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California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections

Environmental Water Caucus slams suspension of CEQA in drought declaration
by Dan Bacher
Sunday Jan 19th, 2014 3:02 PM
The California Environmental Water Caucus on January 19 issued a press release commending the "emphasis on conservation" in Governor Brown's 20 point drought declaration, but criticizing five of the points as "wolves in sheep's clothing," particularly Directive 4 that directs state agencies to expedite the processing of water transfers and Directive 9 that effectively suspends the California Environmental Water Quality Act.

“This overreaching and throwing out the baby with the bath water in Directives 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10 is unnecessary when the real emphasis should be on permanent conservation at all levels – households, industry and agriculture” said Nick Di Croce, Facilitator of the Environmental Water Caucus. “The need for more conservation and greater efficiencies in water management should not result in abrogation of equally needed environmental safeguards benefitting both humans and other species, including fish."

Environmental groups, fishing organizations and consumer groups have also blasted the Governor for fast tracking his Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels and promoting the expansion of water-polluting fracking when we are in an unprecedented drought.

“Governor Brown can’t make it rain, but he can put a moratorium on fracking and he can stop his tunnels project,” summed up Adam Scow, California Campaign Director of Food and Water Watch. “The Governor’s current water and energy policies will only worsen our current climate and water crisis.”

NOAA satellite photo of the snowpack in California and Nevada on January 13, 2013 compared to January 13, 2014.
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Below is the January 19 news release from the California Environmental Water Caucus:

THE GOVERNOR’S DROUGHT DECLARATION

“We live in an overreacting world”

“For every action, there is an unequal and opposite overreaction”

While the Environmental Water Caucus applauds the emphasis on conservation found in Governor Brown’s 20-point drought proclamation, we fear that the time worn clichés quoted above have relevance here. Buried in those 20 points are a few proverbial “wolves in sheep’s clothing”.

Directive 4 orders State agencies to “expedite” processing of water transfers. The danger in hurried water transfers is the risk of serious environmental damage on the seller’s end, such as replacing the transferred surface water with groundwater from an already badly stressed aquifer. Only careful advance environmental review can prevent that type of unintended consequence.

Directive 5 sounds innocent enough in ordering the State Board to allow consolidation of the places of use of waters of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project.

SWP is supposed to serve urban Southern California and parts of Kern County. CVP is supposed to serve specified areas, mostly agriculture, in the San Joaquin Valley. In fact, Directive 5 would allow unimagined unintended consequences like allowing CVP water to be sent to Orange County to float the boats in Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

Directive 8 could broadly expand the State Board’s ability to modify reservoir releases and water diversion limitations, supposedly to enable water to be conserved for later use. But the loose language would also allow modifications for earlier releases and diversions, which typically are sought by politically powerful economic interests such as the Westlands Water District.

Directive 9 is by far the most egregious example of overreaction, and this time with an intended consequence --- broad suspension of one of Governor Brown’s favorite whipping boys, the California Environmental Quality Act. It also suspends Water Code Section 13247, which requires all state entities to comply with water quality plans of the State Board.

Directive 10 should say that safe and adequate drinking water be made available for disadvantaged San Joaquin Valley and other agricultural communities.

“This overreaching and throwing out the baby with the bath water in Directives 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10 is unnecessary when the real emphasis should be on permanent conservation at all levels – households, industry and agriculture” said Nick Di Croce, Facilitator of the Environmental Water Caucus. “The need for more conservation and greater efficiencies in water management should not result in abrogation of equally needed environmental safeguards benefitting both humans and other species, including fish."

CONTACTS:
Nick Di Croce, Co-Facilitator, Environmental Water Caucus
troutnk [at] aol.com, 805-688-7813
Conner Everts, Southern California Watershed Alliance
connere [at] west.net, (310) 804-6615
Bill Jennings, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
deltakeep [at] me.com, 209-464-5067

The full text of the emergency proclamation is below:

A PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

WHEREAS the State of California is experiencing record dry conditions, with 2014 projected to become the driest year on record; and

WHEREAS the state’s water supplies have dipped to alarming levels, indicated by: snowpack in California’s mountains is approximately 20 percent of the normal average for this date; California’s largest water reservoirs have very low water levels for this time of year; California’s major river systems, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, have significantly reduced surface water flows; and groundwater levels throughout the state have dropped significantly; and

WHEREAS dry conditions and lack of precipitation present urgent problems: drinking water supplies are at risk in many California communities; fewer crops can be cultivated and farmers’ long-term investments are put at risk; low-income communities heavily dependent on agricultural employment will suffer heightened unemployment and economic hardship; animals and plants that rely on California’s rivers, including many species in danger of extinction, will be threatened; and the risk of wildfires across the state is greatly increased; and

WHEREAS extremely dry conditions have persisted since 2012 and may continue beyond this year and more regularly into the future, based on scientific projections regarding the impact of climate change on California’s snowpack; and

WHEREAS the magnitude of the severe drought conditions presents threats beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and

WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist in California due to water shortage and drought conditions with which local authority is unable to cope.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the state Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist in the State of California due to current drought conditions.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1.State agencies, led by the Department of Water Resources, will execute a statewide water conservation campaign to make all Californians aware of the drought and encourage personal actions to reduce water usage. This campaign will be built on the existing Save Our Water campaign (http://www.saveourh20.org) and will coordinate with local water agencies. This campaign will call on Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent.

