State Water Board Takes Important Step to Help Restore Bay-Delta, Conservation Group Says

July 21, 2010

Cynthia Koehler, (415) 293-6179-w, (415) 515-0511-c,
Spreck Rosekrans, (415) 293-6082-w, (510) 393-4593-c,
Sean Crowley, (202) 572-3331-w, (202) 550-6524-c,

(Sacramento–July 21, 2010) State agency recommendations released today for science-based, freshwater flows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers “are an important, positive step toward restoring and protecting the health of the San Francisco Bay and the Bay-Delta natural system,” according to Environmental Defense Fund

The San Francisco Bay-Delta is the largest estuary on the West Coast and of critical importance for salmon and scores of other fisheries. It is home to 750 species of fish, birds and other animals, many of which have been in severe decline for decades.

The draft criteria released today by California’s State Water Resources Control Board were issued following a directive by the state legislature in last November’s Delta bill (SB 7X-1). After compiling and analyzing the best available science from the last 30 years, the draft criteria overwhelmingly reflect scientific findings that show Delta restoration is dependent upon substantially increased freshwater flows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

“We are gratified that the board confirmed the scientific consensus—and all prior analyses—that restoring the Bay-Delta Estuary requires dedicated supplies of freshwater,” said Cynthia Koehler, California Water Legislative Director at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). EDF played a major role developing last year’s delta legislative package. “While the Bay-Delta system is complex with many factors to address, these recommendations are a key milestone in determining how to restore it.”

The delta legislation mandates that the board adopt final flow criteria at its Aug. 3 meeting in order to meet the Aug. 12 legislative deadline. It also states that the adopted criteria must not impact water rights or dictate any particular implementation approach. The draft provides solid documentation for the flow criteria recommendations.

“Today’s report recommends we change the way we manage freshwater flows on our rivers and in the Bay-Delta” said Spreck Rosekrans, EDF Senior Analyst. “Meeting these would require changes in the timing of flows on the Sacramento River, as well as significant increases in volume of flow along the San Joaquin River and through the Delta.”

“The State Water Resources Control Board is the California agency with ultimate responsibility for the health of these ‘public trust’ resources,” said Laura Harnish, EDF’s West Coast Regional Director. “We are optimistic that it will ensure that these valuable and irreplaceable resources get the protection they need not only to survive, but to thrive. We urge the board to finalize the flow recommendations at its August 3 meeting.”


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