – a nearly 6,000-word proposal from the state Water Resources Control Board.

Dan Walters with a serious expression

Dan Walters

CalMatters

Opinion

The draft essentially calls for sharp reductions in diversions from the Sacramento River and its tributaries to allow more water to flow through the environmentally troubled Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“It is a consequential effort,” Eric Oppenheimer, chief deputy director of the board, said during a media briefing on what is technically an update of the agency’s management plan for the Delta and San Francisco Bay. “It reflects years of scientific analysis that we’ve undertaken and years of public input.”

The board had previously issued a similar policy paper for the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. The two rivers merge to form the Delta, a vast maze of islands and channels that is the West Coast’s largest estuary.

In addition to upstream diversions to irrigate fields and orchards and serve municipal users, federal and state projects pump water from the Delta’s southern edge into aqueducts for transfer to San Joaquin Valley farms and homes as far south as San Diego.

The reduction of natural flows through the Delta have, scientists say, increased its salinity and otherwise made it unable to adequately support salmon and other wildlife.

Battle  Has Raged for Decades

The battle over the Delta has raged for decades with environmental groups, lately joined by American Indian tribes, pressing the water board to impose reductions on diversions, and water users seeking to protect their supplies.

There are, in the macro sense, two conflicts: how much additional flows are needed to restore the Delta and how any reduction in diversions would be framed and enforced.

The water board’s new draft provides some additional focus on both but doesn’t provide any solid direction.

Voluntary Agreements

For the better part of a decade, two governors, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, have promoted the concept of “voluntary agreements” to reduce diversions, hoping to avoid a head-on political and legal collision.

“We want to thank Gov. Newsom for his continued leadership and commitment to using collaborative voluntary agreements between water users and public agencies to support water quality and fish populations throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta,” Farm Bureau president Jamie Johansson said in response to the new plan.

However, the water agencies have offered, in the main, much smaller reductions than the water board says are necessary to improve habitat.

The environmental coalitions demanding larger reductions see the voluntary agreements as subterfuges to maintain the status quo and have pressed the board to simply set reduction numbers and enforce them by decree.

“Voluntary agreements serve as backroom deals that continue to leave tribes, environmental justice communities, conservation groups, fishing communities, and other vital stakeholders out of the government-led planning process,” the Restore the Delta coalition responded.

Should Water Rights Be Adjusted?

Imposing reductions would touch off a legal battle that Brown and Newsom have wanted to avoid because it would hinge on water rights, some of which date back to the late 19th century.

Environmentalists contend that those rights are anachronisms in the 21st century and should be set aside to give authorities the ability to allocate water rationally, particularly since climate change is affecting precipitation and thus the overall water supply.

However, when the water board tested its authority vis-à-vis ordering diversion reductions from senior water rights holders, it lost in court. Moreover, legislation that would have provided such authority didn’t make it through the Legislature this year, thanks to stiff opposition from farmers and other rights holders.

The water board’s new draft may provide more grist for debate, but it does not resolve the fundamental conflicts.

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. CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more columns by Dan 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

Whitey Herzog, Hall of Fame Manager Who Led Cardinals to 1980s Success, Dies at 92

DON'T MISS

Coalinga-Huron Teachers Say They’ll Strike Unless a Fair Contract Is Offered

DON'T MISS

Coalition: CA Lawmakers Need to Roll Back Proposed ‘Utility Tax’

DON'T MISS

CA’s High Construction Costs Limit Housing. A Supreme Court Decision Might Help

DON'T MISS

Now’s the Time to Register for FUSD’s Free Preschool and T-K

DON'T MISS

‘Hopeville’ Literacy Documentary Showing Tonight at Roosevelt High

DON'T MISS

Michigan Faces Probation for Football Recruiting Violations; Case vs. Jim Harbaugh Pending

DON'T MISS

What Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Can Tell Us About the Public Domain and Remix Culture

DON'T MISS

Acquisition of Historic Fresno Real Estate Brand Creates Area’s Largest Brokerage

DON'T MISS

Wall Street’s Mixed Trading Day

UP NEXT

Coalinga-Huron Teachers Say They’ll Strike Unless a Fair Contract Is Offered

UP NEXT

Coalition: CA Lawmakers Need to Roll Back Proposed ‘Utility Tax’

UP NEXT

CA’s High Construction Costs Limit Housing. A Supreme Court Decision Might Help

UP NEXT

Now’s the Time to Register for FUSD’s Free Preschool and T-K

UP NEXT

‘Hopeville’ Literacy Documentary Showing Tonight at Roosevelt High

UP NEXT

Michigan Faces Probation for Football Recruiting Violations; Case vs. Jim Harbaugh Pending

UP NEXT

What Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Can Tell Us About the Public Domain and Remix Culture

UP NEXT

Wall Street’s Mixed Trading Day

UP NEXT

It’s ‘Signing Day’ for These Clovis Unified Youngsters

UP NEXT

Clovis Armed Robbery and Pursuit Result in 3 Arrests, 1 Suspect Still at Large

CA’s High Construction Costs Limit Housing. A Supreme Court Decision Might Help

13 hours ago

Now’s the Time to Register for FUSD’s Free Preschool and T-K

Local Education /

13 hours ago

‘Hopeville’ Literacy Documentary Showing Tonight at Roosevelt High

Local Education /

13 hours ago

Michigan Faces Probation for Football Recruiting Violations; Case vs. Jim Harbaugh Pending

14 hours ago

What Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Can Tell Us About the Public Domain and Remix Culture

14 hours ago

Acquisition of Historic Fresno Real Estate Brand Creates Area’s Largest Brokerage

Breaking News /

14 hours ago

Wall Street’s Mixed Trading Day

14 hours ago

It’s ‘Signing Day’ for These Clovis Unified Youngsters

Local Education /

14 hours ago

Clovis Armed Robbery and Pursuit Result in 3 Arrests, 1 Suspect Still at Large

15 hours ago

Charges Against Trump and Jan. 6 Rioters at Stake as Supreme Court Hears Debate Over Obstruction Law

15 hours ago

Whitey Herzog, Hall of Fame Manager Who Led Cardinals to 1980s Success, Dies at 92

NEW YORK — Whitey Herzog, the gruff and ingenious Hall of Fame manager who guided the St. Louis Cardinals to three pennants and a World Seri...

8 hours ago

8 hours ago

Whitey Herzog, Hall of Fame Manager Who Led Cardinals to 1980s Success, Dies at 92

8 hours ago

Coalinga-Huron Teachers Say They’ll Strike Unless a Fair Contract Is Offered

11 hours ago

Coalition: CA Lawmakers Need to Roll Back Proposed ‘Utility Tax’

13 hours ago

CA’s High Construction Costs Limit Housing. A Supreme Court Decision Might Help

Local Education /
13 hours ago

Now’s the Time to Register for FUSD’s Free Preschool and T-K

Local Education /
13 hours ago

‘Hopeville’ Literacy Documentary Showing Tonight at Roosevelt High

14 hours ago

Michigan Faces Probation for Football Recruiting Violations; Case vs. Jim Harbaugh Pending

14 hours ago

What Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Can Tell Us About the Public Domain and Remix Culture

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend