The State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board), tasked with the responsibility of protecting water ecosystems in California, is updating the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan (Plan). This Plan was enacted to protect and restore the long-suffering San Francisco Bay Delta ecosystem. It requires the Water Board to set minimum instream flow standards that improve water use and quality while providing endangered salmon a healthy Delta ecosystem.
The Water Board proposed Phase 1 of the Plan in July 2018, calling for 30-50 percent of the flows on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers, which are tributaries to the San Joaquin River, to stay instream. However, scientists and wildlife agencies recommend that at least 50 percent of the flows are needed to stay instream to keep fish healthy.
After comments were made, hearings were held, and testimony was given, the Water Board postponed a vote to adopt the Phase 1 proposal until November 7 to allow Board members to consider all the information provided. But in an effort to work out voluntary agreements with agricultural water irrigation districts in the San Joaquin Valley, Governor Jerry Brown and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom requested a delay for the Water Board to delay the vote until December 12, which the Water Board subsequently granted.
An agreement with the irrigation districts has not been met, and with the vote a week away, it is possible that the Governor will try delay the vote again. The Board must commit to holding a vote and adopting strong instream flow standards that protect the Bay Delta.
Tell the Water Board to vote on the Proposed Phase 1 standards. Urge the Water Board to set strong instream flow standards to protect the Delta and ensure the survival of salmon species.
Aquatic ecosystems like the Delta need freshwater flows to survive. A strong flow can provide the necessary habitat at the right temperature for salmon to thrive on the San Joaquin River. Salmon are a keystone species for the entire Central Valley of California. The nutrients they bring from the ocean to the headwaters made the valley the fertile agricultural land it is today.
Diversions for farms and cities have caused only a fraction of natural flows to remain in the San Joaquin river, resulting in a collapse of the river and the natural Delta ecosystem.
While the Water Board’s plan is a step in the right direction, the ecosystem desperately needs more water instream. The Water Board must adopt stronger instream flow standards.
Send the Water Board a message. Implore the Water Board to allow for the maximum amount of water to remain in the river and to vote on December 12.
Help this ecosystem return to the bountiful fishery it once was.
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