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Feb 3 - NDWA Board Meeting via teleconference
State Legislature Reconvenes with New COVID-19 Rules - After an extended spring break, the State Assembly returned to work on Monday, May 4. About 300 bills were referred to policy committees by the Assembly Rules Committee last week; but most are not yet in print. To comply with guidelines on social distancing, committee hearings will be held on the Assembly Floor and advocates are being asked to communicate electronically as much as possible. The manner in which hearings will be conducted is unknown, but insiders anticipate a limit on those allowed to testify in person. The Senate returned to Sacramento on Monday, May 11.
State Budget Outlook is Bleak - In just a few months, the state’s fiscal situation has shifted from a projected multi-billion budget surplus, to a $54 billion deficit due to the economic blow from the shutdown during an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. This amount is about 37% of the state’s entire annual general fund. A report by the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) outlines the severe negative economic consequences resulting from the state’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis; predicting the deep recession we find ourselves in, will last for years.
Delta Water Rights Discussed - At the December 2020 State Water Resources Control Board meeting, the Delta Watermaster Michael George gave a presentation covering many topics related to water rights in the Delta.
File Water Diversion Statement or Pay Fine - Annual water diversion statements must be filed with the State Water Resources Control Board by July 1st. After that, the Deltawatermaster will be applying $500 per day fines pursuant to state law.
Flood Approves Early Army Corps Review - At its May meeting, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board approved a Statement of No Objection letter for two large Delta projects intended to improve SWP/CVP water supply reliability: 1) Delta Conveyance Project to construct new diversions on Sacramento and tunnel to water export facilities; and 2) Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration Project to notch the Fremont Weir and installation of an operable diversion gate to allow more frequent inundation of the Yolo Bypass to generate food production for juvenile salmon according to an informational presentation provided at its April meeting. The flood board's letters for these projects authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to initiate early 408 review before the projects have reached the normal 60% level of design.
Wetland Conversion Begins on Sherman Island - DWR has begun construction of the Whale’s Belly Wetlands Restoration Project on Sherman Island in the Delta. This is one of the most geographically important locations for SWP and CVP water conveyance; and the Project is part of the CA EcoRestore initiative to restore at least 30,000 acres in the Delta to comply with habitat requirements in the federal Biological Opinions for the coordinated operation of the SWP and CVP water export facilities. The project is also a pilot project in the Delta Conservancy’s Carbon Program to convert up to 200,000 acres in the Delta and to sell the carbon credits in a cap-and-trade market. The sale of these credits was previously promoted by DWR to offset the costs the BDCP, so may still be a financial strategy for implementation of the Delta Conveyance Project.
Delta Plan Amendments on Ecosystem Chapter Initiated - The Delta Stewardship Council released a Notice of Preparation for CEQA analysis of amendments to Chapter 4 on Ecosystem in the Delta Plan. When the Delta Plan was originally adopted, it was assumed that habitat conservation measures in the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) would be approved and implemented. Since the BDCP was abandoned by Governor Brown, the Council now wants to revise the Ecosystem Chapter. The deadline to comment on the NOP is 5:00 p.m. on July 10, 2020.
Lawsuit Claims State Water Project Killing Fish and Ruining Delta - A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit claiming the unsustainable water diversions of the State Water Project (SWP) are damaging the Delta ecosystem and killing fish. These organizations claim that pursuant to new Biological Opinions released by the Trump Administration, the Central Valley Project (CVP) pumped at levels above the amounts allowed since 2009. In mid-May a federal judge ordered the CVP to immediately reinstate stricter pumping limits for May. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra heralded the preliminary injunction to halt the “Trump Administration’s reckless attempt to expand water export operations.”
Long-Term Water Contracts Challenged - A lawsuit was filed that challenges the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s approval to convert 14 short-term CVP water supply contracts to permanent contracts. The suit claims that CVP diversions reduce freshwater flows causing decreased water quality, including increases in harmful algal blooms that threaten public health. Dozens of other CVP contracts are also in the process of becoming permanent.
