California’s Bay-Delta – What’s at Stake

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The Sacramento-San Joaquin Rivers Delta and San Francisco Bay (hereinafter “Bay-Delta”) is an important economic and environmental resource benefiting all of California and the nation, and that there is much at stake in how one implements the numerous ecosystem restoration and water management actions that are under consideration. The Northern California Water Association (NCWA) and Sacramento Valley water resources managers recognize the importance to California’s future of restoring the environmental health of the Bay-Delta and providing high quality and reliable water supplies for all beneficial uses. We have been and remain willing to play a constructive role in implementing necessary solutions to Bay-Delta problems. In this context, NCWA remains committed to work toward the co-equal goals and a successful resolution to the Bay-Delta’s complex environmental and water supply problems. These waterrights and contracts serve as the foundation for water management throughout California, including the state and federal water projects.

Sacramento Valley water resources all flow through the rich mosaic in the Sacramento Valley and then funnel south past the Capitol through the Bay-Delta and then to the Pacific Ocean. Since the late 1800s, leaders throughout the Sacramento Valley have secured a variety of water rights to water and have invested significant public and private capital so that water supplies can either be directly diverted or stored to meet the various Northern California needs. These water rights and supplies are essential to support the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the Sacramento Valley by enhancing and preserving the rich mosaic of farmlands, cities and rural communities, refuges and managed wetlands, and meandering rivers that support fisheries and wildlife.

As the Bay-Delta debate continues in various forums, it is important that decision-makers and the public understand What’s at Stake in the Sacramento Valley. We have captured this in our publication What’s at Stake, which calls out that the stakes have never been higher in this region. If water is redirected away from Northern California and the Sacramento Valley, there is no way of estimating the long-term negative effects on our environment and economy. Unfortunately, with all the pressures emanating from the Bay-Delta, we do not have the luxury of time to take a wait-and-see attitude. Now is the time to stand by our convictions and present a clear assessment and defense of what water means to the Sacramento Valley. We hope that you will join us in this ongoing effort to tell our policy leaders What’s at Stake in the Sacramento Valley.

For the past several decades, the Northern California Water Association (NCWA) has been a strong and constructive participant in the various processes designed to help solve the challenges in the Bay-Delta. Starting in 1994, NCWA was a signatory to the Bay-Delta Accord, which pledged commitment to a long-term plan to address water supply and environmental problems in the Bay-Delta. NCWA subsequently helped develop and ultimately supported Propositions 204, 13, 50, 84, the federal California Water Supply, Reliability and Environmental Improvement Act, and various federal appropriations for the Bay-Delta.

During this time, NCWA Board Members, staff, and member representatives have served on the various appointed councils that advised these various programs and have actively participated in the various committees and work groups assisting in the development and implementation of the program objectives. This consistent and constructive participation reflects NCWA members’ commitment to active water management and environmental stewardship. Most important, this commitment has resulted in improved water quality in the Sacramento River and its tributaries, the production of high quality agricultural products that are consumed around the world, more efficient water use in the Sacramento Valley, increased habitat and protections for fisheries, the establishment of thousands of acres of privately managed habitat for waterfowl and wildlife, and a more reliable water supply to support the Pacific Flyway.

NCWA and Sacramento Valley water resources managers have supported the state’s co-equal goals (providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem”) and have encouraged success in the formulation of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), the Delta Plan, and related actions to help resolve the challenges in the Delta and to provide stability to California’s water system. The support for these Delta plans and our ability to help these plans succeed, however will be premised upon respecting the unique and exceptional nature of the Sacramento Valley and fully honoring the water rights, supplies and regional self-sufficiency necessary to support this region. The Sacramento Valley is unique and distinct from the Bay-Delta–both geographically and otherwise–and should be recognized as such. Actions associated with the Delta plans must be undertaken in a manner that insures that solutions implemented to resolve problems within the Bay-Delta will not redirect negative impacts to the Sacramento Valley. Any taxes or fees to support the Bay-Delta should be paid by those reliant upon the Bay-Delta program.

Cal WaterFix – Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Over the past several years, NCWA (and the North State Alliance) have provided detailed comments on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and related programs.

The California Legislature in the 2009 Delta Reform Act expressly recognized that areas upstream of the Delta should be protected in this process and should not be adversely impacted.

  • Coequal goals: The state’s coequal goals call for “providing a more reliable water supply for California” (including the Sacramento Valley–not just the export areas receiving the benefit of the BDCP). (Water Code §85054.)
  • Water rights protections: The Legislature expressly recognized that water rights and area of origin provisions shall not be impaired or diminished as a result of the BDCP and the related actions in the Delta Plan. (Water Code §85031.)
  • Regional sustainability: Delta solutions should not interfere with upstream efforts to maintain or promote regional water sustainability and self-sufficiency. (Water Code §85021.)

Water Quality Control Plan

For the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan (WQCP) NCWA and Sacramento Valley Water supplies have partnered with American Rivers and the Nature Conservancy to develop an alternative approach to updating the WQCP. This approach includes specific measures with accountability for performance and mentoring to promote the sustainability of the Sacramento River Basin for farms, fish and wildlife, cities and rural communities and other beneficial uses recognized by the Clean Water Act and Porter-Cologne.

If you have further questions or would like more information on NCWA’s role in the Bay-Delta, please contact us.

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