Chairwoman Felicia Marcus, a consequence

"Newsom will have only one board opening to fill soon after he takes office. Marcus’ term expires in January.
Marcus has said she is open to voluntary agreements, but also led the panel’s 4-1 adoption of the first round of flow requirements in the face of threatened lawsuits and loud protests by river users.
"In coming weeks, the water world will be watching to see if Newsom steers a new course. His spokesman declined to discuss Newsom’s positions, saying Brown was still the governor.
“'It remains to be seen,” Kightlinger (general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California) said. “But you can’t do long-term things if each administration starts from scratch.'" -- Boxall, LA Times, Jan. 4, 2019

Oh, democracy is so tacky, so inefficient, so, well, democratic, that it gets in the way of Metropolitan's customers' planning horizons. Poor, poor, pitiful Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate special interests, and their real good buddy upstream, Westlands Water District. These corporate special interests just don't have no time for a government they can't threaten and bribe into submission.
The new governor has a choice: reappoint Felicia Marcus to the state water board or cave to the howling banshees representing irrigation districts that take water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, of course, who dammed the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Marcus stood up to these "tributary" users, ruling that they must leave 40 percent of normal flow in the rivers during winter and spring. This puts quite a squeeze on the agriculture of the northern San Joaquin Valley.
First, they are under a state mandate to find a sustainable ground-pumping formula in a few years. Environmentalists, no longer invited to the special meetings where sustainability is being planned, at least on the Merced River, are certain that after all those meetings, when the deadline is reached, the state will have to step in and make the decisions for these irrigation districts. Which will cause yet another round of pitchforks, politicians, and lawsuits.
Second, even the tariffs instituted by the Crook in the Big White House have failed to slow the Great Nut Boom, latest of the San Joaquin's historic commodity booms, leading as inevitably as sugar beets or cling peaches, to the Coming Great Nut Bust. Each nut orchard planted on seasonal pasture land increases the number of acres that must be irrigated, either from river water delivered by an irrigation district or ground water delivered by pump.
The almond board even has the services of the formidable Holly King, formerly of the Great Valley Center.
Remember the Great Valley Center? It went the way of the high-tech/bio-tech, public-private, win-win, engine for growth, aka UC Merced, a senior center/Indian casino-in-waiting.
Marcus deserves to be reappointed because her ruling brought this out in the open. The tributary irrigation districts have taken so much water out of the San Joaquin River for growing cities and agriculture, that it has been designated the most endangered river in the nation in recent years, and always ranks in the top 10. From Fresno north, it's little more than polluted runoff from agricultural fields, and that foul environment has destroyed what was once a huge salmon run.
Marcus, apparently following the historic San Joaquin River Settlement, an agreement between environmentalists and the Friant Water Users Authority that mandated that enough water to support a salmon population should flow from Friant Dam on the east side of the valley to the Mendota Pool on the west side, ruled that more fresh water was needed for salmon in the San Joaquin River downstream from the Mendota Pool.
One supposes that Governor Newsom, former San Francisco socialite mayor, is receiving a certain amount of pressure from the City by the Bay in addition to the banshees of the Great Valley Whine, who will never admit that irrigation and urban growth have consequences beyond the profits of individuals, consequences like over-committed surface water, over-drafted groundwater, and Chairwoman Felicia Marcus of the California State Water Resources Control Board.
--blj

1-4-19
Los Angeles Times
Will Gavin Newsom change the state’s water course? Fish and farmers will soon find out
By BETTINA BOXALL
https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-pol-ca-water-decisions-20190104-s...

