California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16) recently sent a letter to two of President Barack Obama’s cabinet members urging them “to do everything you can to identify all available water supplies for our constituents facing an extremely difficult water year in the months ahead.”
The letter, dated November 27th, 2013, and addressed to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, was in response to a November 20th, 2013, announcement by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) that set initial requested water delivery allocations at only 5%. The 5% initial water allocation is the lowest initial estimate that DWR has issued since 2010, emphasizing the dry conditions that the state is experiencing.
Citing the restrictions the Endangered Species Act is having on state water control requirements, compounded with the unusually dry, almost drought-like conditions, the legislators laid out the case that ‘South of Delta’ water contractors, and Californians in general, are being severely impacted. Feinstein and Costa said that there is “significant policy discretion in how biological opinions are implemented and it is imperative that every opportunity is taken to reduce the socioeconomic and environmental damage that is occurring.”
They went on to ask Secretaries Jewell and Pritzker to personally review the 2014 Central Valley Project Water Plan to identify all additional measures their departments can take to improve water supplies, including allowing maximum discretion under biological opinions. The letter pointed out that while efforts by the Bureau of Reclamation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries have been a step forward, “the effort, to date, failed to provide enough alternate supplies (of water) to offset the reductions due to the ongoing drought conditions, the reductions needed to meet state water quality requirements and the restrictive implementation of the court-remanded biological opinions on delta smelt and salmonoids.”
Feinstein and Costa ended the letter by saying, “We know that there is substantial work ahead of us in addressing the long-term complexities of ensuring water supply reliability and restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, but nothing related to that long-term fix changes the reality that while the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is being implemented, an interim solution to our water supply challenges is necessary.”
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