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Big problems on the water front

In this already stressful time for agriculture and our country, Governor Newsom decided this week to file for a preliminary injunction against the permits that allow the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) to deliver water out of the Delta. This is in addition to the state issuing for the first time their own permits, separate from the federal permits for Delta water pumping, of the State Water Project.

The new state permit severely restricts water exports as well as substantially increasing the fees that State Water Contractors must pay for environmental mitigation. The press release headline issued by the radical Natural Resources Defense Council says it all: “California Delivers Blow to Trump Administration’s Plan for Extinction in the Bay Delta.”

Remember, 25 million people and thousands of acres of productive California farmland are irrigated with water that moves through the Delta. There are a few fish species that are endangered and millions upon millions of acre feet of fresh water have been sent out to the ocean over the past decade in compliance with rules written by environmental agencies designed to help these fish. Despite all that wasted water, the health of the endangered fish has not materially improved. Millions of dollars of research has been done over the past decade to discover new ways to save these fish. As a result of that research, new requirements and rules were written by the appropriate fish agencies of the federal government and the new rules took effect this Spring. Those rules are designed to improve the health of the fish, and by the way, they also allow, under very limited conditions, more water to be sent to the people and farms of California.

This infuriated the radical environmental community and they have convinced the governor to take their side. This completely man-made disaster is headed to the courts where radical environmental organizations and the Newsom administration are lined up against the federal agencies and the entire California water community. This is so sad. Just a few months ago, the parties were very close to a master “voluntary settlement” deal that would have made major investments in environmental improvement projects in exchange for predictable, although somewhat diminished, water delivery policies.

All that good work now seems to be shredded at a time when our people need wise and prudent leadership. From an agriculture perspective, our risk from the governor’s suit against the CVP is that if he is successful, the permit that the CVP operates under could be invalidated, leaving the CVP unpermitted and therefore unable to deliver water. But the urban population is also at significant risk, particularly in Southern California, who will bear a huge brunt from the State assault on the water supply for people and farms. The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California Board of Directors is so alarmed that they voted this week to file suit against the state for their actions. MWD will be joined by almost the entire water community in that lawsuit. The initial court hearing is scheduled for May.

Geoff Vanden Heuvel

Director of Regulatory and Economic Affairs

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