In the final weeks of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, his appointees on a state board ordered some powerful water districts to cut their historic river diversions to protect endangered salmon populations.
It was a major move by a panel that in the past has often been leery of flexing its regulatory muscles.
But while the State Water Resources Control Board was demanding more water for fish, other Brown appointees were busy crafting deals that could ultimately mean less water for the environment.
Despite a flurry of activity, Brown is leaving plenty of unfinished water business as he heads to his ranch in the Sacramento Valley.
Brown-backed plans to build two giant water tunnels still need key state permits. The water board is in the midst of adopting new flow standards for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the rivers that feed it. Federal agencies are revising Endangered Species Act protections in the delta, the center of California’s vast water system.
After Gavin Newsom moves into the governor’s office, the state’s position could change on all of those initiatives.
Newsom has previously said he favors a scaled-down tunnel project. Whether he reappoints state water board chair Felicia Marcus will signal whether he wants the board to stand firm or back down on the flow requirements. His picks for top posts in the Natural Resources Agency will determine whether his administration goes along with a potential weakening of delta protections by the Trump administration — or fights it.
“I’m sure we’re going to get a different view and philosophy from the Newsom administration. But I also expect they will respect decisions made under the Brown administration," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has played a key role in those decisions.
Metropolitan gets roughly a third of the Southland’s water supply from the delta in the form of State Water Project deliveries. That means that flow requirements and endangered species protections in the delta and its huge watershed influence how much water goes into the California Aqueduct for the 444-mile trip south.
So even though Metropolitan is not directly affected by the state board’s December order to leave more water for migrating salmon in three tributaries of the San Joaquin River, MWD is advocating settlements that would pare those requirements, as well as avert tougher ones in the offing for the Sacramento River basin and the delta itself.
“We’ve been throwing flow at the fish for a couple of decades and they’ve gotten worse every year,” Kightlinger argued. “What we really need to do are non-flow measures, such as acquiring habitat, restoring marshlands, setting back levees, creating better food supply for the fish … more predation control measures.”
The state board would have to approve any settlements. But it is not involved in the negotiations with diverters, which have been conducted by directors of the state Water Resources and Fish and Wildlife departments.
The state is also consulting with federal agencies in a periodic review of environmental limits on the delta pumping operations that are part of the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.
The projects will “basically be making the case for different types of outflow at different times of year based on the science we’ve been conducting,” Kightlinger said.
Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth said proposed changes in the pumping operations could involve fewer restrictions and more exports. “But I want to be really clear that DWR has not made any commitments on that front. I want to be really, really clear about that.”
Combine the potential for settlements and relaxed pumping limits in the delta, and environmental flows through the delta and out to sea could actually wind up lower than they are today.
“There was the big effort to present this grand bargain, in part to stop the water board from adopting these new standards, but in part to try to build political momentum for what appears to be a bait and switch,” said Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
The settlement framework “does not appear to be addressing the most fundamental part of restoring the health of the delta, which is increased water flowing through the delta to Suisun Bay and San Francisco Bay," he added.
Nemeth defended the proposed settlement, saying proponents will have to show that habitat improvements tied to some additional river flows will provide enough environmental benefits to satisfy the water board.
“I think [the system] needs water and physical restoration,” she said. “What is the right combination that … provides comparable or better benefits,” to the board’s flow standards.
So much water is diverted by farms and cities upstream of the delta and pumped from the delta itself that the average volume of flows out to the bay is about half of what it once was.
That has distorted hydrological patterns and altered salinity levels, making the delta more hospitable to a host of invasive aquatic species than native fish. Diversions have so depleted the San Joaquin River and its tributaries that once-abundant salmon runs have all but disappeared.
New flow standards — part of a long overdue update of a water quality control plan for the delta watershed — are intended to halt that decline.
Whether they are implemented or diluted by accords will ultimately be up to the board, whose members are appointed by the governor to four-year terms.
Newsom will have only one board opening to fill soon after he takes office. Marcus’ term expires in January.
Marcus has said she is open to voluntary agreements, but also led the panel’s 4-1 adoption of the first round of flow requirements in the face of threatened lawsuits and loud protests by river users.
In coming weeks, the water world will be watching to see if Newsom steers a new course. His spokesman declined to discuss Newsom’s positions, saying Brown was still the governor.
“It remains to be seen,” Kightlinger said. “But you can’t do long-term things if each administration starts from scratch.”

