CA WATER LAW SYMPOSIUM: Lawyers discuss the Cal Water Fix change petition process at the State Water Board

To implement the California Water Fix project, the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Water Resources must obtain the State Water Board’s approval of petitions to change certain elements of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) water right permits and licenses, including most notably adding new points of diversion.
That part concluded in December; part 2 will address the effects of Water Fix project on Fish and Wildlife, including Delta flow criteria that might be included.
“Keep in mind that the Water Fix process that we’re talking about here is a State Water Resources Control Board process and it’s focused on a water rights concept and that is a change in point of diversion.
It’s just a water conveyance project that needs a change in point of diversion.”
“I do think it is dual conveyance; in fact, if we were to shift all the pumping to the north, then the projects couldn’t meet the water quality control plans and the ag salinity standards in the south Delta would not be met, so I think what it does do is give flexibility.
He reminded that the water quality control plan criteria and the regulatory constraints on the Department aren’t being changed, and in order to meet the Southern Delta water quality criteria that are currently a condition of the state’s water rights permits, they will have to maintain some pumping from the south Delta, because it’s that pumping from the south Delta that artificially draws fresh water into the south Delta and helps to provide for protection of agriculture in that region.
The 2006 Water Quality Control Plan itself indicated that alternative conveyance was part of the solution.
… Water Fix proposes it’s going to operate a certain way, and yet in the drought years, it says we’re not going to operate the way that we said we would and we’re not going to tell you how we’re going to operate.
So things are bad now; this actually is worse.” Stuart Somach then turned to Stephanie Morris and asked if the NEPA/CEQA documents explain project operations, and is it appropriate to look to those documents to understand the deficits the other panelists are talking about?
It probably could happen but it’s not likely to happen nor do I think it would happen because the Department and the Bureau don’t want to take those risks because they have contractual obligations that they have to meet in the following years and more importantly, they have water quality control plan requirements that they have to meet in the following years, so they are much more conservative then Kevin’s modeler would be and frankly, probably my modelers.” “The concept embedded in these materials include realtime operations and adaptive management as part of this, but the question, isn’t there a ‘trust me’ quality to that?” asked Stuart Somach, directing the question to Tripp Mizell.

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