When the State Water Resources Control Board voted in December to adopt the Bay-Delta Plan, its members ignored the direction of former Governor Brown and current Governor Newsom to pursue voluntary agreements with our irrigation districts. Many saw this as an act of defiance by former Chair Felicia Marcus, the executive director, and many of the activist staff.
While Governor Newsom has made swift progress toward rebuilding trust with water users, in part by removing the former board chair, it takes time for reforms at the top to trickle down to the hundreds of staff who actively urged the board’s action.
Since then, Eileen Sobeck, executive director of the water board, has submitted a proposal to the United States Environmental Protection Agency requesting “review and approval” of the revised salinity objectives included in the Bay-Delta Plan.
While the Bay-Delta Plan exceeds 3,500 pages, the board’s entire submittal for federal approval was nothing more than a couple paragraphs and a chart. The letter made absolutely zero mention of the 40 percent unimpaired flows approved by the board last December.
Ten years of hearings, myriad reports and meetings, millions of dollars in staff and consultant costs, and thousands of public comments should not be subjected to review according to the board’s letter.
Adoption of the Bay-Delta Plan by the EPA based on a single letter would be a profound act of irresponsible government. That the board’s executive director would ask the federal government to take such action is the height of bureaucratic arrogance.
Even more troubling, however, is the board’s failure to acknowledge the voluntary agreements being negotiated by our irrigation districts and water users. Many of these negotiations have reached agreements already, and the others are headed in that direction.
By sending an approval request without full and comprehensive information, water board staff are undermining the good-faith relationship Governor Newsom has established with our region. The federal government should reject this sorry excuse for a proposal.
Adam Gray represents the 21st Assembly District, which includes part of Stanislaus County and all of Merced County.