Whose actions are “covered”?

Fifty-eight export contractors, water districts, utilities, business organizations, and farming representatives from outside the Delta have signed on to a letter to Delta Stewardship Council chair Phil Isenberg complaining about the DSC’s interpretation of “covered actions” under the Delta Reform Act. Says the letter, “[The] Council’s attempt to regulate actions outside the legal Delta exceeds its statutory authority.”

Here’s what the relevant part of the Water Code says:

85020. The policy of the State of California is to achieve the following objectives that the Legislature declares are inherent in the coequal goals for management of the Delta:

(a) Manage the Delta’s water and environmental resources and the water resources of the state over the long term.

The rest of 85020 – (b) through (h) – lists additional objectives and establishes governance with the authority to achieve the objectives. That governance would be the Delta Stewardship Council.

It ought to be clear to everyone that decisions made outside the Delta affect the Delta and that the coequal goals will never be met if authority ends at the borders of the statutory Delta. We can argue about how that authority should be exercised. For example, how should it interface with local land use decision-making?

But the people who call the Delta the hub of California’s water supply system and who talk about the reliance of 25 million people and 7 million acres of farmland on water from the Delta watershed can hardly turn around and argue that water management decisions made outside the Delta must be outside the DSC’s purview. But then again, these are the same people who blame Delta farmers, fishermen, residents, and recreationists for the decline of Delta fisheries as a way to divert attention over the amount of water they divert from the Delta.

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