As a voice for some 450 water suppliers, the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) in late January proposed a Roadmap to Achieving Voluntary Agreements in a plan intended to improve conditions at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and ACWA hopes to enlist assistance from the Biden Administration.
ACWA recommends three specific actions for President Biden to implement:
1. Resolve the litigation between the federal government, the state of California, public water agencies and nongovernmental organizations like environmental groups regarding the Incidental Take Permit and the Biological Opinion.
2. Work with California to convene all parties to complete the Voluntary Agreements and related efforts to advance implementation of the State’s Water Quality Control Plan through Voluntary Agreements.
3. Support and assist water agencies that have proposed early implementation projects to accelerate improvements for fish and wildlife, including direct funding, a mechanism to collect fees and streamline permitting processes.
Public water agencies throughout the state want the Biden Administration to engage in negotiations with the Newsom Administration and stakeholders to complete Voluntary Agreements, according to ACWA.
In the proposal, ACWA included background information, addressed the commitment of public water agencies and touched on essential elements of a watershed-wide agreement.
Voluntary Agreements represent a collaborative, modern and holistic approach to improving the California Bay-Delta ecosystem and water supply reliability. ACWA’s recommended actions will improve habitat and flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its tributaries to help native fish and wildlife species.
The plan is described as an “historic opportunity to protect and restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem” while improving water reliability for 35 million people, nearly 8 million acres of farmland, and remaining California wetlands that depend on the Delta Watershed and its resource supply.
ACWA embraces this new path forward to support a “California for All” and the coequal goals of protecting, restoring and enhancing the Delta ecosystem while providing more reliable water supplies.
The agreements would cover the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as well as the following tributaries: American River, Feather River, Mokelumne River, Putah Creek, Sacramento River, San Joaquin River Settlement Upstream of the Merced River (Friant Diversion), Tuolumne River and Yuba River.
State Water Contractors have been diligent in their advocacy efforts to support a Voluntary Agreement approach, drawing on science that supports adaptive management of the Delta to improvie fish habitats and populations.