Best way to im­prove Cal­i­for­nia’s wa­ter sit­u­a­tion is New­som’s plan, not SB 1

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY REPS. JIM COSTA AND TJ COX

Cre­at­ing a sustainabl­e wa­ter fu­ture for all Cal­i­for­ni­ans is one of the defin­ing chal­lenges of our time. As mem­bers of Congress from Cal­i­for­nia, we have been at the cen­ter of ef­forts to solve the dif­fi­cult prob­lems of pro­vid­ing re­li­able wa­ter supplies for Cal­i­for­nia’s peo­ple, its econ­omy, and our en­vi­ron­ment.

There is no sil­ver bul­let to that will solve these prob­lems, but what we know is this: all par­ties must be at the ta­ble; the leg­isla­tive process must be trans­par­ent; the goals must be clear and achiev­able.

Cal­i­for­nia has an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to achieve what has seemed out of reach for so long: re­spon­si­bly pro­vid­ing safe, re­li­able, and ad­e­quate wa­ter supplies for nearly 40 mil­lion Cal­i­for­ni­ans; wa­ter for Cal­i­for­nia farm­land that pro­duces al­most half of the na­tion’s fresh

fruits, nuts and veg­eta­bles; and wa­ter for na­tive fish and wildlife. The de­liv­ery of Delta wa­ter is crit­i­cal to San Joaquin Val­ley com­mu­ni­ties that suf­fer from dry wells and poor wa­ter qual­ity.

In fact, the San Joaquin Val­ley is home to half of all com­mu­nity wa­ter sys­tems in Cal­i­for­nia that lack ac­cess to clean drinking wa­ter.

We ap­plaud Gov. Gavin New­som’s ef­forts in lead­ing dis­cus­sions with the De­part­ment of the In­te­rior, pub­lic wa­ter agen­cies and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups to craft vol­un­tary agree­ments that will re­store the eco­log­i­cal health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while pro­vid­ing Cal­i­for­nia with clean, re­li­able wa­ter.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the state and fed­eral ad­min­is­tra­tions are work­ing co­op­er­a­tively to up­date bi­o­log­i­cal opin­ions is­sued un­der the fed­eral En­dan­gered Species Act for the co­or­di­nated op­er­a­tions of the Cal­i­for­nia State Wa­ter Project and the fed­eral Cen­tral Val­ley Project. The cur­rent bi­o­log­i­cal opin­ions were is­sued a decade ago. It is time to up­date them to in­cor­po­rate the new sci­ence and adaptive

man­age­ment ap­proach that has been de­vel­oped in the years since and that served as the ba­sis for the Wa­ter In­fra­struc­ture Im­prove­ments for the Na­tion (WIIN) Act, bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion ap­proved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in De­cem­ber 2016.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests that the new bi­o­log­i­cal opin­ions be­ing de­vel­oped by the fed­eral fish­ery agen­cies could pro­vide greater pro­tec­tion for Delta smelt, Chi­nook salmon, and other anadro­mous fish than the ex­ist­ing bi­o­log­i­cal opin­ions, is­sued in 2008 and 2009. For in­stance, un­der the new bi­o­log­i­cal opin­ions, Shasta Reser­voir will be op­er­ated to pro­vide more cold wa­ter to pro­tect win­ter run Chi­nook salmon that spawn be­low Shasta Dam.

Blow­ing up this process by en­act­ing the En­dan­gered Species Act pro­vi­sions of Se­nate Bill 1 would likely re­sult in the ma­jor par­ties walk­ing away from the gov­er­nor’s collaborat­ive process. In­stead of work­ing to­gether, we’ll re­turn to the status quo of con­flict res­o­lu­tion by law­suit. Clearly this would be a step back­ward to solv­ing our longterm wa­ter is­sues.

Un­less SB 1 is amended, it would cod­ify in state law the out­dated 2008 and 2009 bi­o­log­i­cal opin­ions, which should be re­placed with a new bi­o­log­i­cal opin­ion that uti­lizes the lat­est data and meth­ods. Ad­di­tion­ally, SB 1 at­tempts to ap­ply the state En­dan­gered Species Act to op­er­a­tions of the fed­eral Cen­tral Val­ley Project, which has been a his­tor­i­cal point of le­gal con­tention. This could re­sult in lit­i­ga­tion that ex­tends be­yond the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, re­gard­less of the outcome of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. From our ex­pe­ri­ence, lit­i­ga­tion in the wa­ter world does not re­solve Cal­i­for­nia’s longterm wa­ter chal­lenges.

We ab­so­lutely sup­port SB 1’s ob­jec­tive, which is to en­sure that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion does not roll back reg­u­la­tory pro­tec­tions for qual­ity health care, im­mi­gra­tion, fair la­bor, clean air, clean wa­ter, and at-risk fish and wildlife species. But un­less amended, the un­in­tended con­se­quences of SB 1 will surely frus­trate Gov. New­som’s ef­forts to reach so­lu­tions through col­lab­o­ra­tion and en­gage­ment with all par­tic­i­pat­ing par­ties.

Ef­forts to meet all of Cal­i­for­nia’s wa­ter de­mands present com­plex is­sues that don’t lend them­selves well to sound bites. The fu­ture man­age­ment of Cal­i­for­nia’s wa­ter sys­tem de­mands that we in­cor­po­rate the best avail­able sci­ence in mak­ing op­er­a­tional de­ci­sions that im­pact wa­ter supplies for Cal­i­for­nia’s peo­ple and its en­vi­ron­ment.

The vol­un­tary agree­ments be­ing ad­vanced by Gov. New­som’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and new bi­o­log­i­cal opin­ions that pro­vide greater op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity and bet­ter pro­tec­tion for at-risk species are pos­i­tive steps to­ward re­spon­si­ble wa­ter pol­icy. SB 1, in its present form, is a step back­ward. This mea­sure can, and should, be fixed.

Rep. Jim Costa

Rep. TJ Cox

MANNY CRISOSTOMO Sacramento Bee file

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is not a true delta, a place where a river fans out as it spills into the sea. In­stead it’s an es­tu­ary, an in­land wa­ter body where ocean and fresh flows min­gle, one of the world’s rich­est ecosys­tem types. At 1,300 square miles it is about the size of Rhode Is­land and has 1,100 miles of lev­ees.

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