ICYMI 3/1/23: Tunnel, Newsom, Water Rights, Solutions

A California tunnel could save stormwater for millions. Why is it so divisive? – Washington Post 3/1/23 
Barrigan-Parrilla said opponents are eyeing potential regulatory and legal challenges to the project as the Army Corps and the State Water Resources Control Board review it, and in December joined with Indigenous groups in filing a civil rights complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The complaint asks the EPA to update water-quality standards for the delta and require increased river flows into the estuary, keeping water and salinity levels at safe and healthy levels for aquatic life and farming communities. It argues that reducing water levels in the delta violates the civil rights of groups including the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, harming their ability to carry on cultural traditions that center on the estuary and its wildlife.
Barrigan-Parrilla said the tunnel would only exacerbate problems related to high salinity and low water levels in the delta, reducing the Sacramento River’s flow into the estuary.

Editorial: Gov. Newsom takes page out of Trump’s water playbook – San Jose Mercury 3/1/23
On Feb. 15, the governor signed an executive order allowing the State Water Resources Control Board to ignore the state requirement of how much water needs to flow through the Delta to protect its health.
It’s an outrageous move right out of Donald Trump’s playbook. Big Ag and its wealthy landowners, including some of Newsom’s political financial backers, will reap the benefits while the Delta suffers.
The move is especially outrageous given the January storms that filled California’s reservoirs and created a massive Sierra snowpack. If the governor won’t adhere to the state regulations in what is clearly a wet year, when will he?

Newsom cares more about almond growers than California’s salmon fishery – George Skelton, Los Angeles Times 2/27/23
Gov. Gavin Newsom bills himself as a protector of wildlife, so you wouldn’t think he’d take water from baby salmon and give it to almonds.
Or to pistachios, or cotton or alfalfa.
Especially when California was just drenched with the wettest three-week series of storms on record and was headed into another powerful soaking of snow and rain.
But Newsom and his water officials still contend we’re suffering a drought — apparently it’s a never-ending drought. So, they used that as a reason last week to drastically cut river flows needed by migrating little salmon in case the water is needed to irrigate San Joaquin Valley crops in summer….
What Newsom and government officials are really talking about is a long-term water shortage. It’s caused by California having more agriculture and people than can be sustained with what nature provides us. And it’s made more problematic by the uncertain prospects of climate change.
Analysis reveals that CA water rights are 90% white, current water management protects status quo– Daily Kos 2/27/23
Restore the Delta (RTD) today released the results of a California water rights analysis by race, completed by employees with the Department of Water Resources, but deleted from the agency’s website soon after posting.
“This analysis of public records shows that the majority of water rights in California are held still by white landowners and white officials who manage special-interest water districts,” according to a press statement from Restore the Delta.
The analysis was released to inform the “Adapting Water Rights to our 21st Century Climate” hearing at the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife on Tuesday 2/28/23.
Testimony: Adapting California’s Water Rights System to the 21st Century Climate – Public Policy Institute of California 2/28/23
The current contracts with senior water users under both the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project promise water deliveries that can no longer be supported in many drier years. These contracts were written when the hydrology of the basin was quite different, and the volume of Delta outflow needed for salinity control was woefully underestimated…. 
…Given the events of the past decade—along with projections of future climate change—it is appropriate for the legislature to update the Water Code to reflect these new conditions. In this testimony we offer suggestions for Water Code amendments, along with recommendations to revisit senior water right contracts. Although these policy reforms are modest, they are an important next step in matching water rights administration to current and future needs.

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