As we wait for the Newsom Administration to unveil the details of its proposed Portfolio Project, with a single Delta tunnel, results of the “Voluntary Agreement” process to replace/argument the existing Water Quality Control Plan proceeding and efforts by the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to increased exports from the Delta, it’s been a hectic period for submitting numerous comments on an array of other critical projects. CSPA and a coalition of environmental, fishing and tribal organizations have submitted extensive comments on an array of pending projects affecting fisheries and water quality. There is a common thread: they all have to do with Central Valley Project (CVP) water diverted from the Delta and/or the discharge of polluted drainage water to the San Joaquin River and Delta. For example,
- On 10 December 2019, the coalition submitted new information on deformities in Sacramento splittail for consideration in the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed 10-year agreement to use the San Luis Drain for discharges to the San Joaquin River.
- On 12 December 2019, comments were submitted on the Draft EA for the CVP Cross-Valley contractors Interim Renewal Water Contracts.
- On 14 December 2019, comments were submitted on the Draft EA for the CVP Interim Renewal Contract for Westlands Water District.
- On 23 December 2019, comments were submitted on the Draft EA on a 10-year agreement for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) Long-Term Storm Water Management Plan for the Grasslands Drainage Area.
- On 2 January 2020, comments were submitted on the CVP Final Cost Allocation Study.
- On 6 January 2020, comments were submitted on Westlands WD Conversion Contract for 1.15 MAF under the WIIN Act §4011.
- On 7 January, an additional coalition, including CSPA, submitted comments on the Westlands WIIN Act Conversion Contract.
The coalition also submitted 20 December 2019 comments on the Draft Agreement between USBR and SLDMWA for operations and maintenance activities. The coalition had submitted comments back in September 2019 on the Grassland Bypass Project Long-term Storm Water Management Plan EIR Addendum and Initial Study.
The Law Offices of Stephen Volker also submitted a series of comments on behalf of CSPA and others on a number of these issues. For example,
- On 20 December 2019, comments were submitted on the transfer of operation, maintenance and certain financial and administrative activities related to the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Canals, the C.W. “Bill” Jones Pumping Plant in the Delta, Delta Mendota Canal/California Aqueduct Intertie Pumping Plant, the O’Neill Plumping Plant and the San Luis Drain and Associated Works.
- On 23 December 2019, comments were submitted on 10-year use agreement for the SLDMWA long-term storm water manage plan for the Grasslands Drainage Area.
- And, on 24 December 2019, comments were submitted on the WIIN Act Draft Repayment Contracts between USBR and Westlands Water District.
The Law Offices of Stephen Volker had filed a 12 November 2019 CEQA lawsuit on behalf of CSPA and others regarding the Grasslands Bypass EIR Addendum & Initial Study maintaining that the old 2019 EIR/EIS was outdated, the Addendum was inadequate and that a new environmental document needed to be prepared.
Additionally, on 16 December 2019, the Law Offices of Stephen Volker filed an answer to the validation lawsuit, on behalf of CSPA and a coalition of environmental and fishing groups, where Westlands seeks to validate a contract that it is seeking to finalize with the federal government to convert its contract or CVP water deliveries from one that needed to be renewed to a permanent contract that would no longer need to be renewed. In effect, the new deal with the federal government would cement Westland’s CVP water deliveries at very favorable terms to Westlands. If unopposed, validation would subvert federal and state environmental laws, including the obligation of Westlands to comply with statutory requirements and the ability and rights of the public to participate in a review process of the contract and challenge the contract under relevant environmental laws. Others joining in answers to the validation complaint included: San Joaquin and Trinity Counties, the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council, South & Central Delta Water Agencies and a coalition of other public interest groups.
Lastly, on 20 December 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a revised final ruling on our lawsuit against USBR and SLDMWA regarding the discharge of highly polluted agricultural wastewater to the San Joaquin River. The lawsuit alleged that discharges of agricultural water that was comingled with water from other sources does not meet the irrigated runoff exemption from requirements to obtain a federal Clean Water Act permit. This resounding victory has implications for agricultural discharges throughout the Valley. CSPA and co-plaintiffs were represented by the Law Offices of Stephen Volker.