New­som and Brown wade into wa­ter wars, urge plan de­lay

Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY RYAN SABALOW rsa­balow@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown and in­com­ing Gov. Gavin New­som have waded in one of Cal­i­for­nia’s fiercest wa­ter wars, prompt­ing state reg­u­la­tors to de­lay a key vote on a pro­posal meant to help strug­gling salmon and steel­head trout.

In a let­ter Tues­day to the Cal­i­for­nia State Wa­ter Re­sources Board, Brown and New­som urged it to post­pone con­sid­er­a­tion of pro­posed reg­u­la­tions to give the var­i­ous fac­tions in­volved time to reach an agree­ment dur­ing con­fi­den­tial set­tle­ment talks.

The board was sched­uled Wed­nes­day to vote on a plan that would leave up to 40 per­cent of the wa­ter in lower San Joaquin River and its trib­u­taries in their chan­nels to ben­e­fit strug­gling fish.

The move would mean more wa­ter will flow to the Pa­cific Ocean rather than be cap­tured by dams or shunted into canals to grow crops and sup­ply cities such as Modesto and San Fran­cisco.

Cur­rently, as much as 80 per­cent of the wa­ter in the lower San Joaquin water­shed is taken from the rivers for hu­man use.

Cities in­clud­ing Modesto and San Fran­cisco and farm­ing groups fear the plan would cut into their wa­ter sup­ply. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is op­posed to the state’s plan, which San Joaquin Val­ley farm­ers call a “wa­ter grab.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say more flows are needed in the river to pro­tect fish.

“A short ex­ten­sion will al­low these ne­go­ti­a­tions to progress and could re­sult in a faster, less con­tentious and more durable out­come,” Brown and New­som wrote. “Vol­un­tary agree­ments are prefer­able to a lengthy ad­min­is­tra­tive process and the in­evitable en­su­ing law­suits.”

The five-per­son board agreed 3-0 to de­lay the vote when they met Wed­nes­day, with two board mem­bers, Tam Do­duc and Steven Moore, ab­stain­ing. A new vote is sched­uled for Dec 12.

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