Action Alert – Bay-Delta Plan (Staff Report)
Sacramento River Flow HEARINGS: November 17th, December 1st, and December 11th
Restore the Delta and partners have been advocating through petitions filed with the State Water Resources Control Board, and with US EPA, for movement by the State Water Board to finish the Bay-Delta Plan. While we wait for implementation of Phase I (San Joaquin River flows) which was approved December 2018 and delayed due to the “voluntary agreements” process, the Delta has suffered for decades without updated water quality and flow standards that protect communities, culture, fisheries, recreation, and agriculture.
Now is the time for you to help us advocate for an improved Bay-Delta estuary!
WHO: State Water Resources Control Board Public Hearings
WHAT: Public Hearings (Panels and Individual Comments) for Phase II of the Bay-Delta Plan. Staff Report, which focuses on Sacramento River flows. Here is a link to the 5000-plus page report.
WHEN: November 17th, 9:30 am; December 1st, 9:30 am; and December 11th, 4:00 pm.
WHERE: Cal EPA Building, 1001 I Street, Sacramento or attend on Zoom.
HOW: You can organize a panel to make comments or speak individually. Panels are 20 minutes in length; individual comments are 5 minutes (about 450 words when drafting). The State Board, however, is only allowing individuals to speak once, either on a panel or individually over the course of the 3 days.
You MUST REGISTER by November 3, 2023, or you cannot participate in the public hearings. (We know, not an easy process that welcomes the public.) Here is the link to register.
WHY: The Staff Report for the Bay-Delta Plan contains the “voluntary agreements” – a private, incomplete, and discriminatory process – in which most Californians were left out of having a say in water allocations and river and Bay-Delta protections – not to mention the disparate impacts these agreements will cause for tribal and environmental justice communities.
Additionally, the Staff Report doesn’t contain a proposed project, but rather, a recommended alternative with options, through which the Board can put together a Bay-Delta Plan that serves political interests, rather than science-based objectives to restore our fisheries and environmental health.
WHAT WE ARE SEEING:
1. As currently drafted, the Plan is incomplete and inadequate for fisheries and the overall health of the Bay-Delta estuary.
2. A proposed alternative of 55% unimpaired flows for the Sacramento River with a range of 45-65%, will not save native fisheries, and fisheries will continue to slide into extinction. While there isn’t a stable proposed project because Board members are being offered alternatives with additional a la carte management options, 65% minimum unimpaired flows gets us closer to fish recovery, and 75% is the best based on established science. There is no plan of implementation for the proposed alternative which should have been finished over the last five years.
3. There is no harmful algal bloom standard to protect people who come in contact with waterways. There isn’t a real strategy for how harmful algal blooms will be tracked, identified, and mitigated.
4. The voluntary agreements, which are offered as an option, do not set water quality objectives — so the voluntary agreements cannot meet the objectives of the Bay-Delta Plan.
5. The voluntary agreements, as included in this draft, do not include an implementation plan, meaning that the public will have to comment on implementation later. This keeps us in a perpetual cycle of reacting to a Bay-Delta that is never finished.
6. Beneficial uses are identified in this plan, i.e., agriculture, fisheries, recreation, drinking water, but the Plan does not define Tribal Beneficial Uses, which is a continuation of discriminatory practices.
7. The staff report only looked at groundwater and drinking water, not cultural or recreational uses. The Environmental Justice analysis for the Delta is inadequate seeing it doesn’t cover 72 small drinking water systems.
8. The voluntary agreements do not address cold water pools upstream needed for fisheries and do not contain storage thresholds.
9. The Staff Report does identify the beneficial uses of a healthy river and estuary, and healthy fisheries within the cost benefit analysis. Cost benefits are mostly related to water exports.