CSPA Press Release
CSPA Protests State Board’s Elimination of Key Delta Protection: Secret order allows pumping to be increased!
July 30, 2009. Stockton, CA. Today, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) submitted a formal petition to the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) asking it to reconsider its issuance of a “secret” Order allowing export pumping to be increased despite violation of Delta water quality standards. The Order was issued in response to a petition from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). South Delta Water Agency has also asked the State Board to reconsider the decision.
“This despicable backroom deal undercuts one of the few remaining protections for water quality and fisheries in the Delta,” said CSPA Executive Director Bill Jennings, adding “It’s a clear message that the State cares more about sending water to grow cotton in the desert than it cares about protecting Delta agriculture and endangered species.”
The order, issued by one Member of the five-member State Board and without public notice or public hearing, authorizes DWR and USBR to use the Joint Point of Diversion (JPOD), even if water quality standards in the south Delta are being violated. The JPOD allows the DWR and USBR to use each other’s pumping plants interchangeably thus “maximizing” water exports from the Delta. Not having to meet water quality standards in the Delta before using JPOD effectively eliminates one of the major protections of water quality and fisheries in the south Delta. High salinity levels severely impact the yield of Delta agriculture and measures that reduce salinity generally help fish by reducing water exports.
The Delta salinity standards, measured at three locations in the South Delta, coupled with the Vernalis instream flow and Delta Outflow requirements comprise virtually the only protection for water quality and fisheries mandated by the State of California. The salinity standards were originally included in the 1995 Water Quality Control Plan for the Bay-Delta and affirmed in State Board Decision 1641 in 2000, which implemented the 1995 Plan. However, due to repeated delays, the salinity standards only became effective in 2006. The State Board issued a Cease & Desist Order against DWR and USBR in 2006. However, the State Board never issued enforcement penalties against DWR and USBR, even though they again used JPOD while standards were violated in 2007.
Anticipating that salinity standards would be violated in 2008, DWR and USBR requested that the State Board modify the D-1641 requirements relating to JPOD. The Governor’s drought proclamation was used as justification for the request. CSPA and South Delta Water Agency were not notified of the request. State Board member Art Baggett, who was delegated authority to review emergency petitions, granted the request without hearing or public notification. Interestingly, the entire State Board had reaffirmed that Delta salinity standards must be met before JPOD could be used on 20 May 2008 when it issued a permit to Yuba County Water Agency for a long-term transfer: a decision that was modified by Board Member Baggett’s secret ruling.
“The State Board can’t make up its mind whether or not it wants to enforce the law,” said CSPA Attorney Michael Jackson, “But, Mr. Baggett clearly doesn’t have the authority to waive the law by himself.”
The principal intended use of the expedited water transfers is to irrigate crops in Westlands Water District, whose selenium and boron impaired lands leach toxic wastes into the San Joaquin River where they subsequently return to plague Delta agriculture and fisheries.
Bill Jennings, Chairman Executive Director
7-30-CSPA Request for Reconsideration for allowing export pumping at the Joint Point of Diversion