DWR Rejects Western Tunnel Alignment - In his scoping comments on the Delta Conveyance Project, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) described the benefits of the western alignment and requested DWR to provide explanation, if they decide to reject this as an alternative to be evaluated in the EIR. The Department gave seven reasons why they do not consider the western alignments to be a feasible alternative: 1) an in-channel fish screen would require fish capture and handling; 2) the City of West Sacramento has cited inconsistencies with its general plan; 3) the levees along the Deep Water Ship Channel (DWSC) would need to be raised; 4) the sediment in the DWSC is contaminated and would require dredging or capping to protect water supply; 5) a lock in the DWSC would block access to Cache Slough for spawning and rearing Delta Smelt; 6) lock locations would need to be placed same area as northern diversion to avoid Smelt impacts; and 7) would have impacts on Freeport Regional Water Authority Project and the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation facilities.
Water Board Notice of Potential Curtailments - The State Water Resources Control Board issued an advance notice advising of the potential for water diversion curtailments applicable to permit and license holders having Term 91 as a condition of their water right. At the May 5th meeting, the board staff confirmed Term 91 curtailments are likely to be implemented in some areas. Extreme drought conditions in the Scott River watershed may result in curtailment of junior water rights; however, they do not believe curtailments in the Bay-Delta watershed will be necessary.
SWRCB Rejects CVP Water Temperature Plan - The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has determined, based on modeling, that the May 1 cold water pool cannot maintain the 53.5 degree temperature between May 15 through October 31 at the Sacramento River gauging station above Clear Creek. As a result, the Bureau submitted a Temperature Management Plan (TMP) to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) proposing to operate Shasta reservoir to maintain temperatures between 53.5 and 56.0 degrees for shorter periods during sensitive stages of egg incubation to minimize mortality of temperature dependent fish species. This alteration of Shasta management will affect timing and volume of freshwater flows through the Delta, but any potential effects to downstream water users does not seem to have been modeled. The SWRCB sent a letter to the Bureau refusing to approve the TMP because it fails to provide alternative operational scenarios, despite repeated requests for this information. It pointed out that SWP/CVP operational decisions that deplete the cold water pool too early, or that require reservoir releases at the wrong time, could have disastrous effects for water users and fish species; and further emphasized the importance of maintaining carryover storage at Shasta this year due to likelihood of a looming drought based on patterns over the last 21 years. The Bureau has 20 days to submit additional operational scenarios that would include reduced water deliveries under Reclamation’s water rights and adjusting the timing of fall diversions by CVP contractors in the Sacramento Valley.
Appeal Court Upholds Landowner’s Riparian Rights - The California Third Court of Appeal recently issued a water rights ruling (Modesto Irrigation District (MID) v. Tanaka; Super. Ct. No. 34-2011-00112886-CU-JR-GDS), regarding maintenance of riparian rights when property is sold and no longer contiguous to the water source. The trial court ruled against a landowner of property that was originally part of a 250,000-acre property next to the Middle River, but is no longer contiguous; declaring that landowner did not have a water right to divert from the river. On appeal, the court looked more closely at the language in the grant deed to determine if the parties intended to maintain the riparian water rights. The court also considered extrinsic evidence related to the conveyance of the property. Ultimately, the appeal court reversed the trial court and ruled that the wording in the deed did in fact intend to transfer everything belonging to the subject property, including the riparian water right to divert from the Middle River. The plaintiff, Modesto Irrigation District, plans to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.
Delta Conveyance Project Comments - April 17, 2020 was the deadline to submit scoping comments on the Notice of Preparation for the new single tunnel project dubbed the Delta Conveyance Project (DCP). Comment letters were submitted by NDWA and many others.
State and Feds Part Ways on Delta Water Operations - After decades of being in lock-step in coordinating permitting for the operations of the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP) pumps in Tracy, California has forged a new path with two recent actions. For the first time, the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFA) issued a state Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for the operation of the SWP. As is common in the Delta, lawsuits against the permits followed.
