For twelve years, the State Water Resources Control Board has implemented a comprehensive, public and transparent process for verifying and updating water quality standards for the Bay Delta. As part of this process, the Governing Body has evaluated a number of alternatives and the scientific basis of these alternatives has been the subject of several rounds of independent scientific peer review – review by independent scientific experts. However, as part of a parallel process to avoid regulatory action, a group of interested parties negotiates what is known as a voluntary agreement, often conducted in confidential meetings (requiring public authorities, local hydraux districts and other parties to sign a confidentiality agreement to participate in the discussions for years, regardless of the requirements of the Public Registration Act). Voluntary agreements represent the best of California. They are also our best way to work together, restore the environment and benefit our economy. And it`s worth our best effort. Voluntary agreements, he said, «are more promising because they offer the opportunity not to seriously harm the water law system. unlike an unassed current approach, which is a way to do this in the absence of ham. Steve Knell, general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District, believes that the framework of the voluntary agreements, as currently designed, would require drainage of the state of New Melones Dam, east of Stockton, as well as facilities in the District of Donnells, Beardsley and Tulloch, to the detriment of the basin`s cold water basins.
The framework, he said, «may provide water to the delta, but it does not provide the sustainability that fishing and agriculture need in the river.» In a feb. letter. 7 Addressed to state and federal officials, the districts of Oakdale and South San Joaquin, the Heads of State and Government called for careful consideration of water, rivers and water for the Greater Delta Ecosystem and for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, which are junior water rights holders, contribute to fair amounts. Implementing unassured rivers — essentially maintaining more fresh water in rivers — to meet delta water quality standards requires a separate process of changing water rights to determine who emits how much water. The plan would reach large communities, including many urban areas. Michael Carlin, deputy chief executive of the San Francisco Utilities Commission, which buys water from the Sierra-fed Tuolumne River, said a comprehensive voluntary agreement plan for the Sacramento and San Joaquín watersheds requires many individual agreements — a comprehensive process that takes months to clear up. Voluntary agreements in California have been touted as an innovative and flexible way to improve environmental conditions in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta and the rivers that feed it. The goal is to provide rivers and habitat for fish, while redirecting enough water for farms and cities in a way that satisfies public regulators. «This conflict, if it continues, will not only reduce water supply, just as drought could return to California, but also block the successful negotiation of voluntary agreements to meet Delta`s water quality requirements, which we support,» they wrote on April 15.
While the recent proposal for state voluntary agreements in the Bay Delta leaves many questions unanswered, the first analysis shows a deeply worrying direction. Decades of unsustainable water diversions have threatened several salmon and other native fish streams with extinction, climate change – more frequent and severe droughts, higher temperatures, reduced runoff – exacerbated the challenge we face as a state. . . .