State and Federal Agencies Announce Agreement with Local Water Providers to Improve River and Landscape Health – YubaNet

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SACRAMENTO, March 29, 2022 – State, federal and local water officials today announced broad agreement on measures to provide additional water flows and new habitat to help improve conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta watershed.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed today outlines the terms of an eight-year transformational program that would deliver substantial new flows to the environment to help restore salmon and other native fish, create new and restored habitat for fish and wildlife and to provide significant funding. for environmental improvements and water purchases. It also outlines a habitat governance and oversight framework with clear metrics and goals to enable state, federal, and local partners to analyze progress, adaptively manage, and decide whether the program should continue. , amended or discontinued after eight years.

“Since my first days in office, I have sought to discard old binaries and find new solutions to problems – we don’t have to choose between healthy ecosystems or a healthy economy, we can choose a path that offers the two,” Governor Gavin told Newsom. “This is a significant and hard-earned step in the right direction. I am grateful to our partners for this historic agreement and look forward to continuing our collaboration as we adapt for the future.

The state has been actively working with local water agencies since 2016 to develop enforceable agreements to provide additional river flows and new habitat to help change the trajectory of declining native fish species. Following the release of a framework document in February 2020, state agencies continued to work with local water agencies to refine elements of agreements that would enable adaptive and holistic management and bring about greater environmental improvements. quickly than a regulatory proceeding that would likely be contentious.

“Today’s memorandum of understanding is an important step, but there is still a lot of work to do,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “We are committed to advancing these critical agreements because they promise to improve environmental conditions faster and more comprehensively than regulatory requirements, while providing more certainty for communities, farms and businesses. The severity of this drought shows us how quickly we need to act and how much we can do with mutual commitment to increase flows, accelerate habitat restoration, and learn together what works best so we can make it happen. more.

“Extreme weather caused by climate change is wreaking havoc on California’s water supply. By adaptively managing this complex system, voluntary agreements accelerate the provision of additional water and critical habitats,” said California Environmental Protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “This agreement will move us away from the ‘water wars’ of yesteryear, ushering in a new era of collaboration in the fight against climate change.

“Today marks a key milestone in California water – a milestone that symbolizes the importance of working together to address the challenges of climate change,” said Ernest Conant, Regional Director of Reclamation. “Reclamation welcomes this partnership opportunity to evolve into a more comprehensive approach to improving environmental health and water supply reliability for the cities, farms and shelters we serve.”

The National Water Resources Control Board is required to update its Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan to protect native fish, wildlife, and other “beneficial uses” of water, including municipal, domestic and agricultural water supplies.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed today aims to achieve these goals through an integrated program that includes the creation of habitats, new environmental flows beyond existing regulatory requirements, funding for environmental improvements and water purchases, and a new collaborative science program for monitoring and adaptive management.

Habitat creation will range from targeted enhancements in tributaries to extensive landscape-level restoration in the Sacramento Valley. Improvements include creation of spawning and rearing habitats for salmon and smelt, completion of high priority fish screen projects, restoration and reactivation of floodplains, projects to combat predation and improvement of fish passages.

“Today’s action is a major step in significantly improving the way we manage our water supplies to support our environment and all Californians,” said Jennifer Pierre, CEO of State Water Contractors. “Our only way forward is together and the VAs are creating an appropriate governance approach that will allow resource agencies, public water agencies and conservation groups to work together to better balance the environmental and economic needs of our state. . We look forward to working with our partners and state leaders to advance AVs to ensure a reliable water supply for Californians and our ecosystems.

“The program advanced today represents a fundamental shift in how state agencies, federal agencies, public water agencies and other interested groups approach efforts to protect the environment and provide water to towns, industries and farms,” ​​said Thomas Birmingham, Chief Executive of Westlands Water District. “This program will take a comprehensive approach to restoring healthy rivers and ecosystems, improving the viability of native fish populations, and ensuring the reliability of water supplies to communities and farms in nearly every region of the state. It’s vitally important to California agriculture, which supplies more than two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts and more than a third of the country’s vegetables.

“This is a critical step in our joint effort to develop a balanced and holistic watershed-scale approach to address the environmental and water reliability challenges we face in the Sacramento-Delta. San Joaquin,” Metropolis chief executive Adel Hagekhalil said. “But this is just the first step. We need to work collaboratively with all of our state, federal, environmental and water agency partners to ensure we have a comprehensive action plan that improves water reliability. water and gives concrete results for the environment.

“We look forward to the new collaborative governance and trust building that will occur through the decision-making processes of the agreement, and appreciate the framework for balancing water needs beneficial to fish, farms, communities and the environment. environment,” said Thad Bettner, Managing Director. of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District.

Heads of local water agencies who sign the MoU have pledged to submit the terms of the MoU to their Boards of Directors for their approval and to work to resolve disputes over the protection of endangered species. in the delta.

The signatories of the agreement have also committed to finalize the following elements:

  • Up to 824,000 acre-feet of additional flow to and through the delta in the environmentally significant window from January to June. Target throughput volumes vary depending on how wet or dry a year is, and the throughputs made available under the agreement will exceed current regulatory conditions.
  • 20,000 acres of additional floodplain habitat
  • 20,000 acres of paddy fields flooded to enhance the generation of microscopic plants and animals that provide food for fish
  • Over 5,000 acres of additional tidal wetlands and associated floodplain
  • Nearly 3,300 acres of additional spawning habitat and juvenile rearing habitat in streams and floodplains
  • A new state multi-disciplinary restoration unit to expedite permitting and implementation of habitat projects
  • Annual reports informing adaptive management and describing the status and trend of native fish populations and indicating whether the commitments of the parties to the voluntary agreement are being met
  • Triennial reports and public workshops during the third and sixth years of the agreement to analyze progress
  • A “red,” “yellow,” or “green” decision by state water quality regulators in year eight to determine whether voluntary agreements meet ecological goals and should be continued, modified, or completed.

Water agencies in the Bay-Delta watershed that do not subscribe to the approach outlined in the MOU should comply with regulatory requirements established by the State Water Board.

Implementation of the agreements outlined in the MOU is estimated at $2.6 billion, to be shared between water users and state and federal governments. The water agencies will assess the charges themselves to support the implementation of the voluntary agreements. Water users and the state will make flows available through a combination of reduced diversions, year-to-year water purchases, long-term or permanent water purchases, and set-aside voluntary farmland or pasture.

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