Bay Delta Plan Update: Comment on Final SED

On July 6, 2018, the State Water Board released a final proposal to amend the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan (Proposed Final Amendments) and a Final Substitute Environmental Document (SED) for the Lower San Joaquin River and Southern Delta. To review these documents visit the State Water Board’s website. Comments are due before 12pm Noon on July 27, 2018. See instructions for submitting comments below (scroll down for talking points):

  • Email Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board, by email at LSJR-SD-Comments@waterboards.ca.gov (please note that the email capacity is less than 50 megabytes total). Please title the subject line: “Comment Letter – Revisions to Proposed Bay-Delta Plan Amendments.” Electronic submission by email in pdf text format is preferred.
  • Attend the State Water Board meeting and give oral public comments on Tuesday, August 21, 2018, 9:30 a.m. and/or Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 9:30 a.m. at:

    Joe Serna Jr. CalEPA Headquarters Building
    Coastal Hearing Room
    1001 I Street, Second Floor
    Sacramento, CA 95814

For more information, please see the full Notice of Public Meeting.

Talking Points for Submitting Comments

While the State Water Board encourages comments to focus on new information presented in the final Substitute Environmental Document (SED), you are welcome to touch on any issue(s) related to the Bay Delta Plan. An important part of our job is to ensure the Water Board bases its decision on the best available science, and does not succumb to pressure from water agencies and their supporters who they’ve riled up through misinformation.

Begin your letter by introducing yourself. Why is this issue important to you? Perhaps you enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, backpacking or bird-watching in California’s watersheds. Share any personal stories or observations you might have. The Water Board is interested in all beneficial uses of the State’s water.

Remind the Water Board that California Fish & Game Code 5937 requires, “The owner of any dam shall allow sufficient water at all times to pass through a fishway, or in the absence of a fishway, allow sufficient water to pass over, around or through the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may be planted or exist below the dam.”

Remind them that their 2010 flow criteria report determined that 60% of unimpaired flow between February and June would be protective of native fish in the San Joaquin River basin, so the proposed 40% of unimpaired flow is already a significant compromise.

Let them know which Alternative you support. Alternative 1 is the “no project alternative,” and Alternative 2 is 20-30% of unimpaired flow, so these are out of the question.

  • Alternative 3 (their recommended proposal) would require 30-50% of unimpaired flow, starting at 40%.
  • Alternative 4 would require 50-60% of unimpaired flow, starting at 60%.

For additional facts and figures, click here.


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Survey finds San Francisco’s water priorities are out of sync with the environmental values of its constituents

People conserve water assuming their actions will benefit the environment. However, in San Francisco and much of the Bay Area, this is not the case.

A recent public opinion poll of 402 San Francisco voters found that environmental protection is a strong motivating force for water conservation. The survey was commissioned by Tuolumne River Trust, and conducted by the Social Science Research Center.

93% of respondents said they personally conserved water during the recent drought. Of those, 94% said protecting the environment played a role in their actions. When asked if they would be more likely to conserve water if they knew it benefitted the environment, 72% responded yes. Conversely, only 21% said they would be more likely to conserve water if it only enabled more development.

“Unfortunately, the water we conserved during the recent 5-year drought did not benefit the environment,” said Peter Drekmeier, Policy Director for the Tuolumne River Trust. “Instead, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) hoarded it behind dams, only to dump it during last year’s near-record precipitation. The Tuolumne River experienced one excessive year of flows at the expense of five terrible years.”

While 75% of respondents could identify Hetch Hetchy as the source of their drinking water, only 12% could identify the Tuolumne River as the source that fills the Reservoir. The Hetch Hetchy Water System, which provides water to 2.7 million people in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties, is managed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).

“The SFPUC has done a great job at branding Hetch Hetchy, but has failed to educate its customers about the Tuolumne River, which is the true source of their water,” said Drekmeier. “Saying our water comes from Hetch Hetchy is like saying our food comes from the grocery store.”

Staff at the SFPUC have been advocating against a proposed plan by the State Water Resources Control Board that would help restore the Tuolumne River and San Francisco Bay.

“The way the SFPUC manages its dams and reservoirs is clearly out of sync with the environmental values of its constituents,” said Drekmeier. “The SFPUC has opposed measures, such as revisions to the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan, aimed at restoring the San Francisco Bay-Delta and rivers that feed it.”

One reason the SFPUC has opposed the Bay Delta Plan, which would increase freshwater inflows into San Francisco Bay, is because it is planning to accommodate a rapid increase in commercial development in the coming years – a vision that is not embraced by a majority of San Francisco voters. 60% of survey respondents were unsupportive of creating more office space in San Francisco.

When asked about Plan Bay Area – a government-initiated roadmap that forecasts the addition of 1.3 million new jobs and 2 million more people to the Bay Area between 2010 and 2040 – only 11% of survey respondents believed the Plan would improve their quality of life, while 65% believed it would negatively impact their quality of life.

When asked if they would favor changing the way SFPUC Commissioners are appointed, more than twice as many people favored making the positions elected versus the status quo. The commissioners are currently appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Read the full results of the survey here: TRT Final Survey Report 06-29-18

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How can fire promote forest health?

We firmly believe that, in addition to proper planning and management, controlled burns can greatly reduce the risk of large, dangerous wildfires in California’s forests. A recent report by the Little Hoover Commission details the changes that they believe should be made to make this strategy happen. The Sacramento Bee has done a fantastic job of summarizing the debate in their article Future Forest Health Needs Fire to Fight Fire.

More background about this issue can be found here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorials/article198194059.html

Special thanks to TRT advisor John Amodio for working with the Little Hoover Commission and the Sacramento Bee’s editorial staff to raise awareness of the changes that need to be made in forest management!


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Building Bay Area Drought Resilience

On Tuesday, July 18th, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) hosted leaders from local water resource management and conservation organizations for a discussion about building drought resilience in the Bay Area.  Our Policy Director, Peter Drekmeier, was featured on the discussion panel as the voice of the environmental perspective on these issues for a diverse audience of elected officials, policy experts, NGOs, college students, and interested citizens. Their discussion centered around the findings published in PPIC’s new report which reviewed water usage and conservation efforts during the recent drought, including lessons learned and potential courses of action for the future.

According to PPIC, the “essential takeaways” from the panel discussion included:

  • Regional diversification of water supply is key to getting through dry times.
  • Mandated conservation from the state was a blunt instrument; targets based on utilities’ local water conservation plans are more appropriate for such decisions.
  • Planning for “conservation rates” is essential for water districts’ fiscal resilience and maintenance of reserves to pay for fixed costs.
  • Aquatic ecosystems took a hit during the drought. Even though Bay Area cities embraced water conservation throughout the drought, flows to the Tuolumne River and Delta were inadequate. Addressing this before the next drought hits is key to maintain ecosystem health and at-risk species.

You can watch the entire panel discussion here:

For more resources and information, please visit http://www.ppic.org/blog/video-building-bay-area-drought-resilience/


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