The water wars continue.
Not surprisingly on Friday President Joe Biden's administration took action to essentially place on hold an action taken by former President Donald Trump in early 2020 designed to ensure more water would be delivered to the Central Valley.
The issue involved is biological opinions issued in 2019 by the Trump administration to be used when it comes to how water is managed. But a letter issued by the Bureau of Reclamation stated new biological opinions were anticipated. So not surprisingly California Republicans in Congress criticized Biden's action.
On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced it was reinitiating consultation of the U.S. Fish and Wild life Service and National Marine Fisheries Service 2019 biological opinions when it comes to how water delivered by the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project is managed.
Consultation is designed to ensure biological opinions don't endanger wildlife, endangered species and more specifically in this case, if how the biological opinions could endanger salmon.
A number of California Republican Congressman issued a letter criticizing the Biden administration's action. They included Central Valley Congressmen Devin Nunes, David Valadao and Kevin McCarthy, whose district represents Porterville.
“We strongly oppose the Biden administration’s reckless, anti-scientific, and politically-motivated attempt to rewrite the 2019 biological opinions,” the letter states.
“The 2019 opinions reflect years of work by career staff experts at the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Commerce to incorporate the best available science and latest data to ensure a reliable water supply for California’s families, farms, and communities while protecting listed species and their environment in our state. Just as important, multiple rigorous peer reviews confirmed the scientific findings on which the 2019 opinions are based.
“Yet, the opinions are adamantly opposed by most California Democrats, the Newsom administration, and radical environmental groups. This opposition is particularly shocking given that those most impacted by the lack of water supply are disadvantaged, rural minority communities.”
The Republicans noted in their letter the opinions are less than two years old and salmon have a three-year life cycle, so the effectiveness of the biological opinions can't be fully evaluated.
“We call on the Biden administration to defend the 2019 opinions in court against radical lawsuits while continuing to work with water contractors and state officials to address the State’s concerns through implementation, not reconsultation. But as the Biden administration bulldozes ahead with this process, we expect that Section 4004 of the WIIN Act will be fully complied with.”
Section 4004 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for Nation Act is designed to ensure stakeholders who are affected by biological opinions have a say in the process.
“At a time when Californians are burdened with high gas prices at the pump and unreliable electricity for their homes, California Democrats and the Biden administration now want to deprive them of water supplies,” the letter states. “It is time for Democrats to abandon their penchant for generating man-made crises to appease the radical environmental lobby and instead support policies that protect our State’s families, farms, and communities.”
In a letter announcing the reinitiation of consultation on the biological opinions, Bureau of Reclamation regional director Ernest Conant wrote: “reinitiation is warranted based on anticipated modifications to the Proposed Action that may cause effects to listed species or designated critical habitats not analyzed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Service Biological Opinions.”
The letter also stated the Bureau of Reclamation and State Department of Water Resources anticipate requirements under the California Endangered Species Act would result in new biological opinions for the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. “The goals will be to support species viability, protect life history diversity, support operational flexibility, provide regulatory certainty, support science and monitoring,” Conant's letter stated.
The letter also stated until new biological opinions are issued, the CVP will continue to operate based on the reinitiation of consultation existing and “by interim measures, if any, as required by ongoing drought conditions or as ordered in conjunction with any ongoing litigation.”
In February, 2020, then U.S. Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt and Trump came to Bakersfield as Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum that would lead to more water being diverted to Central Valley farmers.
The Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West directed the federal government to complete a new operations plan to address the fragmented regulation of water supplies in the state and also address conflicts when it came to water delivery.
One goal that everyone agrees on is more coordination of long-term operations of the CVP and SWP. Trump's memorandum also called for better coordination and Conant's letter also stated that was the ultimate goal.
Trump's plan did call for $1.5 billion in federal and state funding to protect threatened and endangered species over 10 years. The plan called for better cold water management at Shasta Reservoir to for incubating salmon eggs; reintroducing Chinook salmon on Battle Creek; and to supplement Delta smelt in the wild over three to five years.
Trump's plan was based on the 2019 biological opinions.