The CalChamber and its coalition back the recent revisions to the water strategy aimed at preserving rivers and landscapes.

The California Chamber of Commerce, along with a coalition of statewide organizations, has made a request to the State Water Resources Control Board to support a new approach to balancing the diverse water needs in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta) system. This alternative approach aims to restore and maintain habitat while also providing stability and predictability in water supply for urban and agricultural uses.

The coalition has asked the State Water Board to incorporate the Healthy Rivers and Landscapes alternative into its update of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan (Bay-Delta Plan). This alternative has been developed by a group of statewide organizations representing growers, manufacturers, food producers, construction/industrial materials companies, and municipal utilities.

The State Water Board has been working on updating the Bay-Delta Plan for nearly two decades. As some water quality conditions, such as salinity, are regulated through flushing flows in the Delta, the Bay-Delta Plan has a significant impact on water supply. Since a majority of the state relies on water from the Delta and its tributaries, the policies set in the Bay-Delta Plan have implications for the entire state.

The Healthy Rivers and Landscapes alternative is the latest version of the “voluntary agreements” effort that began in 2018. The Newsom administration brought together key water districts, state agencies, and other interested parties to develop an alternative method for meeting Bay-Delta Plan goals that did not solely rely on the State Water Board’s staff-generated concept of extreme unimpaired flow requirements. This alternative allocates additional flows to the environment while also protecting critical water supplies for communities and the economy. It also includes projects to restore functional ecosystems and floodplains throughout the system, which are funded through the alternative. Additionally, it establishes governance and science programs to adapt to new information and changing climate conditions.

Previous efforts to manage the Bay-Delta through flow-only measures have not been successful. The Sacramento/Delta portion of the plan was last updated in 1995, and since then, both species and water supply reliability have declined in the Bay-Delta and the rest of the state. The Healthy Rivers and Landscapes alternative offers a different approach, which is innovative and aims to improve environmental conditions more quickly and holistically than traditional top-down regulatory requirements. It also provides more certainty to communities, farms, and businesses that rely on a reliable water supply.

The CalChamber-led coalition has submitted a comment letter to the State Water Board, urging them to include the Healthy Rivers and Landscapes alternative in their update of the Bay-Delta Plan. The letter can be found on the CalChamber website. 

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