CA Tribes, EJ Groups Respond to State Water Board on Delta Plan – Petition largely ignored; Coalition considers next move

For Release: 7/6/22

Gary Mulcahy, Winnemen Wintu Tribe, 916-214-8493
Sydney Speizman, Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, 443-745-8613,

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today, California Tribes and environmental justice groups filed a formal response to the State Water Resources Control Board. At issue is the coalition’s request that the Water Board update the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary (“Bay-Delta Plan”)—a duty of the board now more than a decade overdue.

The letter calls the States response inadequate

“While Petitioners appreciate the Board’s statement that updating the Bay-Delta Plan is a “high priority” for the agency, the Board’s actions do not bear this out. The Decision fails to acknowledge that the Board has been in clear violation for nearly twelve years of its statutory duties under both the Clean Water Act and California’s Porter Cologne Act to review and update water quality standards for the Bay-Delta. Nor does the Board acknowledge the urgency of redressing these violations or suggest any intent to act with the speed that the law and the crisis in the Bay-Delta require. Rather, the Board falls back on the same tired narrative that it is ‘preparing a Staff Report’ with ‘options for updating the Bay-Delta Plan,’ which the agency has been suggesting since at least July 2018. The Board provides no greater reason now to believe that it will voluntarily follow the law than it did four years ago….
“…Petitioners intend to formally seek reconsideration of the Board’s denial pursuant to Government Code section 11340.7(c) and will seek redress elsewhere if the Board does not meaningfully modify its Decision.”


On May 24, 2022, the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Save California Salmon, Little Manila Rising, and Restore the Delta, represented by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the California State Water Resources Control Board. 

The May 24 petition included a litany of California’s racist history that granted water rights only to white men. Native Americans, and communities of color in the Delta, were not given the opportunity to acquire water rights. Today, “senior” water rights holders still have a tight grip on river flows, even during an unprecedented drought. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, is dying. 

The petition was recognized as a significant new argument in California’s ongoing water battles. Delta water crisis linked to California’s racist past, tribes and activists say, Los Angeles Times, 5/26/22

The State Response Found Lacking

On June 24, the State Water Board, responded with this denial of the petition

“The State Water Board’s dereliction of duty continues. The Board’s response did not actually address the issues central to our Petition for Rulemaking. So we are now considering all of our options,” said Gary Mulcahy, Government Liaison for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

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