Voluntary Agreements Fail Environmental Justice Communities

For Immediate Release:  March 29, 2022

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, 209-479-2053, barbara@restorethedelta.org

STOCKTON, Calif. – Today, Governor Newsom announced that Sacramento Valley parties—from the American River watershed all the way up the Valley— have signed a 34-page memorandum of understanding for a Board update of the Phase II of the water quality control plan. 

Whatever the “voluntary agreements” consist of, the Water Board is expected to consider the VAs as an alternative in its Phase II Sacramento River update of the Bay-Delta Plan, which regulates water quality in Delta water ways. San Joaquin Valley water interests are not part of this process. The process is facilitated by the Department of Water Resources and the US Bureau of Reclamation, which are also parties in today’s announcement, and the announcement is timed to facilitate further spending by the state for the voluntary agreement process in the May revised budget.

This is an agreement to agree—nothing is certain about the proposal at this time. It is a repeat of prior voluntary agreement frameworks that have amounted to no new plans. We are told that it will lead to a new scientific basis report by the State Water Board that will be released this summer. The scientific basis report will also be reviewed by the Delta Independent Science Board and an independent peer-review panel. 

Environmental documentation will appear this fall, and a hearing and adoption could occur as early as winter 2023. The draft Substitute Environmental Document will be available for public comment when it’s released.

Approximately in mid-June 2022, a draft environmental impact report for the Delta Conveyance Project (single tunnel) will also be released for public comment by the California Department of Water Resources.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta said:

“Clearly timing the voluntary agreement process to unfold at the same time as the EIR for the Delta Conveyance Plan is an attempt by the Newsom Administration to jam the Delta community, environmental justice communities, environmental NGO’s, fishing groups, and California tribes so that they cannot respond to major water planning decisions.  It reveals the lack of regard this administration holds for public process, the public trust, the Delta, and appropriate climate data driven water planning.

“Restore the Delta maintains that the voluntary agreement framework process violates the legal principles of environmental justice inclusion and does not serve the public trust, or the human right to water. Governor Newsom continues to serve the interests of the top 2% of agribusiness across California at the expense of Northern California Tribes, Delta communities, commercial fishing interests, and communities in need of improved drinking water conditions.

“Fishery declines and extinction, harmful algal blooms, poor water quality conditions in the Delta, and the increasing possibility of Delta salinity intrusion into Stockton and Contra Costa drinking water systems. Drought mismanagement by the Department of Water Resources and Bureau of Reclamation cannot be fixed by the elite few working on a backroom deal with the Governor’s office at the expense of millions of people. The environmental burden caused by mismanagement continues to fall on the most impacted communities. A plan that calls for even less flow from the Sacramento River is simply unacceptable as the Delta is in serious decline. A cash giveaway for water to the top 2 percent of water rights holders to increase Delta exports for other irrigation districts, like Westlands, at the expense of vulnerable communities is a continuation of a water rights system built on institutionalized racism and discrimination.

“Governor Newsom’s mismanagement of the Delta and California’s water future is a deep disappointment for anyone who loves the Delta and California’s rivers.”

To learn more about the neglect of Delta tribal and environmental justice communities by the Newsom Administration read this op-ed by Chief Caleen Sisk and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, and the amicus briefrecently filed by a coalition of tribes and environmental justice groups. 

Related Posts