ICYMI 8/13/23: Civil Rights Complaint against State Water Board 

EPA Accepts Civil Rights Complaint Against California State Water Board – Restore the Delta 8/9/23
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a decision accepting for investigation a civil rights complaint filed by a coalition of tribes and environmental justice organizations over the California State Water Resources Control Board’s discriminatory mismanagement of water quality in California’s San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed.  
This is the first Title VI complaint to be filed with the EPA against the California State Water Resources Control Board and the first time the EPA has accepted a complaint alleging discrimination in the management of water against a California state or regional agency.
“This decision is a major step towards repairing the years of harm to Tribes, communities of color, and environmental justice communities caused by the State Water Board’s neglect of its responsibilities to protect our water. We are cognizant of how rare it is for the EPA to find it has jurisdiction and accept discrimination cases and we are grateful the agency has done so here. We hope that the investigation into the matter will resolve some of the inequities caused by California’s water policies and management in the Bay Delta and throughout California.”
– Kasil Willie (Paiute/Pomo/Wailaki/Wintu), Staff Attorney, Save California Salmon
California water agency under investigation for alleged discrimination – San Francisco Examiner 8/9/23
The complaint, which was lodged against the California State Water Resources Control Board in December, said the Clean Water Act requires the board to review its water quality standards through a public process every three years. However, the complaint alleged the board has not conducted a comprehensive review in more than 10 years.
The complaint further said the water board’s alleged failures have resulted in a large buildup of pollutants and other issues that disproportionally impact communities of color.
“Its waterways are plagued by dangerously low flows, native fish die-offs, high water temperatures, encroaching salinity, and overgrowths of toxic algae or cyanobacteria known as harmful algal blooms,” the complaint said.
California water agency under investigation for discriminating against tribes, people of color – CalMatters, 8/9/23
“It’s pretty bad when California Indians have to file a complaint with the Federal Government so that the State doesn’t violate our civil rights,” Gary Mulcahy, government liaison for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said in a statement. 
The state water agency has allowed “waterways to descend into ecological crisis, with the resulting environmental burdens falling most heavily on Native tribes and other communities of color,” the complaint says.
The groups also said the agency “has intentionally excluded local Native Tribes and Black, Asian and Latino residents from participation in the policymaking process associated with the Bay-Delta Plan,” according to an EPA letter to the state dated Tuesday.
EPA to investigate California State Water Board for alleged civil rights violations – Los Angeles Times, 8/11/23
The [U.S.] Environmental Protection Agency has begun an investigation into whether California’s top water agency has discriminated against Native tribes and people of color, carrying out a civil rights probe that could force changes in how the state manages water.
The EPA’s civil rights office announced it has accepted a complaint filed by tribes and environmental justice groups, who accuse the State Water Resources Control Board of discriminatory practices and mismanagement contributing to the ecological deterioration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta…
“We think our work is really set to reset the conversation to bring about true equity in California water management,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director at Restore the Delta. She said it’s about “making sure that those who have been harmed the most have an equal voice at the table.”

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