The fight of the state’s water continues with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision last week to protect fish under the California Endangered Species Act.

On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy-R and other members of Congress sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom criticizing that decision.

Last week, the CDFW issued an Incidental Take Permit to the Department of Water Resources for long-term operations of the State Water Project. The State Water Project provides a water storage and delivery system of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants for California.

The ITP is designed to protect the Delta smelt, longfin smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon and spring-run Chinook salmon.

CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham issued a statement saying the state’s water operations need to support communities while protecting fish and wildlife. He added the ITP strikes that balance.

“It ensures that our state water infrastructure operates in a manner protective of fish species listed under state’s endangered species law,” Bonham stated. 

The ITP dedicates water from Delta River outflows during drier periods to fish and habitat when they need it the most, Bonham said. He also said the permit provides flexibility to store water during wet years for both water supply and the environment.

He also said the ITP better utilizes infrastructure to improve habitat conditions and provides “significant” new funding to ecosystem improvements and expanded scientific research.

The ITP also gives the CDFW the final authority to make changes to protect fish. “Together, DWR and CDFW will implement this permit to meet the needs of Californians and our state’s natural environment,” Bonham said.

But McCarthy and U.S Representatives Devin Nunes, Ken Calvert, Tom McClintock, Doug LaMalfa and Paul Cook sent a letter to Newsom criticizing the ITP.

In the letter, they state the ITP threatens to send the State Water Project and Central Valley Project for water “into a downward spiral of conflict, confusion, and litigation.”

They also stated in the letter the ITP effectively kills negotiations when it comes to voluntary agreements. For the past couple of years, Newsom has negotiated with water agencies in the state on plans for how water ican be managed. The whole purpose of the voluntary agreements was to avoid the legal wrangling that has always been involved with the state’s water.

“We need cooperative and coordinated operations of the SWP and CVP to ensure that the cities, communities, and farms that depend on a reliable water supply receive the water they need and can grow the food that feeds our nation and the world,” the members of Congress wrote in their letter.”

The letter basically states the federal guidelines developed by the Trump administration using the 2019 Federal Biologicial Opinions should be used so “the CVP and SWP could be adaptively managed to meet the needs of people and the environment.”

They also stated: “Given the serious health, safety, and economic concerns our constituents are facing due to the pandemic, the timing and judgement of the State’s decision on the new ITP is even more baffling.”

The letter also requests the state drop its lawsuit against the 2019 Federal Biological Opinions “so the SWP and CVP can operate in a coordinated manner, as they have for decades.”

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