For immediate release: July 13, 2018
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta, 209-479-2053, [email protected]
Restore the Delta Responds to SWRCB Delta Water Quality Plan Update
STOCKTON, CA – Restore the Delta thanks the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for stating that the lower San Joaquin River (Merced River to the Delta) inflow should contribute to Delta outflow to the San Francisco Bay in their recent water quality plan update for the Delta.
Restore the Delta supports increased flows through the Delta. However, Phase I of the Water Quality Plan Update for the Delta (San Joaquin River and Tributary Flow Objectives) does not:
• Identify and examine water quality issues as they relate to the Delta’s environmental justice community, despite our requests to the State Water Resources Control Board to address these concerns over one year ago (March 2017).
• Ensure in strong terms that new inflows to the Delta from the tributaries shall not be exported to South of Delta customers, but must be used for healthy outflows to the San Francisco Bay.
• Protect salinity standards for South Delta agriculture as found in the 1995 Delta Water Quality Plan.
• Restore outflow at the needed 50-60 percent levels to restore salmon populations on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries, in addition to allocating sufficient water to restore essential habitat for fisheries.
In summary, changes in the salinity standard for South Delta agriculture are particularly problematic because South Delta agriculture provides much-needed employment for San Joaquin County’s environmental justice community. Moreover, upholding the 1995 South Delta salinity standards is essential for protecting local farms and the river path for young salmon swimming to the Pacific Ocean. Salmon are a key resource for commercial and sport fishing and a way of life for many northern California Indian tribes. Salmon at risk of extinction is an environmental justice issue for these tribes and for all people who fish for their subsistence in the Delta and along these rivers. The bodies of returning salmon contribute to the health of our watersheds, economies, our farms, and environmental justice communities.
We recognize that the SWRCB has a difficult task trying to balance the competing needs for lower San Joaquin River flows in an oversubscribed system. However, the SWRCB decided in 2009 not to bring the upper San Joaquin River water users into the process. In its current state, the Phase I plan does not demand a shared sacrifice of water from San Joaquin River water users. Instead, the burden to meet flow contributions is inequitably placed on a limited number of water users, rather than all water users from the top to the bottom of the watershed.
Without a fair share of flows, full and equitable water contributions toward San Francisco Bay-Delta restoration are nearly impossible to achieve.