Analysis: Back Room Bay-Delta Voluntary Agreement Scheme is Inequitable, Exclusionary, Inadequate and Lacks a Scientific Foundation

Sep 1, 2022

SF Baykeeper and allied organizations today released an analysis of Governor Newsom’s Bay-Delta water scheme to circumvent efforts by the State Water Resources Control Board to increase protections for the Bay-Delta and Central Valley rivers, and strengthen other environmental requirements in the Board’s Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

Bayeeper senior scientist Jon Rosenfield, PhD, commented: 

"Governor Newsom has been trying to craft water deals with entitled water districts since election night, 2018. Each new announcement moves further away from what science says is necessary to protect fish, water quality, and communities—and each new draft deal is more expensive for California taxpayers than the last. The governor’s team argues that these agreements will improve environmental conditions faster than using the state’s regulatory authority. Newsom put the state's regulatory process on ice for 3 years, yet nothing has been achieved through backroom negotiations with water districts. 

“The state’s latest scheme promises only a tiny fraction of the relief our rivers, fisheries, and delta communities need, according to a wealth of research—and it leaves all the hard questions unanswered. Governor Newsom needs to wake up to the reality that California regularly uses more water than nature provides. As a result, fish species are headed towards extinction, our fisheries have collapsed, and water quality is deteriorating fast. We don’t need more science to understand how to fix these problems. 

"We don’t need to pay water districts for water that belongs to the people of California. Instead, we need the state to do its job by establishing and implementing science-based water quality standards for San Francisco Bay and its watershed. Governor Newson must stop blocking his Water Board from implementing better water quality safeguards, something it is required to do under state and federal law. California can't afford to waste any more time—or more water."  



Governor Newsom’s “voluntary agreements” with Bay-Delta water districts:

  • Were negotiated through an exclusionary, non-transparent process. 
  • Are science-free, so it’s not surprising that Newsom’s plan fails to protect fish and wildlife, water quality for Delta communities, fishing jobs, etc.
  • In the wettest years, call for less than half of the flow into San Francisco Bay that the Water Board identified in its 2018 Framework for an average year (in a 2010 report to the legislature, the Water Board identified even more flow would be necessary to protect Public Trust fisheries)
  • Assume repeated waivers to water quality standards whenever there is a drought
  • Do nothing to address high river temperatures below Central Valley dams, which are killing off our unique Chinook Salmon runs
  • Will cost taxpayers over a billion dollars to subsidize the water districts’ obligations, 
  • Are the product of 10 years of negotiations—and they will only last 8 years, then we’re back where we started.
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