Nov. 13, 2018 – -Under pressure from Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, state regulators once again postponed a vote on a contentious plan to force San Francisco and several big San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts to give up some of their water supplies for environmental protection. The board agreed to postpone action until Dec. 11 to give stakeholders more time to negotiate an alternative plan, called a voluntary settlement agreement.
On his first day as Governor-Elect, Newsom coauthored a letter with Governor Brown in support of the agriculture and valley communities. In the letter they stated that “for many months, state agencies, water districts and others have been working hard to achieve voluntary agreements that would meet the requirements of the amendment set for adoption. Significantly, these agreements would obligate water rights holders to improve stream flows and restore habitat”. They went on to ask for a month’s delay in the vote and pledged to “actively and meaningfully engage to bring this vital matter to a successful closure.”
The proposal on the table would require 40% of the natural flow remain in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers during the critical February through June period in order to double the endangered salmon population and protect other wildlife. If adopted, the State Water Resources Control Board proposal to boost flows on three salmon-bearing rivers would amount to an unprecedented step to hold districts with historic water rights accountable for the environmental toll of their massive diversions. The agricultural districts, which staked their claims to the river flows a century or more ago, have bitterly contested the proposed restrictions, calling them economically devastating and vowing to challenge them in court.