February 13, 2015

Bipartisan Protest by Members of Congress to State Water Board Denial of Delta Pumping Flexibility

A bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators has sent a letter to the California State Water Resources Control Board (Board) requesting that it reverse a recent decision by staff to block moderate pumping increases in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta under certain conditions. The letter, sent to the Board’s Chair, Felicia Marcus, was signed by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and five other Republican members of the California delegation (Costa, Calvert, Valdao, Nunes and Denham), as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Legislators said it was “difficult to understand” the decision made by the Board’s Executive Director that contravened the opinions of five federal and state regulatory agencies, three of whom are tasked with protecting fish. Those agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, all “had assessed and concurred that the export adjustment would not cause harms beyond those allowed under the most stringent statutes and biological opinions.” 

The letter pointed out that “from the day the order went into effect until storm flows arrived in the Delta, as much as 10,000 acre-feet or 3.25 billion gallons of water was lost.”  Legislators also said that their constituents continued to face serious financial and lifestyle hardships amid worsening drought conditions and that wildlife and refugees were also being affected.

Members concluded that “we find the Executive Director’s reasons for denial unpersuasive and unsupported by the facts that have been carefully evaluated by five State and Federal agencies.”

Western Growers is also protesting the decision and is sending a letter to the Board asking for the decision to be reversed.