CSPA, CWIN and AquAlliance have filed a formal protest against the State Water Resource Control Board’s (State Board) Order Approving a Temporary Urgency Change in License and Permit Terms and Conditions Requiring Compliance with Delta Water Quality Objectives in Response to Drought Conditions (Order). The Order essentially waives compliance with established water quality standards and Delta protections.
The protest asserts that the Order does not serve the public interest, is contrary to law and will have an adverse environmental impact. It requests a full evidentiary hearing, details the circumstances that led to the present crisis, enumerates the threats to already degraded fisheries, suggests steps that could be taken to minimize impacts and sets forth eleven specific conditions under which the protest can be resolved.
In the last hundred years, California has experienced ten multi-year droughts spanning forty years. Drought is a normal condition in the state. Yet, following a very dry 2013 water year, the state and federal water projects (Projects) exported more that 826,000 acre-feet of water beyond what they had told their contractors they could deliver. Despite no rainfall and low reservoir storage, they continued to export 681,000 acre-feet of water through the first four months of the 2014 water year. This was consistent with project operations during the previous 1976-1977, 1987-1992 and 2007-2009 droughts.
The Projects gambled that rain would come and lost. They waited until the end of January to petition the Water Board, thereby eliminating the opportunity for comment by affected parties. And now, fisheries, water quality and the state’s economy will grievously suffer the consequences of their greed and egregious failure to reserve sufficient water storage for inevitable dry conditions.
The Water Board, itself, has encouraged the Projects to act recklessly because they have blatantly refused to enforce Bay-Delta standards during both drought and normal periods – standards that were developed in evidentiary proceedings and take critically dry periods into account. In fact, CSPA points out that the Water Board has never taken an enforcement action against the projects for hundreds of violations of Bay-Delta standards.