The coalition of local water districts and state agencies behind the voluntary agreements for stream flows into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta are bringing new concepts to water management. For one, they have rebranded the initiative as Healthy Rivers California, according to David Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association.
Speaking at a State Board of Food and Agriculture meeting this week, Guy shared that some habitat restoration projects have already been completed and more are in the pipeline—without waiting around “for all the formalities.” While conservation groups have not signed on to the pact, agencies “from Red Bluff to San Diego” have.
The coalition is sending the agreements to the State Water Resources Control Board, which will take about two years to draft an environmental document. Once approved, the agreement will last eight years and likely extend to 15, which would allow five salmon runs for tracking progress.
The in-stream flow proposals cannot be implemented until California sees a somewhat normal water year, since the plan relies on “the middle years” that are not too dry or too wet.
The board’s 2018 update to its Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan proposed a million acre-feet in water cuts. Ducks Unlimited found that would amount to about 330,000 acres permanently fallowed in the Sacramento Valley, which drove stakeholders to seek out an alternative pathway to the regulatory approach.