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Updates from Friends of the San Francisco Estuary
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Not just rain, but lightning came to the Bay Area last week!
(photo credit: Charles Hall/AP via Davis Enterprise)

 

Water News for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary

 

November 2015

What's Happening Today:

CALIFORNIA WATER FIX (Twin Tunnels) COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED
 
October 30 was the last day to submit comments on the partially recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIR/SDEIS) for the California WaterFix, otherwise known as the Twin Tunnels. 

Earlier this year, proponents of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) announced that the plan would be bifurcated into two separate planning processes: California WaterFix and California EcoRestore. California WaterFix is the portion of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) that lays out the plan for construction and operation of the Twin Tunnels in conjunction with modified operations of the South Delta pumps. The 100,000+ acres of habitat restoration proposed under BDCP has now been reduced to approximately 30,000 acres and renamed California EcoRestore. 

Friends of the San Francisco Estuary reviewed the RDEIR/SDEIS to determine whether concerns raised in our previous comment letter had been adequately addressed. We found that overall these concerns, including potential impacts to water quality in the San Francisco Bay and impacts to threatened and endangered species such as Chinook salmon and delta smelt, were largely ignored. In fact, a review of the plan's analysis of Microcystis found that the authors made significant assumptions regarding the risks of harmful algae blooms in the Delta and the likelihood that these toxic blooms could be transported to the San Francisco Bay. For more information, please read our comment letter here


For a list of comment letters on the California WaterFix, including both supporters and critics, visit Alex Breitler's Stockton Record blog.
CHINOOK SALMON DEVASTATED FOR 2ND YEAR IN A ROW
 

Preliminary counts of salmon migrating out of the Sacramento River indicate that the winter-run population of Chinook salmon has been devastated for the second year in a row. Despite efforts by state agencies to avoid a duplication of last year's loss, the hot summer and water management decisions earlier in the year made river water temperatures too high for salmon eggs to survive. Since Chinook salmon run in three-year cycles, another year of these losses could lead to the extinction of this population in  the very near future.

As noted in this NPR article, winter-run Chinook salmon are protected as an endangered population. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to distinguish between endangered winter-run and other salmon runs in the ocean. Furthermore, fall-run Chinook--the backbone of the salmon fishing industry--has also been declining due to the drought. The salmon fishing industry, a $1.5 billion dollar industry, is expecting to be hard-hit by these losses.
WHAT NEXT? YOUR VOICE NEEDED TO TELL THE STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD TO UPDATE PROTECTIVE REGULATORY STANDARDS FOR THE ESTUARY NOW!

The State Water Resources Control Board is updating regulatory standards for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary watershed--including the Bay, Delta, and major tributaries--for the first time since 1995. This Water Quality Control Plan update process, which began in 2009, is lagging years behind schedule. 

Why does this matter?

Updated regulatory standards will help strike a better balance between all beneficial uses, including protection of endangered species such as the winter-run Chinook salmon, and will enable better decisions regarding water allocations. Updated standards should also play a key role in determining the operational constraints for the California WaterFix (see above). However, the BDCP/CA WaterFix permitting process is moving ahead faster than the Water Quality Control Plan update process, and current CA WaterFix plans are relying on the outdated standards to determine regulatory compliance for construction and operation of the Twin Tunnels.

The State Water Resources Control Board has already stated that  "current freshwater flows are insufficient to protect public trust resources." By using outdated standards to review permit applications for a multi-billion dollar construction project, the State Water Resources Control Board is putting the cart before the horse.

YOUR voice is needed to tell the State Water Resources Control Board to update their standards before issuing new permits! Hearings will be held in Spring 2016. Please contact us if you're interested in speaking up for the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary.

OTHER NEWS FOR THE ESTUARY & WATERSHED


Assembly Hearing Examines Water Consumption and Alternative Sources
ACWA, 11/17/15

Emergency Drought Barrier Removed from West False River in the Delta
East County Today, 11/17/15

El Nino could be the most powerful on record, scientists say
L.A. Times, 11/17/15


Water Wasting Rules May Become Permanent
Lake County Record-Bee, 11/17/15

Senate Committee Hearing Focuses on Chronically Underfunded Water Needs
ACWA, 11/16/15

L.A.'s Metropolitan Water District Begins Negotiation to Purchase Four Delta Islands
San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10/15
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