2.Local urban water suppliers and municipalities are called upon to implement their local water shortage contingency plans immediately in order to avoid or forestall outright restrictions that could become necessary later in the drought season. Local water agencies should also update their legally required urban and agricultural water management plans, which help plan for extended drought conditions. The Department of Water Resources will make the status of these updates publicly available.

3.State agencies, led by the Department of General Services, will immediately implement water use reduction plans for all state facilities. These plans will include immediate water conservation actions, and a moratorium will be placed on new, non-essential landscaping projects at state facilities and on state highways and roads.

4.The Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) will expedite the processing of water transfers, as called for in Executive Order B-21-13. Voluntary water transfers from one water right holder to another enables water to flow where it is needed most.

5.The Water Board will immediately consider petitions requesting consolidation of the places of use of the State Water Project and Federal Central Valley Project, which would streamline water transfers and exchanges between water users within the areas of these two major water projects.

6.The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will accelerate funding for water supply enhancement projects that can break ground this year and will explore if any existing unspent funds can be repurposed to enable near-term water conservation projects.

7.The Water Board will put water right holders throughout the state on notice that they may be directed to cease or reduce water diversions based on water shortages.

8.The Water Board will consider modifying requirements for reservoir releases or diversion limitations, where existing requirements were established to implement a water quality control plan. These changes would enable water to be conserved upstream later in the year to protect cold water pools for salmon and steelhead, maintain water supply, and improve water quality.

9.The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will take actions necessary to make water immediately available, and, for purposes of carrying out directives 5 and 8, Water Code section 13247 and Division 13 (commencing with section 21000) of the Public Resources Code and regulations adopted pursuant to that Division are suspended on the basis that strict compliance with them will prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the emergency. Department of Water Resources and the Water Board shall maintain on their websites a list of the activities or approvals for which these provisions are suspended.

10. The state’s Drinking Water Program will work with local agencies to identify communities that may run out of drinking water, and will provide technical and financial assistance to help these communities address drinking water shortages. It will also identify emergency interconnections that exist among the state’s public water systems that can help these threatened communities.

11.The Department of Water Resources will evaluate changing groundwater levels, land subsidence, and agricultural land fallowing as the drought persists and will provide a public update by April 30 that identifies groundwater basins with water shortages and details gaps in groundwater monitoring.

12.The Department of Water Resources will work with counties to help ensure that well drillers submit required groundwater well logs for newly constructed and deepened wells in a timely manner and the Office of Emergency Services will work with local authorities to enable early notice of areas experiencing problems with residential groundwater sources.

13.The California Department of Food and Agriculture will launch a one-stop website (http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/drought) that provides timely updates on the drought and connects farmers to state and federal programs that they can access during the drought.

14.The Department of Fish and Wildlife will evaluate and manage the changing impacts of drought on threatened and endangered species and species of special concern, and develop contingency plans for state Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves to manage reduced water resources in the public interest.

15. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will work with the Fish and Game Commission, using the best available science, to determine whether restricting fishing in certain areas will become necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist.

16.The Department of Water Resources will take necessary actions to protect water quality and water supply in the Delta, including installation of temporary barriers or temporary water supply connections as needed, and will coordinate with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to minimize impacts to affected aquatic species.

17.The Department of Water Resources will refine its seasonal climate forecasting and drought prediction by advancing new methodologies piloted in 2013.

18.The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will hire additional seasonal firefighters to suppress wildfires and take other needed actions to protect public safety during this time of elevated fire risk.

19.The state’s Drought Task Force will immediately develop a plan that can be executed as needed to provide emergency food supplies, financial assistance, and unemployment services in communities that suffer high levels of unemployment from the drought.

20.The Drought Task Force will monitor drought impacts on a daily basis and will advise me of subsequent actions that should be taken if drought conditions worsen.

I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this Proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this Proclamation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 17th day of January, 2014.



______________________________
EDMUND G. BROWN JR.,
Governor of California

ATTEST:



______________________________
DEBRA BOWEN,
Secretary of State


###
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814


Members of the Environmental Water Caucus:
AquAlliance
Butte Environmental Council
California Coastkeeper Alliance
California Save Our Streams Council
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
California Striped Bass Association
California Water Impact Network
Clean Water Action
Citizens Water Watch
Desal Response Group
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
Earth Law Center
Fish Sniffer Magazine
Foothill Conservancy
Friends of the River
Food & Water Watch
Granite Bay Flycasters
Institute for Fisheries Resources
The Karuk Tribe
North Coast Environmental Center
Northern California Council, Federation of Fly Fishers
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations
Planning & Conservation League
Restore the Delta
Sacramento River Preservation Trust
Save the Bay Association
Sierra Club California
Sierra Nevada Alliance
Southern California Watershed Alliance
Winnemem Wintu Tribe