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CSPA/C-Win Comments and Testimony Prompt Major Improvements in Bay-Delta Strategic Plan

By Bill Jennings, Executive Director, CSPA
July 17, 2008 SACRAMENTO- CSPA’s attorney, Mike Jackson, and the organization’s Executive Director, Bill Jennings, along with Carolee Krieger, President of the California Water Impact Network, testified Wednesday, July 16th, at the State Water Resources Control Board as they worked to adopt the Bay-Delta Strategic Plan. CSPA and CWIN provided extensive written comments and oral testimony that were highly critical of the plan. Frankly, the draft plan was essentially a rejection of the public trust, unreasonable use and unreasonable method of diversion petition and a shoddy effort to advance the Delta Vision and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) processes. Adoption of the draft Plan would have left CSPA with little alternative but to proceed with a lawsuit. However, in a stunning and welcome surprise, Board Member Gary Wolf introduced an amendment that addressed a number of CSPA concerns.

First, it committed the Board to a November evidentiary hearing on a number of factual issues that include, at a minimum; sources of salt to the Bay-Delta Estuary, biological impacts of constant or variability salinity on fisheries, biological benefits of fish screens in the Delta, biological impacts of ammonia discharges, biological impacts of other toxic substances and biological impacts of net outflow objectives. Other substantive issues will be added to the list as identified. The purpose of the hearing will be to receive evidence on these issues and to render findings of fact, including statements that the science is yet inconclusive, when appropriate.

Second, it committed Board staff to finalize a detailed scope of services for another triennial review of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan as soon as possible after October 2008 and, most importantly, made clear that the Board will not necessarily wait until finalization of the Delta Vision and BDCP processes. In other words, the Board clearly recognizes that its responsibilities to protect fisheries and water quality and the timing of actions necessary to protect the Delta do not necessarily coincide with those of Delta Vision and BDCP.

Third, it made clear that future consideration of issues related to Delta Vision, BDCP or other actions related to fisheries and water quality will be conducted in open proceedings with full public participation.

CSPA supported the amendments. A number of water agency representatives expressed concern and alarm. But, with relatively little discussion they were incorporated into the Plan that was subsequently adopted. Several of the Board Members revealed afterwards that they had read the CSPA/C-WIN entire comment letter with great interest.

Jennnings believes CSPA can justifiably celebrate this surprising turn of events and get on with preparing for what will undoubtedly be a most interesting series of evidentiary proceedings.

Attached is a copy of Mr. Jenning’s oral testimony. He went beyond his submitted comments and focused on the necessity for a water rights adjudication since it’s questionable whether either of the export projects have legally valid water rights for most of the water they’ve historically embezzled from counties-of-origin, riparians and the public trust.

Mr. Jenning's oral testimony