California Water Board Delays Action on San Joaquin River System Flows

EDF statement from Maurice Hall, Associate VP, Ecosystems – Water

November 7, 2018
Ronna Kelly, (415) 293-6161,

(SACRAMENTO, CA – Nov. 7, 2018) At the urging of Gov. Jerry Brown and now Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, the California State Water Resources Control Board postponed a vote today on an update to the Bay-Delta Plan that would increase natural water flows in the San Joaquin River system to boost salmon populations.

The board agreed to postpone action until Dec. 11 to give stakeholders more time to negotiate an alternative plan, called a voluntary settlement agreement.

The proposal on the table Wednesday would require 40 percent of the natural flow remain in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers during the critical February through June period in order to double the endangered salmon population and protect other wildlife. Currently instream flows sometimes drop as low as 6 percent of total flow, meaning more than 90 percent of the water is going toward human use. Chinook salmon populations have plummeted to about 10,000 in 2017 from 70,000 in the mid-1980s.

“We strongly believe that the best path forward is a voluntary settlement agreement that not only increases river flows but also restores habitat, provides reliable funding, and supports collaborative, transparent science. Yet, this is the second time the state board has postponed action on the Bay-Delta Plan, which is nearly 10 years in the making, and negotiation toward a voluntary agreement could have continued, even if the board had adopted the plan today.

“After participating in voluntary settlement agreement negotiations for about two years, we are very concerned about further delays. But we will swallow hard and live with one more month of delay in hopes that we can reach an agreement that puts the aquatic ecosystems of the Central Valley on a more promising path to recovery.

“It’s time for stakeholders to move beyond combat science and to adopt a more flexible, holistic management plan for our rivers that recognizes the water needs of the environment and wildlife, agriculture, and cities. In one month we hope to be moving along a pathway to greater resilience for the rivers, streams and economy of the Central Valley.”

  • Maurice Hall, Associate VP, Ecosystems – Water, Environmental Defense Fund

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