The State Water Board on Tuesday approved an update to dredge and fill procedures for wetlands considered waters of the state. According to staff, the new resolution simply reflects a recent court decision that the board cannot centralize all of its water plans and policies under one regulatory umbrella.
For water interests, however, the resolution raised significant concerns and could create conflicts with regulations that directly impact agriculture.
Valerie Kincaid, an attorney representing a coalition of valley water agencies, contended the new resolution fails to comply with the judgement and threatens to compromise the board’s integrity.
Board members were also hesitant to support the measure over the resolution “not being crystal clear on this” and vowed to continue the discussion. Board Chair Joaquin Esquivel recognized the complicated layering of state and federal laws and the uncertainty this creates.
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“For me, it's also about figuring out how we navigate through this so as to provide the certainty for growers and others who are operating in the watershed,” said Esquivel.
The 2019 wetlands definition and procedures were seen as a controversial move to enact new environmental protections as the Trump administration was easing regulations related the “waters of the U.S.” The rice industry was able to secure exemptions to the wetlands regulations.