Federal & State, Cease and Desist! Water Quality!

Discussion in 'LOCAL CALIFORNIA TALK' started by Deltalover, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. Deltalover

    Deltalover New Member

    Tracy Calif
    There have, in recent month's a lot of reports of the decline in delta smelt. You can read more about it here! http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/special_packages/delta_in_decline/13506748.htm
    Many feel that the main problem is the export of water for commercial interest. Well yesterday a cease and disist order was leveled at state and federal goverment to halt additional water exports untill the health of the Delta is restored! I dont think it's a fixall, but it is a start! It's about time!

    State and federal agencies were ordered Wednesday to stop violating water quality standards in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a ruling that could mean more water flowing out of reservoirs to benefit fish and less water exported to Southern California residents.
    The California Water Resources Control Board imposed a cease and desist order against the state Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operate separate water export systems in the Delta and numerous reservoirs in the Sierra Nevada.
    The order is unprecedented, marking the first time the board has stood firm to enforce a salinity standard in the troubled Delta, after granting compliance extensions for more than two decades to its fellow government agencies.

    "We think this is historic in that it is making clear that the standards must be met, and I think that's a big deal," said John Herrick, an attorney for the South Delta Water Agency, which sells water to farmers in the south Delta and argued in favor of the order. "We think this sets a new tone."
    The water projects operated by DWR and the Bureau of Reclamation collect water from throughout Northern California for storage in state and federal reservoirs, then pump it south through the Delta.

    These massive diversions have altered water quality in the Delta because the fresh water released from the reservoirs often isn't enough to dilute the salty ocean water that flows in from San Francisco Bay. The saline water reduces crop productivity for Delta farmers and harms fish habitat.

    Biologists have identified water exports as a possible culprit in the plunging populations of four fish species in the Delta, including the threatened Delta smelt.

    "It really is a historic decision," Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, said of the order. "In itself it may not save the Delta, but it will be one of the crucial mileposts on the road to restoration."

    It's been more than 25 years since the Water Resources Control Board first set a salinity standard for the Delta.

    But DWR and the bureau, insisting they would be unable to meet a 1995 compliance date, were granted extensions until 2005.

    The agencies said compliance by 2005 depended upon installation of salinity control barriers at three locations in the south Delta - movable dams designed to keep salty water out of the interior Delta.

    But the project got delayed, and last year the agencies notified the water board they still would not be able to meet the salinity standard.

    That started the enforcement effort that led to Wednesday's cease and desist order.

    The ruling puts the agencies on notice they must meet the standard or face enforcement action.

    It warns they should use all means necessary to comply, including increasing water flows to the Delta for environmental purposes and decreasing the amount exported south for farms and cities.

    That may not be a problem immediately because California is experiencing a "normal" winter, and there may be enough water in state and federal reservoirs to keep the Delta fresh.

    But under drought conditions, such as those the state endured in the early '90s, the standard could require water rationing for the south state.

    Jerry Johns, deputy director of DWR, cautioned that the order's full implications are not yet clear.

    DWR has 30 days to ask the water board to reconsider the ruling.

    "We are extremely disappointed in the board," said Johns. "I have never known the board to so totally disregard testimony from DWR like this."

    During hearings on the issue, DWR and Bureau of Reclamation officials argued they don't have complete control over Delta salinity.

    Johns noted, for instance, that urban sewage treatment outfalls in the Delta also boost salinity levels.

    "They're basically telling us that we are going to be responsible for helping dilute everybody else's degradation of the Delta," said Jeff McCracken, a spokesman for the bureau. "We don't think that's right."

    Johns said the board's ruling undermines a cooperative approach to state water issues established by the CalFed Bay-Delta Program, a partnership between state and federal officials. That program has been criticized over the past year for being ineffective, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning changes.

    The water board action comes a week after a state appellate court ordered the board to enforce salinity standards in the San Joaquin River and increase freshwater flows to improve conditions for salmon.

    Water board staff said that they are reviewing the court ruling and that it didn't affect the board's decision.

    Wednesday's order requires DWR and the bureau to notify the water board if they expect to violate the salinity standard and describe how they will change operations to avoid that. If a violation occurs, the board could order export pumping to cease.

    "The state board is actually going to enforce the law," said Michael Jackson, an attorney who supported the order on behalf of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

    "For at least the last 20 years, they have not asserted their authority. This is historic in that it starts that process - we're actually going to try to fix something."

  2. hopnbrly

    hopnbrly New Member

    As always Phil a excellent and informative post.

  3. bluehunter

    bluehunter New Member

    Los Angele
    Good info. Nice to see whats happening in the state.
  4. Mutt

    Mutt Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thanks Phil! I will have to say its about time!