Following a petition by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) requesting to further delay the “Change in Point of Diversion” hearings, CSPA and a broad collation of environmental and water agency groups has filed a counter petition requesting the State Water Resources Control Board dismiss the petition as incomplete.
On March 28th Bill Jennings detailed the source of the delay in the coalition’s press release:
“California WaterFix cannot be fixed, the idea that you can divert millions of acre feet of water under an estuary that is already suffering from lack of flow without grievously harming existing water users, communities and already degraded fisheries and water quality is fundamentally absurd.”
As the evening of March 29th, the State Board has already suspended all WaterFix deadlines pending assurances from DWR and USBR that they will be prepared to proceed without further delay in sixty days. The Board also stated that it intends to address the hearing schedule and numerous requests from the various parties in the near future. This includes the request by San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority that the hearing officers recuse themselves because they suggested that interim water quality standards for WaterFix might include higher Delta flows.
A new wrinkle materialized on March 29th when Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) dismissed its protest of WaterFix, saying that it had reached agreement with DWR. The agreement requires DWR to fully indemnify the District from WaterFix impacts and to provide CCWD with water delivered directly from the Sacramento River north of the Delta. This modification of WaterFix would decrease Delta inflow, has not received environmental review and renders the existing project description and environmental assessments, including fishery and water quality impacts, seriously inadequate. It would also require a change-in-the-point-of-diversion proceeding for CCWD.
Repeated delays do not change the fact that the WaterFix imposes significant harm to protected fish and wildlife – and thus cannot be permitted. This delay is not the first, and likely not the last, encountered in the long Delta Tunnels process.