Delta Flows: Transparency Does Not Occur By Declaring Transparency; It Takes Intentional Action

By: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla

This Delta Flows is brief.  This is what is happening in state and federal water processes during COVID19. We are not pleased with what we are seeing and hearing. But we don’t want to run alerts on our Governor who has more than a full plate, and who is handling the pandemic admirably. 

We, however, believe that the California Natural Resources Department and the Department of Water Resources need to hear from all of us, as well as our US Senators and Congressional Representatives.  They need to know what the public expects from them during the pandemic and to understand that transparency is not just a buzzword.  

1) DWR will not suspend public processes around tunnel planning as we respectfully demanded.  Please remember in our letter, we did not ask them to fully stop work.  They claim the project is necessary; we maintain it isn’t.  But that disagreement will be wrestled over forever.

The point is the public cannot fully engage in public processes during the pandemic, especially where connectivity is limited in Delta rural and urban committees.  Our comments about the public being distracted were not taken seriously by DWR.  We aren’t talking about folks watching cat videos.  They are struggling will illness, caring for family, trying to acquire provisions after mass hoarding, and staying financially afloat.  How can the average member of the public think about future planning around water now in a thoughtful manner.  Extending the comment period for the NOP during this period to April 17th is not enough. DWR is putting additional stress on impacted parties. It is time for DWR to hold the public with the same value that it holds water contractors and to just wait for 30-60 days for pushing forward with public processes as the curve is flattened.  The world will not come to an end for them. (Contact Secretary Crowfoot here; and Director Nemeth here.)

2) The final EIR and Letter of Determination is out for the Long Term Operations of the State Water Contract.  But it isn’t up on the DWR website for the public to see (as of the writing of this blog). Why does the public have to hunt and peck during the pandemic for information? Ask Director Nemeth.

3) The incidental take permit for operations of the State Water Project has been completed.  This is the permit for “take” or management of fish at the pumps.  The legislature has been briefed with a PowerPoint; as of now there is no publication of the document.  The PowerPoint indicates new South Delta barriers, gates at Suisun Marsh; and greater water exports during wet periods.  That is when we need flushing flows for the elimination of Harmful Algal Blooms and for full estuary health.  While we will need to vet the document for details, this does not sound like best use of science. 

Secretary Crowfoot made it clear there is an effort to reach a settlement with the Trump Administration around the operation of the State and Federal water pumps, which we understand would stop the present lawsuit filed by the state to protect the Delta.  Tell him what you think about that.

4) Senator Feinstein’s WIIN Act Bill needs monitoring.  We should not let it become a tool for supporting the tunnel, or dam projects that will put water in the tunnel.  It must be used for the public good. Call Senator Feinstein, Senator Harris, and your Congressional Reps and let them know what sustainable water projects you support. You can easily Google their contact information.

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