CSPA and Allies Oppose another DWR Delta Boondoggle

CSPA and California Water Research submitted comments on January 6, 2020 opposing the analysis of the Department of Water Resources (DWR) of proposed future Delta operations.  The comments responded to DWR’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Long-Term Operation of the State Water Project.[1]  The California Water Impact Network and AquAlliance were also on these comments of “CSPA et al.”

DWR’s DEIR analyzes alternatives for rules under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) that would govern future Delta operations of the State Water Project.  These rules will be established in an “Incidental Take Permit,” similar to a Biological Opinion (BiOp) under the federal Endangered Species Act.

In autumn 2019, the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce issued two new Biological Opinions for the operation of the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.  These 2019 BiOps found that Delta operations would not jeopardize threatened and endangered (“listed”) species or adversely modified their critical habitat.[2]  These “No Jeopardy” BiOps reversed the Jeopardy findings in BiOps for Delta operations that were issued in 2008 and 2009, when populations of listed species in the Delta were already depressed but were more abundant than they are today.

Following issuance of the 2008 and 2009 BiOps, California issued “consistency determinations” stating that the federal BiOps would protect state-listed species under state law.  This time around, the state decided to issue its own document, the Incidental Take Permit.  Unfortunately, the alternatives for the Incidental Take Permit that the DEIR analyzes are almost identical to the 2019 Trump Administration BiOps that DWR chose not to rely on.

All of the alternatives in DWR’s DEIR would find that operation of the State Water Project does not jeopardize listed fish species.  The alternatives rely on the same “new” science as the science in the federal BiOps, according to which fish in the Delta don’t need more water.  The alternatives rely on “real-time” management to shut off the Delta export pumps when listed fish are close by, even though the food that these fish eat is getting exported all the time.

The DEIR doesn’t even discuss how DWR operates the State Water Project’s Oroville Reservoir today, and it ignores how operation of Oroville would change under new rules.  Much of the analysis argues that the proposed new operation of the State Water Project won’t make conditions for fish worse than they are today, so the proposed new operation is good enough and does not require additional protective measures.  These and many similar defects are recycled from the arguments that DWR made under the Brown administration in the hearings on the “California WaterFix” (twin tunnels under the Delta).

Like the 2019 federal Biological Opinions, the net effect of the new Incidental Take Permit will be to weaken already inadequate protections for fish and the ecosystem and to allow the State Water Project to divert more water.[3]  One would hope that DWR could do better than putting a new hat on the Trump administration’s water grab and assault on fish.

[1] The DEIR is available at: https://water.ca.gov/News/News-Releases/2019/November/Long-Term-Operations-of-State-Water-Project

[2] See description of CSPA et al.’s comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Long-Term Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project at: http://calsport.org/news/a-fresh-disaster-for-fish-bureau-of-reclamations-new-plan-for-long-term-operations-of-the-cvp-and-swp-water-export-business/

[3] For further analysis of the DEIR, see: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/doug-obegi/why-dwr-helping-trump-weaken-bay-delta-protections


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