ICYMI 11/12/23: Newsom Pushes Sites, Rewilding Baby Salmon, Bay-Delta Plan Hearings Reg. Extension

Governor Newsom Subverts CEQA to Jam Through Environmentally Destructive Sites Reservoir Project – Sierra Club California 11/6/23 

Governor Newsom certified the environmentally destructive Sites Reservoir project for judicial streamlining under Senate Bill 149. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee will have 30 days to concur in the Governor’s recommendation, or prevent this project from being inappropriately streamlined.

Sites Reservoir would be a new off-stream reservoir that diverts water from the Sacramento River, one of the main tributaries to the San Francisco Bay-Delta. The Bay-Delta ecosystem is in decline due to decades of unsustainable water diversions. The State Water Board is currently moving forward with updates to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan that could provide increased freshwater flows to address long-standing challenges with water quality, salinity, harmful algal blooms, and support the needs of imperiled fish and wildlife. Instead of ensuring Sites is in compliance with the most updated regulations, the Governor has decided to fast-track this project when it is unclear at best whether water is going to be available for diversion. 

Rewilding Baby Salmon Using Indigenous Knowledge – Earth Island Journal 11/7/23 

…Working in close consultation with the [Winnemem Wintu] Tribe and using a hand-scribbled design by Sisk as inspiration, a team of UC-Davis fish biologists brought Sisk’s vision to life, constructing a groundbreaking system that mimics the McCloud’s river flows, rocks, and plant life. The incubator also allows young fish more time to practice swimming against swirling currents. And, rather than being released into the river en masse, the Winnemem Wintu’s baby salmon choose of their own volition when to leave the nest and enter the McCloud’s frigid flows. 

The system, which the Tribe is referring to unofficially as the Nur Nature-Based incubator (Nur is the Winnemem Wintu word for salmon), hatched an estimated 40,000-plus eggs this summer and fall. While state biologists also hatched salmon eggs in heath trays this year, the general consensus based on anecdotal observations is that the Nur Nature-Based incubator appears to have nurtured young salmon that are healthy, strong, and well prepared for life in a free flowing river. More study is needed to truly evaluate the system, officials say, but the design of the incubator itself is an example of how, when Indigenous knowledge is respected, Tribes and Western scientists can collaborate to create important innovations that address the global decline of biodiversity and support local adaptation to climate change. 

…“You can’t separate the Indigenous knowledge from the land and the river. Our knowledge goes back to creation. Our language, our sacred places, our dances, our history and our relationships are all tied together with the McCloud salmon,” Sisk said.

Take Action! Register for Bay-Delta Plan Hearings (Registration Deadline Extended!)
Restore the Delta and partners have been advocating through petitions filed with the State Water Resources Control Board, and with US EPA, for movement by the State Water Board to finish the Bay-Delta Plan. While we wait for implementation of Phase I (San Joaquin River flows) which was approved December 2018 and delayed due to the “voluntary agreements” process, the Delta has suffered for decades without updated water quality and flow standards that protect communities, culture, fisheries, recreation, and agriculture. 
Please join us in helping advocate for an improved Bay-Delta estuary! 

WHO: State Water Resources Control Board Public Hearings 
WHAT: Public Hearings (Panels and Individual Comments) for Phase II of the Bay-Delta Plan. Staff Report, which focuses on Sacramento River flows. Here is a link to the 5000-plus page report.  
WHEN: November 17th, 9:30 am; December 1st, 9:30 am; and December 11th, 4:00 pm. 
WHERE: Cal EPA Building, 1001 I Street, Sacramento or attend on Zoom. 
HOW: You can organize a panel to make comments or speak individually. Panels are 20 minutes in length; individual comments are 5 minutes (about 450 words when drafting). The State Water Board, however, is only allowing individuals to speak once, either on a panel or individually over the course of the 3 days. 
Registration to comment has been extended, you may register up until the hearing day you wish to participate in. 

Note, the State Water Board said that panel presentations (not individual comments) should be identified by November 3 if possible, or soon thereafter, to ensure adequate time is allotted for those presentations over the 3 hearing days. 

Here is the link to register.   
WHY: The Staff Report for the Bay-Delta Plan contains the “voluntary agreements” – a private, incomplete, and discriminatory process – in which most Californians were left out of having a say in water allocations and river and Bay-Delta protections – not to mention the disparate impacts these agreements will cause for tribal and environmental justice communities. 

Additionally, the Staff Report doesn’t contain a proposed project, but rather, a recommended alternative with options, through which the Board can put together a Bay-Delta Plan that serves political interests, rather than science-based objectives to restore our fisheries and environmental health. 

1. As currently drafted, the Plan is incomplete and inadequate for fisheries and the overall health of the Bay-Delta estuary. 

2. A proposed alternative of 55% unimpaired flows for the Sacramento River with a range of 45-65%, will not save native fisheries, and fisheries will continue to slide into extinction. While there isn’t a stable proposed project because Board members are being offered alternatives with additional a la carte management options, 65% minimum unimpaired flows gets us closer to fish recovery, and 75% is the best based on established science. There is no plan of implementation for the proposed alternative which should have been finished over the last five years. 

3. There is no harmful algal bloom standard to protect people who come in contact with waterways. There isn’t a real strategy for how harmful algal blooms will be tracked, identified, and mitigated. 

4. The voluntary agreements, which are offered as an option, do not set water quality objectives — so the voluntary agreements cannot meet the objectives of the Bay-Delta Plan. 

5. The voluntary agreements, as included in this draft, do not include an implementation plan, meaning that the public will have to comment on implementation later. This keeps us in a perpetual cycle of reacting to a Bay-Delta that is never finished. 

6. Beneficial uses are identified in this plan, i.e., agriculture, fisheries, recreation, drinking water, but the Plan does not define Tribal Beneficial Uses, which is a continuation of discriminatory practices. 

7. The Staff Report only looked at groundwater and drinking water, not cultural or recreational uses. The Environmental Justice analysis for the Delta is inadequate seeing it doesn’t cover 72 small drinking water systems. 

8. The voluntary agreements do not address cold water pools upstream needed for fisheries and do not contain storage thresholds. 

9. The Staff Report does identify the beneficial uses of a healthy river and estuary, and healthy fisheries within the cost benefit analysis. Cost benefits are mostly related to water exports. 

Delta Co-Op – Space Available
Restore the Delta has workshare space available for environmental and social justice organizations and positive environmental/sustainable businesses! Located in Stockton, near the Port of Stockton and I-5, our facility includes a conference room with hybrid meeting capability, ample parking, multiple kitchens, bathrooms, and great partner organizations to collaborate with on a regular basis. We also offer a large community meeting room. 
The Delta Co-Op has 4 workstations available presently with access to all facilities and storage (designated closet/cabinet areas) for $300 per month. Our community meeting room is also available to rent for specific events and includes a kitchenette. The community meeting room can be rented for $300 for 8 hours or $150 for 4 hours. 
Contact Mariah Looney today to learn more about the Delta Co-Op and to schedule a tour. Mariah can be reached at Mariah@restorethedelta.org, or 209-479-2559. 

Restore the Delta has new merch!
Restore the Delta is excited to announce that new merch is available! Shop for the holiday season for family, friends, and loved ones who share a fondness of the Delta!

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