This week, the California State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) began Part 1 of a two-part hearing regarding the California WaterFix project. Without the approval of the Water Board, the WaterFix project cannot move forward, which will leave California’s water system inefficient and ineffective.
The purpose of the public hearings is for the Water Board to hear evidence in order to determine if it should approve a joint petition from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The petition proposes to add three new points of diversion and/or points of rediversion of water to specified water right permits for the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project associated with the California WaterFix Project. (See graphic below)
Part 1 of the hearing process began in Sacramento this week and is expected to take several months. The hearings are narrowly focused to take evidence and answer two questions – Do the new points of diversion alter water flows or affect water quality such that there would be injury to any legal user of the water? Does the project in effect initiate a new water right? The public hearings are drawing great public interest as they will determine if the Governor’s proposal to modernize the state’s water delivery system – known as California WaterFix – will move forward.
DWR has presented evidence showing that the proposed change will neither initiate a new water right nor injure any other legal user of water. DWR’s key points include:
- WaterFix would create more flexibility to better balance water quality and water supply.
- DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation do not seek a new or expanded water right or any modifications to the water quality standards upstream or downstream of the proposed diversion points.
- DWR has a proven track record of meeting the Water Board’s Delta water quality standards and WaterFix would operate within the standards established by the Water Board. Meeting existing or future water quality standards would be easier with the flexibility provided by California WaterFix.
- WaterFix will be operated in real-time. While modeling can perform an assessment of potential water operation effects, water project operators handle complex situations on a daily basis to stay in compliance with water quality standards.
Part 2 of the hearings is expected to begin in early 2017 and will address fish and wildlife, recreation, and other public trust issues.