1-15-19
Water Education Forum
Newsom’s picks for environmental protection and water chiefs will reveal his priorities
By Richard M. Frank
https://www.watereducation.org/western-water/key-california-ag-region-po...
5
One of the keys to former Gov. Jerry Brown’s success as California’s chief executive over the past eight years was the stellar group of individuals he recruited as his top environmental and water officials. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initial, senior environmental appointments suggest that he is wisely following in Brown’s footsteps. Californians can only hope his water leadership team turns out to be equally strong.
Newsom’s first two environmental appointments are his most important, and his choices are impressive indeed.
Jared Blumenfeld will serve as his secretary for environmental protection. Blumenfeld and the governor have a long history together: After working in Newsom’s mayoral administration as San Francisco’s director of the environment, Blumenfeld served with distinction as Region IX (West Coast/Pacific Rim) administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration. In his new state role — a Cabinet position in the Newsom administration — Blumenfeld will oversee the sprawling California Environmental Protection Agency, supervising California’s pollution control, toxic waste management and water rights programs.
Wade Crowfoot was named secretary for natural resources. Crowfoot, another alum of Newsom’s mayoral administration, also previously served as deputy Cabinet secretary and senior adviser to Brown. Most recently, Crowfoot has been the chief executive of the Water Foundation, a think tank focused on water issues in California and the American West. At the Natural Resources Agency, Crowfoot will lead California’s natural resource management efforts, including the state’s climate change adaptation planning initiatives.
Also, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols — perhaps the single most high-profile and widely respected environmental official in the Brown administration — has agreed to continue in that role for at least the first phase of Newsom’s administration. That’s very good news, especially because it assures Nichols’ continuing leadership in achieving California’s ambitious, pioneering greenhouse gas reduction goals. Nichols has guided the air board since 2007 and served an earlier stint in the 1980s.
Far less settled is how Newsom will fill his administration’s most important positions regarding state water policy. One of Newsom’s key tests confronts him immediately: State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus’ term expires this week. Newsom should reappoint Marcus to another term as chair of the water board, which both oversees California’s multifaceted water pollution control programs and administers the state’s always fractious water rights system. She’s done a masterful job over the past six years — most prominently in leading California’s successful efforts to respond to the unprecedented 2012-2017 drought. Marcus has the experience, leadership ability and people skills to continue to lead the board effectively in the coming years as the state works to craft regulations to protect cities, farms and fish.
Another critical decision for the new governor is whom to appoint as director of the state Department of Water Resources. In the past, the department director’s most important job was to oversee operation of the State Water Project. In recent years, that role had become more complicated — and contentious — because of Brown’s support of California Water Fix (also known as the delta tunnels) project. Brown proved unable to get his legacy water initiative to the finish line. It’s still an open question whether Newsom will continue to pursue or abandon the controversial tunnels.
In either case, Newsom’s water resources director will be the state’s point person in addressing a State Water Project that’s in precarious shape — both as an unreliable water delivery system and because of its undisputed, deleterious effect on a delta ecosystem in a state of ecological collapse.

7-6-18
Sacramento Bee
Here’s how to move beyond the water wars and save the Delta
Felicia Marcus
Opinion
https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article214458919.html

The San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary and watersheds improve the lives of nearly everyone in California, and many far beyond.
They put food on the table, put tens of thousands of people to work and deliver drinking water to more than 26 million Californians. These waters are a precious, shared resource. But there is a serious problem.

Opinion
The ecosystem that the water supports is in crisis. Native fish, such as chinook salmon and steelhead, are on the brink of extinction. Populations of fall-run chinook returning to the San Joaquin River basin have plummeted 90 percent in the last 35 years. And the crisis is affecting other species that depend on fish for survival.
Simply put, these waters are no longer healthy and they need our help to survive. There are many reasons for the decline, including loss of floodplain habitat, pollution and predation from non-native species. But the key factor is inadequate flow remaining after farms and communities take their sips or gulps. Without adequate flow, floodplains don’t flood, migrating fish can’t avoid predators and pollution and salts don’t get diluted and flushed through the ecosystem as efficiently. It’s a cascading problem that is difficult to fix, particularly as climate change causes increasing extremes in precipitation.
Fortunately, we have the ability to restore some balance to this system through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta Plan. But this plan is now more than 20 years old and must be modernized for today’s conditions.
The State Water Board staff has just released its final draft of the Lower San Joaquin and Southern Delta update for final public comment. It addresses flows on the three main tributaries of the lower San Joaquin River, and south Delta salinity standards to protect agriculture.

Felicia Marcus
The staff also released an update on the Sacramento/Delta part of the plan to help the Sacramento River and its tributaries and the Delta and its tributaries, including the Calaveras, Cosumnes and Mokelumne rivers. Together, these plans detail the actions we must take to fix the problems in the Bay-Delta ecosystem.
Yes, leaving more water to flow into the Delta from both the San Joaquin and Sacramento watersheds will be challenging for water users, which is why the proposal sends more water but still less than what is optimal for fish and wildlife. Water users can adapt – by switching crops, becoming more efficient and storing more water in wet times. In contrast, species pushed to the brink of extinction have few options.
While the State Water Board has authority to address water flow and quality issues, it cannot order people to restore fish habitat or remove invasive species or take other actions that can help restore fish and wildlife with potentially less water.
But the board can reward such voluntary efforts through lower required flows, providing an olive branch to those who would leave water wars behind in favor of real action.
The public will have additional opportunities to comment on both plan updates. Meanwhile efforts are underway between stakeholders and other state agencies to design voluntary agreements.
Californians need, want and deserve a healthy environment, agriculture and communities. That happens best when people rise to the occasion together.

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