Solano County Strikes Deal on Cache Slough Restoration - As part of a settlement deal with DWR, the Solano County Board of Supervisors approved receiving $750,000 to develop of a Cache Slough Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) in exchange for the county dropping a lawsuit over the state’s Lookout Slough tidal marsh restoration project. The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency and Solano County Water Agency are also contributing funding for development of the HCP.
Consistency Certifications Filed for Delta Habitat Projects - The Delta Stewardship Council has revised the webpage dedicated to Covered Actions, which is the certification process for demonstrating consistency with the Delta Plan. No changes were made to the regulatory policies or requirements for consistency certification. On April 7, 2020, DWR submitted a certification of consistency with the Delta Plan for the Sherman Island Belly Wetland Restoration project and Westlands Water District filed certification for the Lower Yolo Ranch Restoration Project. The Sherman Island project proposes maintaining water levels year-round on 1,000 acres to create wetlands to reverse subsidence and sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide to help reduce greenhouse gases (GHG). The Yolo Ranch project will convert 1,671 acres from agriculture to tidal habitat to comply with federal Biological Opinions for the coordinated operation of the SWP and CVP.
“No Regrets” Habitat Projects Proposed to Rejuvenate Voluntary Agreements - In an effort to advance the stalled Voluntary Agreements, the Northern California Water Association (NCWA) has joined forces with DWR and the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFA) to submit a list of what they consider early implementation “no regrets” salmon recovery projects to the CA Resources Agency, including up to 689 acres of enhanced floodplain habitat. They are seeking $70 million from Prop. 68.
Antioch Settlement Agreement with DWR - In 1968, the City of Antioch executed a settlement agreement in which the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) pays one-third of the costs of supplemental water needed when Delta water becomes too salty as a result of upstream State Water Project export diversions. In mid-April, the City Council voted on approval of a new settlement agreement with DWR in which Antioch will receive $70 million in financing for construction of the Antioch Brackish Water Desalinization Plant. The funding will include a direct payment of $27 million and additional $43 million in state grants and loans.
RTD Comments on Southern Delta Salinity Plan - Restore the Delta submitted comment letter on the State Resources Water Control Board's (SWRCB) Notice of Availability for a draft Comprehensive Operations Plan for the Southern Delta Salinity Objective prepared by DWR and USBR.
Record of Decision Approved on Long-Term Water Transfers - The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation signed a Record of Decision authorizing a long-term water transfer program.
Quarter of Delta Acreage Targeted for Conversion to Carbon Sink - The Delta Conservancy is nearing completion of third-party verification of managed wetlands for carbon emission reduction credits under the Delta Carbon Program. According to Conservancy Executive Director, Campbell Ingram, the land conversion idea has a target of 200,000 acres transitioning to managed wetlands or rice production – which is more than one quarter of the Delta. He believes the answer to reversing subsidence and carbon emissions lies in reverting part of the Delta to its former marshy environment. About 50,000 acres in this area are publicly owned, providing an opportunity to demonstrate the viability of carbon farming the neighboring lands in private ownership.
New Delta Lead Scientist Selected - The Delta Stewardship Council announced the appointment of Dr. Laurel Larson as the new Lead Scientist, who is responsible for overseeing the Delta Science Program.
Menagerie of Delta Planning Efforts Available in One Place - Have you ever wondered how many Delta planning efforts there are? Ever wanted an easy way to find information on each of these planning efforts? Well your wish has come true. Maven’s Notebook has created a website page listing many of these Delta planning efforts with internet hyperlinks to sites that have more information, which will make all of our lives much easier.
Pause Requested on Delta Conveyance Project - In light of the COVID-19 state of emergency, the Delta Counties Coalition sent letter to Secretary Crowfoot requesting a stay on the public processes for planning single-tunnel Delta Conveyance Project (DCP).
