[env-trinity] More News on the CALFED Decision

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Fri Jun 6 11:52:04 PDT 2008

Water plan can proceed, high court rules

The San Francisco Chronicle- 6/6/08

Bob Egelko, Staff Writer


The state and federal governments can form a long-range plan for managing water shipments through the bay and delta region without examining the option of reducing exports to Central and Southern California, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.


Environmentalists had argued that the plan favored dams over conservation, and farmers said they feared they might be bypassed in favor of city dwellers. But the court ruled unanimously that CalFed, the state-federal consortium drawing up the long-range plan, had balanced water supply needs against ecological and other concerns.


The decision upheld an environmental review of the plan, which the agency developed between 1995 and 2000 to try to address urban and agricultural water needs while protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, where river diversions, development and pollution have damaged water quality and wildlife habitat.


The CalFed proposal includes increased shipments through the delta, with the goal of assuring reliable supplies for water users to the south. A state appeals court ruled in 2005 that the environmental review was inadequate because it failed to include the option of reduced water shipments, which would avoid the need for additional dams, and did not identify where the extra water to be shipped south would come from.


Although the justices cleared the way for a planning process for dams, reservoirs and other projects contemplated in the 30-year program, the ruling may not have much impact. CalFed, a group of 18 federal and state agencies formed in 1994 to work on long-term solutions to delta water problems, has made little headway and is being bypassed by combatants in the water wars.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed a task force to take another look at the issues, and a group of major water users, state and federal regulators and other interested parties is working separately on habitat protection. The state Senate passed legislation last month to dissolve the state agency that manages CalFed.


A federal judge, meanwhile, has ordered a reduction in water exports from the delta to protect a fish called the delta smelt and has scheduled a hearing in Fresno today to consider additional protective measures for salmon and steelhead.


"The debate has moved on in terms of fixing the delta," said Chris Scheuring, a lawyer with the California Farm Bureau and a member of Schwarzenegger's task force.


 He said CalFed "collapsed under its own weight."


An attorney for environmental groups said the ruling set a bad legal precedent but probably wouldn't have any immediate effect on the bay-delta region.


"The parts of CalFed haven't come together" and the program is "all but moribund," said Antonio Rossmann, lawyer for the Planning and Conservation League, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense. The group of state and federal agencies "hasn't provided environmental protection, and water agencies and farmers haven't seen the reliability (of supplies) they thought they were getting," he said.


But Keith Coolidge, spokesman for the state's CalFed bay-delta program, said the court had validated the program's environmental planning process and provided a road map for future efforts to improve both water delivery and ecological protection. Lisa Page, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said the ruling "reinforces our delta restoration effort."


The state Supreme Court said CalFed was entitled to conclude that reducing shipments would not ensure a reliable water supply for Central and Southern California. #





CALFED wins ruling on Delta: But wording may help losing side defeat canal

The Stockton Record – 6/6/08

By Alex Breitler, Staff Writer 


SACRAMENTO - The government was legally justified when it did not consider cutting water exports as one way to solve the Delta's problems, the state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.


But one attorney said language in the ruling may actually help Delta farmers and environmentalists in their renewed fight against a peripheral canal.


In 2000, the state-federal partnership known as CALFED released a major environmental plan that listed three broad alternatives to improving the Delta.


None of those alternatives included reducing the amount of water that is exported from giant pumps near Tracy to portions of the Bay Area, the southern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.


Delta farmers sued. They lost in Sacramento County Superior Court, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. That court said the state's population would eventually adjust to the new realities of less available water.


The state Supreme Court decided the matter once and for all Thursday, saying CALFED's entire purpose was to reduce conflicts over water, and that the agency was justified in deciding that slashing water exports from the Delta would only make things worse.


Much has changed since that original plan was issued. CALFED is widely considered a failure - a bill pending in the state Legislature would eliminate it altogether.

Meanwhile, officials have moved on to new planning processes in the Delta, including consideration of a peripheral canal.


But the court's decision Thursday is not moot. CALFED's plan is still the foundation for many studies that are under way in the Delta, said CALFED spokesman Keith Coolidge. And the ruling will be looked to by those who are crafting new strategies.


That's why Stockton attorney Dante Nomellini, although on the losing end, was encouraged.


The court acknowledged that federal and state law means water exports must be "subordinated" to environmental needs, he said.


CALFED was based on the theory that it's possible to restore the Delta's ecology while maintaining or even increasing water exports.


"If practical experience demonstrates that the theory is unsound, Bay-Delta water exports may need to be capped or reduced," the ruling says.


Good news, said Nomellini, who represents Delta farmers.


"I think it's a very important statement that will have an impact" on current Delta planning, he said.


The State Water Contractors, which represents 27 agencies that receive Delta water, praised Thursday's ruling, calling ecosystem and water supply "co-equal goals."


But an environmental group, the Planning and Conservation League, called it an "unfortunate" decision that relied on an outdated understanding of the relationship between water exports and the Delta's ecosystem, including fish species whose numbers have plummeted under CALFED's watch.#




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