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New federal assessment may help modernize state water


The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a Biological Assessment on the Long Term Coordinated Operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project, completing an assessment advocated by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23). The assessment is considered important in updating various regulations governing water supplies in California, including exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to communities in the Central Valley and southern California. Rep. McCarthy issued the following statement:

“Last October, President Trump issued a memorandum directing the Department of the Interior to modernize California water operations for the 21st century. It has been a decade since the regulations governing water management in California have been updated, including how much water from the Delta goes to communities in the Central Valley.

“I want to commend the Bureau of Reclamation for issuing this new assessment, which is an important step in the process of updating these regulations to match current conditions. I believe that using the best information that reflects the most current science and technology will ultimately result in a win-win, both for the environment and increasing water supplies to our communities.

“These actions by Reclamation will continue to build on the success of the historic WIIN Act of 2016, which reformed California water policy to help citizens and communities in the Central Valley and southern California receive life-giving water from the Delta.”

Water exported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (the Delta) via the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) provides millions of Californians with life-giving water and irrigates hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland.

In August 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resource jointly initiated re-consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the Long Term Coordinated Operation (LTO) of the CVP and SWP. Under the law, Reclamation is required to develop a new Biological Assessment (BA) regarding the Coordinated LTO, which includes water exports from the Delta to the Central Valley and southern California.

The Presidential Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West, signed by President Donald Trump on Oct. 19, 2018, prioritized re-consultation of the Coordinated LTO for the CVP and SWP, and directed the Secretary of the Interior to issue a BA by the end of January 2019.

The BA will be used by FWS and NMFS to develop biological opinions that will address the operation of the CVP and SWP, and include any potential conditions that may be needed to protect listed species. The Presidential Memorandum directs the Interior Secretary and the Secretary of Commerce to issue final biological opinions for the Coordinated LTO of the CVP and SWP before mid-June 2019.

In 2016, Congress enacted into law the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. This law includes provisions directing Federal agencies to maximize pumping in the Delta while protecting the environment, creating a path for building new reservoirs or expanding existing reservoirs in California and promoting water recycling and desalination projects.