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Block Trump Plan to Pump More Water South

Sacramento Bee Editorial

Few things are more important to the future of the Bay Area and Northern California than the quality of our water supply.

And here comes the latest threat.

At the behest of the Central Valley’s billionaire agribusiness operators, the Trump administration on Dec. 29 proposed pumping more water south from the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta despite the potentially devastating long term impact on the water Silicon Valley and the East Bay count on.

California has to block this effort to “maximize water deliveries,” especially with the prospect of climate change further threatening the health of the Delta.

The State Water Resources Control Board is responsible for ensuring that any pumping from the Delta complies with California environmental laws. It can block even federal plans if it finds they would damage the largest estuary west of the Mississippi.

The board should deny the Trump administration request.

Central Valley agribusiness likes to argue that sending more water south is prioritizing “people before fish,” since the sharp decline in Delta smelt populations has been cited to block increased pumping. But the Delta smelt are the canary in the coal mine.

Every scientific study of the Delta has yielded the same result: The only way to preserve its health and water quality is to allow more fresh water to run through it, not less.

This same principle of Delta health argues against Gov. Jerry Brown’s separate, $17 billion twin-tunnel Delta plan to create capacity for greater flows to the Central Valley and Southern California.

The federal proposal arrived as a Bureau of Reclamation notice of intent to review Delta water flows. It outlines four goals: maximize water supply delivery; review and consider modifications to regulatory requirements; evaluate stressors on fish and beneficial non-flow measures to decrease stressors; and evaluate potential changes in laws, regulations and infrastructure that may benefit power marketability.

Trump won big support from Central Valley farmers in 2016 when he promised to solve the water problem, saying, “It is so ridiculous, where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea.”

But there is a wide-ranging value in allowing sufficient flows of water from California’s snow-covered mountains to the ocean. The water boosts groundwater tables — the very ones Central Valley farmers have overdrawn to a degree that land there is sinking at a rate of almost a foot a year, damaging bridges, roads and even the California Aqueduct. Allowing more water to flow through the Delta also preserves all manner of wildlife beyond the Delta smelt.

Once upon a time, Republicans believed in helping protect the environment. It was President Nixon who signed the Environmental Protection Act into law in 1970, and it was President George H.W. Bush who in 1992 signed a bill co-written by Martinez Rep. George Miller making restoring fish life in San Francisco Bay and the Delta a priority.

California must block this plan to curry favor with Trump supporters at the expense of the Delta and the communities that now rely on its water.

Bay Area News Group

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