NDWA Comments on Coordinated Ops of CVP/SWP - The Agency submitted letter commenting on Draft EIR/EIS analyzing the long-term coordinated operation of the CVP and SWP to maximize water exports and implement recent amendments to the Coordinated Operations Agreement (COA).
NDWA Comments on Delta Habitat Projects - Scoping comments were submitted by NDWA on a habitat restoration in Lookout Slough and on water supply project for the long-term operation of the State Water Project (SWP) including recent amendments to the Coordinated Operations Agreement with U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Central Valley Project (CVP).
WaterFix Project Documents Rescinded - DWR and USBR withdrew the change of diversion petition and CEQA certification for WaterFix twin tunnels project in order to initiate planning of a single tunnel project diversion and conveyance project. On July 15, 2019, NDWA filed a Request for Dismissal and the court entered the dismissal as requested.
New Agreement on Operation of SWP/CVP Signed - DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation signed a new amended version of the Coordinated Operations Agreement (COA) for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project originally adopted in 1986. At the February NDWA board meeting, MBK Engineers gave a presentation explaining the changes agreed to by DWR and USBR.
Water Board Developing Water Rights Enforcement Policy - Pursuant to recent legislative directive (Water Code Section 1825), the State Water Resources Control Board has initiated scoping process for development of regulations to govern the enforcement of the terms and conditions of water rights permits, licenses, certifications, and registrations to appropriate water, to enforce state board orders, and to prevent the unlawful diversion of water. On a related note, a video of January workshop provides information on water diversion measurement requirements.
Water Board Adopts New Flow Standards for San Joaquin River - At its December 12th meeting the State Water Resources Control Board approved a resolution adopting amendments to the Bay-Delta Plan update that establish new flow standards for the San Joaquin River and tributaries, including CEQA Overriding Considerations and Monitoring Program. DWR and the CA Department of Fish and Wildife made presentation to the water board regarding their efforts to facilitate voluntary agreements with stakeholder on improving flows for fisheries consistent with the State’s Water Action Plan. Negotiations for voluntary settlement agreements to replace the flow standards will continue, but some agencies have threatened to file lawsuits.
Delta Pact Between State and Federal Agencies - In mid-December, DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced execution of new agreements governing the coordinated operations of the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP). They are intended to resolve conflicts over amendments to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan (D-1641) and to revise water sharing formulas. These changes are an Addendum to the original Coordinated Operating Agreement (COA) executed in 1986 and authorized by Congress, commonly referred to as the “historic” Delta Accordintended to ensure Southern California urban water supplies during drought and clear the way for increased water shipments from the north, while guaranteeing more outflow to the San Francisco Bay to please environmental organizations. They redefine the role the federal CVP has in providing water to protect the Delta water quality when river levels are the lowest during the summer and fall months. Another agreement formalizes the cost-sharing formula for projects needed to comply with Endangered Species Act responsibilities (BiOps) for the joint operation of CVP and SWP, and new facilities such as WaterFix intakes and tunnels. An additional “No Harm Agreement” revealed in public records act request has also been negotiated in regards to the WaterFix Project with a companion “Letter of Dismissal” for protests of WaterFix petition to be dropped. The City of Stockton and San Joaquin County criticized these backroom negotiations to keep the WaterFix twin tunnels mega-project moving forward.
Water Rights Permits and Change Petitions Explained - The chief of the permitting section for the Division of Water Rights gave a presentation to the CA Water Commission describing the complex steps and timelines involved in processing applications associated with the SWRCB's authority over post-1914 water rights.
Trump Administration Propose Increasing Delta Exports - Pursuant to President Trump's directive, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has issued Notice of Intent for preparation of environmental document to authorize maximizing the amount of water exported from the Delta by the Central Valley Project (CVP) pumps.
West Sacramento, CA 95691
Melinda Terry, Manager
The California Legislature formed the North Delta Water Agency in 1973. By law, the Agency has two general purposes:
1) Protect the North Delta's water supply against saltwater intrusion; and 2) Assure a dependable supply of water for North Delta landowners.
NORTH DELTA WATER AGENCY