Several lawmakers and agricultural organizations have expressed concern regarding a new joint operating plan for California water projects. The environmental review process is being reinitiated for operating procedures for the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP). A coalition of ag groups recently sent a letter to the leaders of the U.S. Department of Interior and the California Natural Resources Agency detailing concern for the action.
The group notes that the recent court filings “include an unprecedented and unvetted interim operations plan for the upcoming water year in California.” The coalition is comprised of groups including California Citrus Mutual, Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), California Fresh Fruit Association, and the Agricultural Council of California. Several lawmakers including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressmen Jim Costa, John Garamendi, and Josh Harder have also sent letters raising concern about the issue. Most recently the California Republican Delegation sent a formal request calling for an oversight hearing on the action.
The issue centers on the 2019 biological opinions which dictate the operation of the CVP and SWP. Under the new joint operating plan, the 2019 biological opinions would not be considered while a new environmental review process is undertaken. The proposed interim operations plan has been described by the California Farm Water Coalition as a “potential disaster for thousands of California farmers.” Initially, the latest biological opinions had been supported by an array of interests as bringing some much-needed clarity to the water system in California. It had been roughly 10 years since the biological opinions had been updated with the latest information and science available. Concerns have been raised that an interim operating plan will be a regression in California’s water management.
“We thought that progress had been made in revising the original biological opinions to bring more science to the table. That was done under the Trump Administration and now they’re going to go backwards and are headed toward the previous biological opinions which ignores the science,” said WAPA President and CEO Roger Isom. “It’s going to hurt what was already a very impacted system. Not that we were seeing much water out of it, but this is only going to make it worse.”