Going ahead with the flows

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee heard an update this week from State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) vice chair Frances Spivey-Weber on the strategy and schedule for establishing instream flow requirements for the Delta and Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.

BDCP proponents have requested that the SWRCB delay flow determinations until after the BDCP is completed, but Spivey-Weber emphasized that the SWRCB is moving forward with its process.  She specifically discussed the need to have flows in place prior to consideration of the BDCP’s proposed addition of new points of diversion in the North Delta.  She said the Board will likely plan for various contingencies, including the status quo as well as construction of new conveyance, and will consider passage of the water bond (facilitating construction of additional storage). She does not want to have a situation where the flow requirements assume something will happen that in fact does not come to pass.

There was also discussion of the fact that some rivers currently have natural flows well under 20% and the SWRCB may ultimately set flows up toward 60%.  No one knows where water to meet additional flows will come from, especially if new conveyance is constructed.  But the BDCP proponents would rather get their diversion facility in place now, and then fight the flow issue later.

Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson also provided a brief update on water rights compliance and investigations in the Delta.  He summarized his earlier report concluding that reporting compliance is high and that water rights in the Delta are generally very senior.

Chair Pavley commented that at 4:00 a.m. as the 2009 Water Package was being “negotiated” there were a lot of assertions regarding rampant illegal diversions in the Delta.  She seemed to acknowledge those allegations were unfounded.  Hopefully SWRCB efforts can eventually focus on real areas of concern, such as waste and unreasonable use of water in areas receiving Delta water exports.

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